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

 

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Will a teacher who maintains that her probationary period begins upon her appointment and not the date she receives her professional license prevail?

Yes. Carolina Castro began her appointment to teach science at DeWitt Clinton High School on September 3, 2003. From 2003 until 2009 she received satisfactory reviews and obtained her professional certification on September 1, 2009.

The DOE maintained that her probation began in 2009 and she received tenure effective September 1, 2013. Castro maintained that her seniority rights would be affected if the later date was used for her tenure date and she filed an Article 78 in Supreme Court.

The DOE moved to dismiss as the issue was moot since she had obtained tenure.

Justice Eileen A. Rakower granted the petition finding that the DOE action had no rational basis. Rakower did not deal with the mootness issue even though it does not appear that tenure is in any way affected by seniority.

Castro v. DOE (Decided 9/11/13)

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)

Can a teacher with an intern certificate earn Jarema credit while employed in a substitute position?

No. Under the Jarema law, so-called due to the law’s co-sponsor, a three year period of probationary service can be shortened to one year when “credit” is given for prior probationary service given as a regular substitute on an annual salary. The law was passed to prevent inequities in the length of probation for teachers who had been teaching in unappointed positions in the same license they sought tenure.

State certification requirements have radically changed since the passage of Jarema.

Jesus Berios first started working for the Yonkers School District under an intern certificate; a credential that entitled him to work under the supervision of a fully certified teacher. An intern certificate is “the certificate issued a student in a registered or approved graduate program of teacher education which includes an internship experience(s) and who has completed at least one-half of the semester hour requirement for the program” (8 NYCRR 80-1.1(b) [24])

After one full year teaching under the intern certificate he was appointed with an initial certificate to a regular teaching position in the same subject area for two full school years when he was dismissed, without a hearing.

Berios brought a proceeding in Westchester Supreme Court arguing that he obtained tenure by estoppel, a court determined grant of tenure after finding that he had completed three years of satisfactory service.

Both the Supreme Court and the Appellate Division disagreed. Berios’ service under the intern certificate did not qualify as regular substitute service required under Jarema since he did not have the qualifications to teach without supervision. The Court held, “Allowing a substitute teacher to accumulate tenure credit for time spent teaching pursuant to an intern certificate would mandate that a school board grant or deny tenure to that teacher before he or she obtained a valid teacher’s certificate.”

In the Matter of Jesus Berrios, appellant, v Board of Education of Yonkers City School District, et al., respondents. (Index No. 23910/09), 2010-02768, SUPREME COURT OF NEW YORK, APPELLATE DIVISION, SECOND DEPARTMENT, 2011 NY Slip Op 5804; 2011 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 5663, July 5, 2011, Decided

Can probation be extended for maternity leave?

Yes. While teacher probation can be extended voluntarily by the signing of a waiver the statute permits school districts to extend probation for periods of time that the probationer was not in attendance. Maura Ann Brown was nearing the end of her probationary term when she went on maternity leave. The school district recalculated her probationary term to take into account her absence however, they calculated the number of days her probation was extended by the weeks she was on maternity leave as opposed to the school days she missed. The Court found that any adjustment must be made on the basis of actual days missed.

 In the Matter of the Application of Maura Ann Brown, Petitioner, against Board of Education of the Mahopac Central School District and THOMAS MANKO, SUPERINTENDENT, Respondents, 523-2011,  SUPREME COURT OF NEW YORK, PUTNAM COUNTY, 2011 NY Slip Op 21182; 2011 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 2406, May 24, 2011, Decided

Will the Court decide whether a school district must reassign a tenured teacher to a similar tenure area when her position is eliminated?

No. In 2003, the Board of Education of the Deer Park Union Free School District (hereinafter the Board of Education) voted to grant Regina Moriatis tenure in the position of “computer teacher.” In 2009, her position as “computer teacher” was abolished. Moriatis filed a proceeding to compel the Board of Education to “reclassify” her “into an accepted tenure area,” yet to be determined, and to reinstate her as a full-time teacher in that tenure area, with back pay and benefits.

The Appellate Division, Second Department denied the application deferring to the “expertise” of the State Commissioner of Education to make this determination.

The Court held that “It is within the unique knowledge and expertise of the Commissioner of Education to determine the factual issues of whether the petitioner has tenure in an accepted tenure area, and whether her former position, and any new position which she may seek, are similar in nature.”

In the Matter of Regina Moraitis, respondent-appellant, v Board of Education Deer Park Union Free School District, appellant-respondent. (Index No. 6334/09), 2010-01817, SUPREME COURT OF NEW YORK, APPELLATE DIVISION, SECOND DEPARTMENT, 2011 NY Slip Op 4254;  2011 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 4171,  May 17, 2011, Decided