Will a termination case be upheld if the only charge, in an otherwise satisfactory history, is that a teacher did not maintain New York City as her primary residence when she enrolled her children in a New York City public school?

Yes. Barbara Cippollaro, a tenured speech therapist at PS 138X, by her own admission had a difficult marriage. Her husband could not read or write and they lived together and apart during most of their marriage.

For several years, she claimed, her residence changed between the Bronx and Cortlandt Manor in Westchester. During this time her two children were enrolled in a Bronx public school. After Cippollaro was reported to OSI and an investigator was dispatched she was brought up on charges for failing to pay tuition for her children’s public school education while she resided in Cortlandt Manor. The city assessed her liability at $98,000.

At the 3020-a hearing before arbitrator Mary Crangle the issues to be resolved were her primary residence and what penalty, if any, should be imposed. Crangle found Cippollaro had misrepresented her address to avoid tuition and promptly terminated her.

On appeal to the Supreme Court and later to the Appellate Division Cippollaro argued that the penalty “shocked the conscience,” a legal standard used to test whether the arbitrator exceeded her authority. Both courts denied the argument and found Cippollaro’s “lack of remorse and failure to take responsibility for her actions, as well as the harm caused by petitioner’s actions, the penalty of dismissal, even if there was an otherwise adequate performance record, cannot be said to shock the conscience.”

Barbara Cipollaro, Petitioner-Appellant, v New York City Department of Education, Respondent-Respondent, SUPREME COURT OF NEW YORK, APPELLATE DIVISION, FIRST DEPARTMENT, 2011 NY Slip Op 3131; 2011 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 3035, April 19, 2011

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