Can a Chapter Leader, excluded from his school pending disciplinary charges, be prevented from attending School Leadership Team meetings?

Yes. Francesco Portelos, the duly elected Chapter Leader at IS 49 in Staten Island, was reassigned pending a SCI investigation and, by letter, notified that he was not to return to IS 49 without prior written permission and that any school activities he had participated in would remain suspended until the resolution of the matter.

As Chapter Leader Portelos is a mandated member of the School Leadership Team and commenced an Article 78 proceeding to challenge his exclusion from the Team. Justice Cynthia Kern initially ruled that the petition was time-barred since it was filed almost one year after he was excluded from the meetings.

Kern ruled that even if the petition was timely she would denied the relief requested because DOE’s policy of exclusion was rational and in accordance with its policies and procedures. Chancellor’s Regulation A-655 provides that mandatory members attend the meetings the regulation “does not confer a right upon such member if they are prohibited from entering the school or participating in school activities due to administrative reassignment and/or pending charges of misconduct.”

Portelos also argued that the school violated the Open Meetings Law, POL Section 103 by excluding him. Kern ruled that School Leadership Teams were advisory in nature and not subject to the Open Meetings Law.

Portelos v. NYCDOE

Will a termination after a 3020-a hearing, based on a finding of probable cause by a principal, be sustained?

Yes. Malcolm Menchin, a tenured teacher at Performance Conservatory High School in the Bronx, was terminated, after a 3020-a hearing by arbitrator Patricia A. Cullen. On appeal Menchin did not argue the merits of Cullen’s decision but instead relied upon the argument that the probable cause determination was flawed since it was made by his principal and not the Chancellor. Menchin argued that the delegation of determining probable cause was improperly delegated to the principal thus rendering all proceedings made in furtherance thereof invalid.

Justice Linda S. Jamieson of Rockland Supreme Court took little time dismissing this argument. Jamieson found that Chancellor Joel I. Klein had authority to issue the August 16, 2007 Delegation of power to the principals of high schools in District 75 and 79. (Menchin’s school is in District 79). The Delegation states, in relevant part, that the Chancellor delegates to “each high school, District 75 and 79 principal the power to” “Initiate and resolve disciplinary charges against teaching and supervisory staff members in your school. . . .”

Jamieson further found that Section 2590-h(38) does not have a limiting provision and denied Menchin’s appeal.

Malcolm Menchin, Petitioner, for a Judgment under Article 75 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules against New York City Department of Education, Performance Conservatory High School, Respondents. 2250/2011, SUPREME COURT OF NEW YORK, ROCKLAND COUNTY, 2011 NY Slip Op 51344U; 2011 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 3520, July 13, 2011, Decided

Will failure to file a specific notice of claim defeat a school secretary’s workplace condition complaint?

Yes. Lynne Schnell, a school secretary at Aviation High School and her son, brought an action in Queens Supreme Court for working conditions against the City, school administrators and the Chapter Leader.

Schnell complained that her workspace had no windows, ventilation or adequate air and had reached a temperature of 120° F. She complained to the school’s administration, the UFT, the Department of Health and the DOE component of the Public Employee Safety and Health Board to no avail.

During the last two weeks of June 2006 she came to school seeking relocation and upon not being relocated she left. An S rating was changed to a U rating for excessive absences. Her claimed injuries included intentional infliction of emotional distress and the development of a  staph  infection.   Schnell  also  alleged  that  the  Chapter  Leader  “came  into her room [, room] 149F, blocked the door and proceeded to scream and curse at her and throw a chair at her for complaining.”

A 3020-a proceeding was brought against Schnell and was settled with a stipulation in which she agreed to withdraw all of her claims against the DOE except for a claim involving whistleblowing. This last claim was not included on her notice of claim.

Leaving the remaining claim off of her notice of claim proved fatal to her lawsuit and Justice Kevin J. Kerrigan summarily dismissed her claim.

Lynne Schnell and Luke Serkanic, Plaintiff, – against – The City of New York, New York City Department of Education, Ralph Santiago, Eileen Taylor, Joyce Seiden, Dino Charlalambous, Jerry Frohnhoefer, Soraya Cuervo-Digiorgio, and Mary Vigoa, Defendants, SUPREME COURT OF NEW YORK, QUEENS COUNTY, 2011 NY Slip Op 31220U; 2011 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 2168, April 11, 2011