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Decision No. 15,864

Appeal of FRANCIS CORRADINO from action of the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of Rome regarding a board resolution and school closures.

Decision No. 15,864

(January 30, 2009)

Ferrara, Fiorenza, Larrison, Barrett & Reitz, P.C., attorneys for respondent, Norman H. Gross, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals a resolution of the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of Rome (“respondent” or “board”) overturning its earlier determination to close two elementary schools.  The appeal must be dismissed.

On December 12, 2007, respondent adopted a School Closing and Redistricting Plan (“Plan”) that determined, among other things, to close two of the district’s eight K–4 elementary schools (Gansevoort and Ridge Mills) by June 30, 2008, and a third (Fort Stanwix) no later than 2011.  The parties agree that the Plan would save the district $1.2 million in the 2008-2009 school year.  According to respondent, implementation of the Plan was dependent in part upon the adoption of several propositions to be presented to the voters in June 2008.

In May 2008, district voters passed a $94.9 million budget and elected five new members to the board.  In June 2008, voters rejected a bond proposition to fund the reconstruction and repair of five elementary schools.  The voters also rejected a proposition for the construction of a new elementary school and district offices on the site of the vacant old Rome Free Academy.

At a special board meeting on July 2, 2008, the board adopted a resolution “to reopen Gansevoort and Ridge Mills Schools” and directed the superintendent to cease and desist any and all planning and implementation of the Plan for the 2008-2009 school year and to begin reformulating an eight-school configuration.

This appeal ensued.  Petitioner contends that by overturning the Plan, respondent acted arbitrarily, capriciously and contrary to sound educational policy.  He also asserts that respondent violated Education Law §1718 because the 2008-2009 budget included $1.2 million in savings to be realized by closing the two elementary schools, which schools will now remain open.  Petitioner requests that I overturn the July 2, 2008 resolution.  Petitioner’s request for interim relief was denied on July 30, 2008.

Respondent asserts that its determination was neither arbitrary nor capricious and that decisions about school closings are within its discretion.  Respondent states that petitioner omitted from the petition any discussion of the rejected propositions, which were elemental to the Plan.  In addition, respondent denies any violations of law and states that the superintendent identified budgetary savings so that the district’s fund balance would not be affected.

Respondent also contends that the appeal is moot because on July 16, 2008, the board adopted a new resolution modifying the Plan for the start of the 2008-2009 year.  That resolution maintained all eight elementary schools and had seven specific components: four relating to the reassignment and relocation of students; two offering attendance options to parents of kindergarten and fourth grade students; and one implementing staff reassignments consistent with the revised elementary configuration and board policy, collective bargaining agreements and employee associations.  Respondent asserts that in deciding to modify the Plan, it considered the academic, financial and legal issues and thus its actions were reasonable and rational.

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 Tine, 46 Ed Dept Rep 579, Decision No. 15,600; Appeal of N.C., 46 id. 358, Decision No. 15,532; Appeal of Lombardo, 46 id. 282, Decision No. 15,508).  Petitioner served the petition on July 16, 2008, the same day respondent adopted the resolution modifying the Plan, and submitted no additional papers.  Petitioner only requested that I vacate the July 2, 2008 resolution.  Petitioner’s request for interim relief was denied on July 30, 2008.  Moreover, since the July 16, 2008 resolution superseded the July 2, 2008 resolution, it is no longer possible to grant the requested relief.  Accordingly, the appeal must be dismissed.