School district may reassign an educator to a different location in the district and assign new duties consistent with his or her tenure area

School district may reassign an educator to a different location in the district and assign new duties consistent with his or her tenure areaRoberta-Michele Jodre v Board of Education of the Locust Valley Central School District, Decisions of the Commissioner of Education, Decision #16,162 Roberta-Michele Jodre, a tenured director of guidance services for grades kindergarten through 12. In October 2009, her primary office was relocated from Locust Valley's high school to its middle school and her duties were modified so that she focused more of her time on the middle school. Characterizing the change as "discipline* without due process," the attorney for Jodre's collective bargaining unit asked that Jodre be returned to her office in the high school and that she continute to perform her former duties. Locust Valley's attorney responded, indicating that no disciplinary action had been taken against Jodre, her reassignment was within the authority of the school board and that "the superintendent's discretion to have [Jodre] focus her efforts on the middle school." Jodre appealed. Initially the Commissioner addressed a procedural issue: was Jodre's appeal timely. Noting that "An appeal to the Commissioner must be commenced within 30 days from the making of the decision or the performance of the act complained of, unless any delay is excused by the Commissioner for good cause shown (8 NYCRR §275.16)" the Commissioner found that Jodre's appeal was untimely. The Commissioner explained that Jodre's work site and assignments had been changed in October 2009 but that she had not commenced her appeal until December 16, 2009, more than 30 days later. As to the letter dated November 4, 2009 sent by the collective bargaining agent's attorney questioning the legality of school district's actions, the Commissioner said that the letter "constituted a request for reconsideration" and a reconsideration request does not extend the time within which an appeal to the Commissioner must be filed. In any event, the Commissioner indicated that even if the appeal had been timely filed he would have dismissed it on the merits as a "board of education has broad discretion in assigning members of its professional staff, so long as the employees tenure rights are not infringed." In this instance, said the Commissioner, although Jodre was unhappy with the change, she had been continued in her tenured position and had been assigned to duties consistent with that tenured position. Significantly, the Commissioner indicated that there is no general requirement that a school district assign a teacher to a particular classroom and changes in assignments are permissible provided the new assignments are within the same tenure area. As to Jodre's claim that the changes were "disciplinary in nature and required an Education Law §3020-a hearing," the Commissioner explained that "a school board's decision to reassign a tenured employee based on the district's educational needs does not constitute discipline for which procedural due process must be provided under Education Law §3020-a as long as the employee's rights are not infringed," citing Matter of Mishkoff v Nyquist, 57 AD2d 649. * In his decision, the Commissioner noted that Jodre failed to submit any evidence as to the conduct for which she was allegedly being disciplined. The Commissioner's decision is posted on the Internet at: http://www.counsel.nysed.gov/Decisions/volume50/d16162.htm NYPPL

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