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 failure to serve the DOE in an Article 75 proceeding within the proscribed period require that the petition be dismissed?

No. Under CPLR 306-b where the statute of limitations is less than 4 months  the action or proceeding must be served within 15 days of the expiration of the statute of limitations. There is no dispute that the petition in Portnoy v. NYCDOE was served well beyond the fifteen day period and the DOE moved to dismiss the proceeding. In denying that part of the DOE’s application Justice Wooten wrote that the application to dismiss would be denied in the interests of justice and in the interest of deciding the matter on its merit.

Portnoy had been charged with multiple specifications which resulted in his termination by Arbitrator Rosario. Justice Wooten affirmed the termination finding no basis that Arbitrator Rosario’s opinion and award violated public policy or Portnoy’s due process rights.

Portnoy v. NYCDOE

Can a paraprofessional accused and terminated for an alleged inappropriate involvement with a twenty year old special education student seek reinstatement when he appealed to court almost two years after his last day of work despite the UFT refusal to take his case to arbitration?

No. James Barnes, Jr., a paraprofessional at P 754X was accused of an inappropriate relationship with a 20-year-old female special education student on February 24, 2010. He was reassigned pending an SCI investigation. On October 7, 2010, a due consideration conference was held to give petitioner a chance to respond to the SCI report with his UFT representative present. Petitioner was formally terminated and placed on the “Ineligible Inquiry List” in a letter dated October 19, 2010. On October 21, 2010, petitioner filed his initial grievance appeal and a Step 2 grievance appeal conference was held on January 7, 2011. On January 21, 2011, the Chancellor’s Representative issued a grievance decision denying petitioner’s grievance, finding that “the grievant received due process and was properly terminated without contractual violations.” Petitioner appealed to the UFT union’s Ad Com Grievance Committee to take further action. In a letter dated June 8, 2010, the Committee denied the appeal and declined  to take any further action on petitioner’s behalf, stating “that the Union cannot overcome the Department of Education’s argument that you were terminated for good and sufficient reason and received due consideration.”

Barnes started his Article 78 petition on August 31, 2012.

The statute of limitations for Article 78 proceedings is 4 months and in termination cases the time starts to run from the petitioner’s “last day of work.” Barnes argued that the Union’s delay in deciding to take the matter to arbitration tolled or extended this limitations period.

Justice Alexander W. Hunter, Jr. disagreed and ruled that Barnes’ petition was untimely and dismissed his petition.

Barnes had also argued that the SCI investigator admitted he falsified telephone records which were used to establish Barnes’ alleged inappropriate relationship. Justice Hunter ruled that under Labor Law Sections 537 and 623 evidence from unemployment hearings is inadmissible in subsequent court proceedings.

In the Matter of the Application of James Barnes, Jr., Petitioner, For a Judgment Pursuant to Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules, -against- The Department of Education of the City of New York, Respondent, Index No.: 401944/12, SUPREME COURT OF NEW YORK, NEW YORK COUNTY, 2013 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 268; 2013 NY Slip Op 30091U, January 16, 2013.

Is a probationary teacher who received a U-rating required to exhaust all administrative remedies before appealing to Court?

Yes. Leonette Belfield worked for over 10 years as a paraprofessional when she entered the DOE’s program, “Pathways to Teaching,” to become a teacher in 2006. She received 3 consecutive S-ratings and was given a U-rating for the 2009 to 2010 school year and terminated. (It is not clear why Belfield was still on probation during her fourth year teaching).

Deciding not to wait until her U-rating appeal was decided by the Chancellor, Belfield commenced a proceeding seeking reversal of her U-rating and reinstatement. It was undisputed that Belfield did not exhaust her administrative remedies.

Without deciding on the merits Justice Barbara Jaffee dismissed her application relying on Belfield’s failure to wait for the Chancellor’s decision in her U-rating appeal.

In the Matter of the Application of: LEONETTE BELFIELD, Petitioner, -against- JOEL KLEIN, as the Chancellor of the Department of Education of the City of New York, CITY OF NEW YORK, and NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, Respondents. For a Judgment pursuant to Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules. Index No. 114094/10, SUPREME COURT OF NEW YORK, NEW YORK COUNTY, 2011 NY Slip Op 31862U; 2011 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 3389, July 1, 2011, Decided

Observation: The decision and supporting documents do not reveal answers to some important questions about the case. Although the Court wrote, in its decision, that Belfield had requested reinstatement, this was not requested in her petition. It is not clear when Belfield was terminated but generally a proceeding to challenge a probationary termination has a four month statute of limitations measured from the effective date of termination. To challenge the U-rating and the subsequent placement on the DOE’s ineligible list requires filing the proceeding in Court within four months of the Chancellor’s decision in the U-rating appeal which did not occur at the time of the filing of Belfield’s petition.


Can the 10 day time period to file an appeal to Court on a 3020-a be extended by one day due to severe weather?

No. Antionette Myers, an 11 year tenured teacher with an unblemished record was found, after a 3020-a hearing, to have committed verbal abuse and was terminated. She did not receive the notice of her arbitrator’s decision until December 17. 2010. She filed her appeal in Court on December 28, 2010, eleven days later. She claimed that there was severe weather on December 27th which made her ability to file on the tenth day extremely difficult.

While Justice Judith Gisch found sympathy in Myers’ predicament the Court ruled that the 10 day period was neither waivable nor excusable. Gisch dismissed the appeal without ruling on its merits.

ANTOINETTE MYERS, Petitioner, -against- CITY OF NEW YORK, NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION; JOEL I. KLEIN CHANCELLOR OF NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, Respondents. For a Judgment under Article 78 Of the Civil Practice Law and Rules. Index No.: 116672/10, SUPREME COURT OF NEW YORK, NEW YORK COUNTY, 2011 NY Slip Op 31871U; 2011 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 3390, July 5, 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