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Decision No. 15,554

Appeal of GORDON HAAS from action of the Board of Education of the Mattituck-Cutchogue Union Free School District, Michael Torriero and Cory Dolson regarding coaching appointments.

Decision No. 15,554

(March 30, 2007)

James R. Sandner, Esq., attorney for petitioner, Richard A. Shane, Esq., of counsel

Ingerman Smith, LLP, attorneys for respondents, Christopher Venator, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner challenges two coaching appointments made by the Board of Education of the Mattituck-Cutchogue Union Free School District (“respondent”).  The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioner holds permanent certification in “Mathematics 7-12” and has been employed as a full-time mathematics teacher in the Greenport Union Free School District since September 1987.

Mattituck High School is the host school for the combined varsity and junior varsity wrestling programs of the Mattituck-Cutchogue and Greenport school districts.  Petitioner coached junior varsity wrestling at Mattituck High School during the 1997-1998 and 1998-1999 seasons, varsity wrestling at Mattituck High School during the 1999-2000 season and junior high school wrestling at Greenport Junior High School during the 2004-2005 season.

In September 2005, respondent sought applicants to coach varsity and junior varsity wrestling for the 2005-2006 season.  Petitioner applied for both coaching positions.  At that time, petitioner apparently satisfied the interscholastic coaching requirements set forth in §135.4(c)(7)(i)(c)(2) of the Commissioner’s regulations.  At its October 20, 2005 meeting, respondent appointed Michael Torriero (“Torriero”) to coach varsity wrestling and Cory Dolson (“Dolson”) to coach junior varsity wrestling for the 2005-2006 season.  At the time of his appointment, neither Torriero nor Dolson possessed a New York State teaching certificate or a temporary coaching license.

The wrestling season commenced on November 16, 2005.  On or about November 21, 2005, Torriero and Dolson applied to the district superintendent for temporary coaching licenses pursuant to the Commissioner’s regulations.  As the parties have not indicated otherwise, it is presumed that the temporary coaching licenses ultimately were issued.  This appeal ensued.  Petitioner’s request for interim relief was denied on December 15, 2005.

Petitioner contends that respondent’s appointment of Torriero and Dolson did not comply with §135.4(c)(7)(i)(c) of the Commissioner’s regulations relating to interscholastic coach qualifications.  Petitioner seeks annulment of the coaching appointments and an order directing respondent to comply with the regulatory requirements.  Respondent admits that it appointed Torriero and Dolson as varsity and junior varsity wrestling coaches, respectively, but denies that the appointments contravened the Commissioner’s regulations.  Respondent asserts that petitioner was ineligible for appointment because of certain prior inappropriate behavior and improper coaching techniques and maintains that, therefore, its appointment of Torriero and Dolson was permissible.

As a preliminary matter, I note that I have accepted petitioner’s reply, pursuant to §276.5 of the Commissioner’s regulations, and have considered it in this appeal.

The appeal must be dismissed as moot.  The Commissioner will only decide matters in actual controversy and will not render a decision on a state of facts which no longer exist or which subsequent events have laid to rest (Appeal of C.A., Sr., 45 Ed Dept Rep 388, Decision No. 15,360; Appeal of the New York Charter Schools Assn., Inc., et al., 45 id. 376, Decision No. 15,355; Appeal of the Bd. of Trustees of the N. Merrick Public Library, et al., 45 id. 363, Decision No. 15,350) Here, petitioner seeks appointment as a wrestling coach for the 2005-2006 season.  Because that season ended in April 2006 the appeal is moot.

Section 135.4(c)(7)(i)(c) of the Commissioner’s regulations restricts the appointment of coaches for interscholastic athletic teams.  Specifically, certified physical education teachers may coach any sport, and teachers certified in other areas with coaching qualifications and experience may coach provided they complete certain first aid and course requirements.  Also, a board of education may employ uncertified persons with coaching qualifications and experience as temporary coaches of interschool sport teams, but only when certified physical education teachers or certified teachers with coaching qualifications and experience are not available. Uncertified persons must first obtain from the Commissioner a temporary coaching license.

Although the appeal is dismissed, I remind respondent that I have previously held that a board of education’s determination that a certified individual who has satisfied the coaching requirements of §135.4(c)(7)(i)(c)(2) is not “qualified” must be based on objective criteria and not on a post hoc conclusion based on its opinion of the individual (Appeal of Brown, 39 Ed Dept Rep 343, Decision No. 14,255; Appeal of Feiss, 37 id. 339, Decision No. 13,874).  In addition, an uncertified individual who does not possess a professional coaching certificate may not undertake coaching responsibilities until he or she has actually received a temporary license.  The mere application for that license by the district does not qualify the prospective coach for his or her duties (Appeal of Lee, 40 Ed Dept Rep 19, Decision No. 14,407; Appeal of Cavanaugh, 37 id. 216, Decision No. 13,847).  Respondent is directed to strictly comply with this requirement when making any future coaching appointments.