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Decision No. 18,158

Appeal of BEN WRIGHT from action of the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of Plattsburgh regarding an employment contract.

Decision No. 18,158

(July 20, 2022)

Girvin & Ferlazzo, PC, attorneys for respondent, Erin R. Morris and Kerry L. Cunningham, Esqs., of counsel

ROSA., Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals from action of the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of Plattsburgh (“respondent” or “board”) regarding a superintendent contract.  The appeal must be dismissed.

In May 2021, voters elected four new members to the board, which consists of nine members.  One of the members, filling a vacancy, assumed office immediately.

During a special meeting on June 22, 2021, respondent voted, 6-3, to renew the contract of its superintendent for a period of five years (i.e., until June 21, 2026).  Three of the newly elected board members had not yet assumed office and, thus, did not participate in the vote.[1]  This appeal ensued. 

Petitioner argues that respondent improperly renewed the superintendent’s contract for a longer term than permitted by respondent’s policies.  Petitioner also alleges that the board failed to evaluate the superintendent in accordance with the existing contract.  For relief, petitioner seeks to invalidate the superintendent’s new contract and restore the previous version, which would expire on June 1, 2024. 

Respondent argues that the appeal must be dismissed for failure to join a necessary party.  Respondent also asserts that portions of the petition are untimely and that petitioner lacks standing.  Respondent denies that it violated board policy and asserts that factors related to COVID-19 prevented it from evaluating the superintendent during the 2020-2021 school year.

This appeal must be dismissed for failure to join the superintendent, a necessary party.  A person or entity whose rights would be adversely affected by a determination in favor of a petitioner is a necessary party and must be joined as such.  Joinder requires that a party be clearly named in the caption of the appeal and served with a copy of the notice of petition and petition (Appeal of Sutton, 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,331; Appeal of Murray, 48 id. 517, Decision No. 15,934).  Petitioner requests that I invalidate the superintendent’s contract and restore the previous version, which terminates two years earlier.  However, petitioner failed to serve the superintendent with the copy of the petition.  The superintendent’s contractual rights would be affected by a determination in petitioner’s favor.  Accordingly, the appeal must be dismissed. 

In light of this disposition, I need not address the parties’ remaining contentions.  However, the Commissioner has previously disapproved of “eleventh hour contract extension[s]” such as those described herein (Appeal of Dillon, 33 Ed Dept Rep 544, Decision No. 13,143).  Additionally, I encourage respondent to amend policy 3100 to clarify, as it indicates on appeal, that the three-year superintendent contract limitation “applies to initial appointments, not extensions of an existing appointment.”




[1] These board members’ terms began on July 1, 2021.