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Decision No. 17,879

Appeal of KATHRYN CASTELLANO MINAYA from action of the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of New Rochelle regarding board practices.

Decision No. 17,879

(July 15, 2020)

Ingerman Smith, LLP, attorneys for respondent, John H. Gross, Esq., of counsel.

TAHOE., Interim Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals from action of the Board of Education of the City School District of New Rochelle (“respondent”) in appointing Dr. Laura Feijóo (“Dr. Feijóo”) as superintendent.  The appeal must be dismissed.

Respondent has adopted two policies relevant to this appeal.  First, policy 8260 states, in relevant part, that a “citizens’ advisory committee shall be established by the Board of Education whenever the Board is engaged in a superintendency search.”  Second, policy 9330 requires, in relevant part, that “[e]very effort should be made to give at least three days advance notice for Special Meetings.”  This policy further states that “a minimum of twenty-four-hours” advance notice is “legally required” unless unanimously waived at a subsequent meeting.

Following the retirement of its former superintendent in October 2018, respondent retained Southern Westchester Board of Cooperative Educational Services to commence a superintendent candidate search on November 14, 2018.  On December 4, 2018, respondent held a town hall meeting to discuss the search for a new superintendent.  Community members were encouraged to submit their input through an online survey as to what characteristics were needed for a new district leader.  The record reflects that, over the next few months, respondent provided the public with several other opportunities to provide input into the search process.

On June 27, 2019, respondent appointed Dr. Laura Feijóo to the position of superintendent.  This appeal ensued.  Petitioner’s request for interim relief was denied on August 13, 2019.

Petitioner argues that respondent violated policies 8260 and 9330 in appointing Dr. Feijóo because it did not convene a citizen’s advisory committee and did not provide the requisite notice prior to Dr. Feijóo’s appointment.  Petitioner seeks:  (1) an order “vacating” the employment contract between the board and Dr. Feijóo; and (2) an order directing respondent to “convene a committee pursuant to its own policies which would allow parents and community members to participate in meeting finalists for the Superintendent vacancy.”

Respondent asserts that the appeal must be dismissed, inter alia, for failure to join Dr. Feijóo, a necessary party.  On the merits, respondent contends that its determination was neither arbitrary nor capricious.

The appeal must be dismissed given the pendency of a related civil action.  On October 26, 2019, petitioner commenced an action in Supreme Court, Westchester County raising substantially similar claims, and seeking substantially similar relief, as in the instant appeal (Minaya v. City School District of New Rochelle., et. al., Index. No. 67873/2019 [filed Oct. 26, 2019]).  Specifically, in the civil action, petitioner seeks a judgment:

(1) vacating ... the appointment of Dr. Laura Feijoo as superintendent; (2) vacating the employment contract executed between the Board of Education and Dr. Laura Feijoo; (3) compelling the Board of Education to convene the mandated citizens advisory committee under Board Policy 8260; and (4) compelling the Board of Education to follow its own policies and procedures in the appointment of a new superintendent ....

This civil action is currently pending. 

Under these circumstances, it would be contrary to the orderly administration of justice for the Commissioner to decide claims that petitioner has elected to raise in Supreme Court, particularly where she seeks the same relief that she seeks in this proceeding (see Appeal of Moriarty, 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,265; Appeal of a Student with a Disability, 57 id., Decision No. 17,171; Appeal of T.G. and R.G., 46 id. 95, Decision No. 15,451).  Therefore, the appeal must be dismissed.

In light of this determination, I need not address the parties’ remaining contentions.