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Decision No. 15,190

Appeal of JO ANNE ALVES, on behalf of her daughter JULIANNA, from action of the Board of Education of the Port Chester-Rye Union Free School District regarding attendance zones.

Decision No. 15,190

(March 18, 2005)

Sisca and Sisca, P.C., attorneys for respondent, Francis J. Sisca, Esq., of counsel


MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals a decision by the Board of Education of the Port Chester-Rye Union Free School District ("respondent") to transfer her daughter from the district's King Street Elementary School ("King Street") to the John F. Kennedy Elementary School ("Kennedy"). The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioner has three daughters residing in respondent's district. Respondent's district is divided into attendance zones for its elementary schools. In the 1996-1997 school year, petitioner resided in the King Street attendance zone and petitioner 's oldest daughter, Adrianna, attended King Street. On December 2, 1996, petitioner moved out of the King Street attendance zone and into the Kennedy attendance zone. Although petitioner moved out of the attendance zone, Adrianna was allowed to continue attending King Street and, because of a sibling exception to the attendance zones, in 1998 petitioner's second daughter, Emily, was allowed to attend King Street. In September 2003, Emily started fifth grade at King Street and under the sibling exception to the attendance zones, petitioner's third daughter, Julianna, was able to attend kindergarten at King Street.

By letter dated July 1, 2004, respondent's Residency Committee notified petitioner that it had determined that, for the 2004-2005 school year, Julianna would be required to attend first grade at Kennedy. The letter stated that this decision was based on the fact that Julianna was not a resident of the King Street attendance zone and would no longer have any siblings attending King Street. This appeal ensued. Petitioner's request for interim relief was denied on August 12, 2004. Beginning September 2004, Julianna was enrolled in a local parochial school.

Petitioner argues that Julianna should never have been admitted to King Street for kindergarten if she would not be allowed to complete elementary school there. Additionally, petitioner asserts that Kennedy does not meet the standards of King Street. Finally, petitioner asserts that transferring Julianna to Kennedy would be an "injustice" that could affect Julianna's entire outlook on schooling.

Respondent asserts that its policy requires students to attend the elementary school in their attendance zone. Respondent further asserts that over the past three years it has made a concerted effort to return students to their neighborhood schools. As part of this effort, respondent established a residency committee to review students' residency within the district and within the district's attendance zones. Petitioner was permitted to appear before the residency committee and express her concerns with regard to Julianna's placement.

The appeal must be dismissed as moot. The Commissioner of Education only decides matters in actual controversy and will not render a decision on a state of facts which no longer exists or which subsequent events have laid to rest (Appeal of Welch, 44 Ed Dept Rep 57, Decision No. 15,097; Appeal of Patel, 43 id. 518, Decision No. 15,071). Julianna has been enrolled at a local parochial school beginning with the 2004-2005 school year. Therefore, Julianna's elementary school assignment is no longer at issue.

Even if the appeal were not dismissed on procedural grounds, it would be dismissed on the merits. Pursuant to Education Law �1709 (3) and (33), a board of education has the authority and responsibility to manage and administer the affairs of the school district, including the assignment of pupils to schools therein (Matter of Older, et al. v Board of Ed., 27 NY2d 333; Appeal of Giovanniello, 44 Ed Dept Rep 17, Decision No. 15,081; Appeal of DePaolo, 38 id. 4, Decision No. 13,970). A board of education has broad discretion regarding the assignment of students to schools (Matter of Addabbo v Donovan, 22 AD2d 383; aff'd 16 NY2d 619, cert den 382 US 905; Appeal of Teel, 33 Ed Dept Rep 309, Decision No. 13,058). Therefore, a board's decision regarding school assignments will only be overturned when found to be arbitrary, capricious or contrary to sound educational policy (Matter of Older, supra; Appeal of DePaolo, supra; Appeal of Cullen, 32 Ed Dept Rep 179, Decision No. 12,798). Moreover, petitioner bears the burden of demonstrating that respondent's action is arbitrary, capricious or contrary to sound educational policy (Appeal of Giovanniello, supra).

Petitioner does not dispute that she and Julianna live in the Kennedy attendance zone. Nor does she establish that Julianna falls within an exception to respondent's attendance zone policy. Because petitioner has failed to show that respondent's determination was arbitrary, capricious or contrary to sound educational policy, the appeal must be dismissed.