Will a probationary termination be upheld where a Chapter Leader, on probation, first started getting unsatisfactory reviews after she wrote a letter to the principal?

No. While it is a bit unusual that a probationer would accept the position of Chapter Leader such a decision was made by a Staten Island teacher. The teacher had performed and was rated satisfactorily up until she wrote a letter to the principal asking how she could make up prep periods. At that point the principal began rating her unsatisfactorily.

Both the Supreme Court and Appellate Division, Second Department found that the teacher’s probationary dismissal was in bad faith and reinstated her with back pay.

The Supreme Court had granted the teacher tenure which the Second Department found was something the Courts could not legally do and sent the matter back to the DOE for further proceedings.

 In the Matter of Lisa Capece, etc., respondent, v Margaret Schultz, etc., et al., appellants. (Index No. 80361/08), 2012-03257, SUPREME COURT OF NEW YORK, APPELLATE DIVISION, SECOND DEPARTMENT, 2014 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 3775; 2014 NY Slip Op 3834, May 28, 2014

 

Does a teacher obtain tenure by estoppel even though he signed a letter offering to extend his probationary term for one year?

No. Gerald Chisholm, an English teacher for the Bedford Central School District was terminated from his position during what the District claimed was his fourth year of probation. Chisholm claimed that he had acquired tenure by estoppel since “Tenure may be acquired by estoppel when a school board accepts the continued services of a teacher or administrator, but fails to take the action required by law to either grant or deny tenure prior to the expiration of the teacher’s probationary term.”

In denying Chisholm’s argument the Second Department found that he had written a letter requesting an extension of probation for a fourth year and was thus precluded from asserting he had obtained tenure by estoppel.

Chisholm v. Hochman (September 11, 2013, Decided)

Will a U-rating stand when one of three negative incidents is based on a finding determined to be arbitrary and capricous?

No. David Deutsch, a highly respected physics teacher at Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics received a U-rating from his supervisor based on 3 separate incidents. Two of the incidents involved cursing and aggressive behavior and failure to follow a directive when asked to go to a department meeting. The incident involved an allegation that Deutsch failed to follow school protocol for notice in requesting a personal day off.

While the Chancellor’s representative, Shael Polakow-Suransky, affirmed the principal’s U-rating he wrote that Deutsch has failed to show professional growth.

Deutsch appealed. Justice Michael D. Stillman found that the first two incidents were valid but that the third incident must be dismissed because it was arbitrary and capricious that Deutsch was to follow a protocol in requesting a personal day when, in fact, such policy was not shown to exist. Additionally when Polakow-Suansky affirmed the U-rating there was nothing in the record to demonstrate any opportunity for Deutsch to show professional growth nor were any opportunities offered. The U-rating was annulled.

Deutsch v. NYCDOE (11/7/13)

Is there a remedy for a teacher who obtained a reversal of a U rating to have all back pay restored and references erased from his personnel file?

Yes. Glenn Storman started this proceeding in 2006. Storman, a teacher at the DOE for approximately 30 years, challenged an unsatisfactory rating he received resulting from allegations of sexual misconduct and corporal punishment made in retaliation for his verbally reprimanding a student in 2004. Storman’s teaching career has been seriously impacted by these false allegations. In an Order dated October 26, 2007, Justice Marcy Friedman granted the petition and remanded the case to DOE for further findings of fact. After a second hearing, in a letter dated June 10, 2008, DOE upheld Storman’s unsatisfactory rating. Storman then commenced a second Article 78 proceeding challenging the result of the second hearing. In an Order dated May 11, 2009, the Court granted Storman’s petition because “it was irrational for the DOE to conclude that the alleged conduct amounted to corporal punishment” and “the penalty imposed was excessive and shocking to the conscience.” This Court ordered that the unsatisfactory rating be annulled and that “this matter [be] remitted to [DOE] for further proceedings not inconsistent with the court’s decision.”

The purpose of remitting the case to DOE was for the DOE and the UFT, to take the appropriate steps to remedy the consequences of the underlying false allegations so that Storman would be properly compensated and his employment status restored. Upon remittal, the unsatisfactory rating was annulled, but no further steps were taken to compensate Storman or to remedy his employment situation. As a result, Storman moved to hold DOE in contempt. In an Order dated November 19, 2010, this Court held DOE in contempt for its willful and contumacious failure to comply with the Judgment.

The City appealed and in an Order dated May 31, 2012, the Appellate Division vacated the Contempt Order on the ground that the Judgment did not contain a “clear and unequivocal mandate.” See Storman v NYC Dep’t of Educ., 95 AD3d 776, 777, 945 N.Y.S.2d 281 (1st Dept 2012). Nevertheless, the Appellate Division granted Storman leave to clarify the Judgment to allow the Supreme Court the opportunity to clarify its order.

Justice Shirley Werner Kornreich, in a rare display of judicial anger, ruled that “By April 5, 2013, DOE shall do the following, pursuant to Article 21H of the CBA: (1) remove all references to the underlying false accusations from Storman’s personnel file; and (2) restore back pay, with interest, that Storman did not receive on account of the underlying false accusations, including any seniority salary adjustments and lost pension benefits. If a dispute arises between the parties before such date, the parties are to promptly contact the Court, and if the parties cannot agree on the proper amount of back pay owed to Storman, Storman is granted leave to move to have such calculation referred to a Special Referee to hear and report. Finally, if DOE fails to comply with this Order in good faith, which, at a minimum, shall include an in-person meet and confer with Storman about back pay, Storman has leave to move for contempt, as DOE can no longer maintain that its mandate is not clear and unequivocal.”

In the Matter of Glenn Storman, Petitioner, against New York City Department of Education, Respondent. 113652/2008, SUPREME COURT OF NEW YORK, NEW YORK COUNTY, 2013 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 12; 2013 NY Slip Op 50007U, January 3, 2013, Decided