January/February 2020 Issue
January 05, 2020

Union victories in court

legal issues

Union win for long-term substitutes

By Jacquelyn Hadam, NYSUT Office of General Counsel

NYSUT’s legal department scored a significant win for members who serve as long-term substitutes — after more than six years and hearings in four different forums.

Amanda DeRosa was laid off by the Minisink Valley Central School District when her position was eliminated.

From 2007 through 2011, the Minisink Valley Teachers Association member had worked a total of four years (minus 20 days of unpaid child care leave) in the district — two years as a long-term substitute and two years as an elementary teacher. After her layoff, she was placed on an elementary Preferred Eligible List.

However, when an elementary teaching position became available, the district only granted her credit for the elementary teaching service, which pushed her down the recall list.

NYSUT’s Office of General Counsel argued that DeRosa’s long-term substitute position should be included in the calculation of “service in the system” for purposes of recall.

Then-State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia agreed. She ordered the district to recall DeRosa to an elementary teaching position.

The district unsuccessfully appealed the Commissioner’s decision to the NYS Supreme Court and the state Appellate Division, Third Department. In its decision, the Appellate Division noted the Commissioner’s ruling “avoids the negative policy outcome of deterring teachers from accepting long-term substitute work if it falls outside of their preferred tenure area.”

The district also sought permission to appeal the decision to the Court of Appeals (the state’s highest court), but was unsuccessful.

DeRosa was recalled from the Preferred Eligible List in 2014 and has been working in the district ever since. Consistent with the court orders, DeRosa will be awarded the salary, seniority and benefits she should have received in 2013.

If you are on a Preferred Eligible List and have questions about your recall rights, contact your local union rep who can connect you with the appropriate NYSUT staff.

Court rejects certification scheme

By Sylvia Saunders

After the union fought back against “fake” certification for some charter school teachers, a mid-level appeals court ruled the State University of New York exceeded its authority when it created an alternative teacher certification program to circumvent the state’s rigorous requirements for all other public school teachers.

NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said the court ruling is a big win for the union and the profession. “This is about preserving what it means to be a teacher in New York State,” Pallotta said. “This would have created a two-tiered certification system and allowed unqualified educators to practice in some charter schools.”

The state Appellate Division, Third Department, unanimously rejected SUNY’s argument that Education Law, which granted it limited authority to enact regulations related to the “governance, structure and operation” of its charter schools, permitted SUNY to regulate teacher certification.

SUNY argued that teacher certifications are part of the operations of a school, comparing certification to hiring and supervision of teachers.

The Court disagreed, noting that the customary meaning of “operations” pertains to practical functions, not wholesale public policy determinations like establishing teacher certification requirements.

The court made it clear that it’s up to the State Education Commissioner and Board of Regents to set regulations governing the certification of all public school teachers.

The court action stems from a number of separate legal challenges filed by NYSUT, the United Federation of Teachers, the NAACP, the State Education Department, the Board of Regents and charter school teachers and parents.

The SUNY Committee’s regulations would have allowed charter schools to self-certify their teachers with only 160 hours of classroom instruction and 40 hours of practice teaching. The regulations suggested but did not mandate that charter teachers complete a certification exam and have a bachelor’s degree.

Initially, the SUNY committee proposed as little as 30 hours of required training, but raised the minimum standards after union members protested outside the meeting.

SUNY and Success Academy Charter Schools in New York City have sought permission to appeal to New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals.

— Michael Del Piano, NYSUT Office of General Counsel , contributed to this article.