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Decision No. 16,333

Appeal of JOHN and ALEXIS WILLIAMSON, on behalf of their children HEZEKIAH and JOSIAH, from action of the Board of Education of the South Colonie Central School District regarding residency.

Decision No. 16,333

(February 29, 2012)

Tabner, Ryan and Keniry, LLP, attorneys for respondent, Tracy L. Bullett, Esq., of counsel

Petitioners appeal the determination of the Board of Education of the South Colonie Central School District (“respondent”) that their children, Hezekiah and Josiah, are not district residents.  The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioners lease a home in respondent’s district (“Central Avenue address”).  Petitioner Alexis Williamson also owns a home outside respondent’s district within the Albany City School District (“Mountain Street address”).   Petitioners registered Hezekiah in South Colonie on or about July 29, 2010 and registered Josiah on or about October 15, 2010.

Respondent commenced an investigation of petitioners’ residency in October 2010.  As part of the investigation, surveillance was conducted from October 2010 through February 2011.  On February 8, 2011, the registrar notified petitioners of his determination that they were not district residents and provided them an opportunity to submit any information or documentation which would establish their residency.  In addition, a residency hearing before the superintendent was held on February 17, 2011.  By letter dated February 22, 2011, the superintendent determined that Hezekiah and Josiah were not district residents and would be excluded from respondent’s schools.  This appeal ensued.

Petitioners contend that, although they spend time at the Mountain Street address, their residence is the Central Avenue address, within respondent’s district.

Respondent contends that its residency determination is in all respects proper and that petitioners failed to establish that its decision was arbitrary or capricious.  Respondent also contends that the petition is untimely and fails to include a demand for relief.

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 a Student with a Disability, 48 Ed Dept Rep 532, Decision No. 15,940; Appeal of M.M., 48 id. 527, Decision No. 15,937; Appeal of Embro, 48 id. 204, Decision No. 15,836).  Respondent’s residency determination was issued on February 22, 2011.  Although the petition is unclear in several respects, the record indicates that on March 15, 2011, petitioners registered Hezekiah and Josiah in high school in the Albany City School District.  Therefore, the appeal is academic.

In light of the above disposition, I need not address the parties’ remaining contentions.  I note, however, that respondent requests fees, costs and disbursements upon dismissal of the appeal.  The Commissioner has no authority to award monetary damages, costs or reimbursements in an appeal pursuant to Education Law §310 (Application of Kolbmann, 48 Ed Dept Rep 370, Decision No. 15,888; Appeal of S.B., 48 id. 332, Decision No. 15,875).

While the appeal must be dismissed, I note that petitioners retain the right to reapply for admission to the district on their children’s behalf in the future, should circumstances change, and to present any new information or documentation for respondent’s consideration.