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

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 be upheld if the reviewing administrator violates a non-substantial right of a teacher when rating the teacher?

Yes. Mitchel Cohn is a tenured  teacher at Williamsburg Middle School Academy (MS 50K). In June 2006 he received a  U-rating. He received another U-rating in June 2007. The second U-rating was based, according to his rating sheet, on 5 informal observations taken place in March and May of 2007. Cohn appealed the rating and despite his argument that he was never given pre or post observation conferences required by the UFT contract his appeal was denied.

Cohn also argued that the failure to provide formal observations, since he was a previously designated U-rated teacher, required formal observations and these rights were outlined in the DOE’s rating manual and Special Circular 45.

On appeal to State Supreme Court Justice Alice Schlesinger held that only “substantial rights” violations would cause the Court to overrule the Chancellor’s final determination of a U-rating. While Justice Schlesinger noted that an Appellate Court had held that “the standard of review in such cases required reversal of an agency’s decision when the relevant agency does not comply with either a mandatory provision or one thas was :intended to be strictly enforced.”  Blaize v Klein, 68 AD3d 759, 761, 889 N.Y.S.2d 665 (2nd Dept., 2009).

So what constitutes a substantial right? Schlesinger held that “The review process that petitioner claims was violated is not found in a statute or regulation, but rather in the CBA and various handbooks. The document where the review process first appears is entitled “Guidelines” and reads as such. Further, that the pre-observation aspect of the Formal Observation model is described slightly differently in the various documents further reinforces the fact that the APPR is intended to act as a set of somewhat flexible guidelines rather than as a directive that must be strictly enforced and that guarantees a substantial right.”

To show a pre-observation conference was a mandatory provision Cohn would have had to show how those conferences deprived him of substantial rights, which the Court found he had not.

In the Matter of the Application of Mitchell Cohn, Petitioner, against Board of Education of the City School District of the City of New York; and JOEL I. KLEIN as Chancellor of the City School District of the City of New York, Respondents. 110409/10, SUPREME COURT OF NEW YORK, NEW YORK COUNTY, 2011 NY Slip Op 51070U; 2011 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 2829, June 7, 2011, Decided