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Jones v. Dep't of Education

September 13, 2007

CHERYL JONES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dora L. Irizarry, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Cheryl Jones ("Plaintiff" or "Jones") brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the New York City Department of Education ("DOE" or "Defendant"), alleging that the DOE deprived her of liberty and property rights without due process of law. Plaintiff also brings supplemental state law claims of defamation and breach of contract.

Presently before this court is Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). For the reasons set forth more fully below, Defendant's motion is granted. Plaintiff's property interest claim is dismissed with prejudice because Plaintiff does not and cannot allege that she has been deprived of any property interest. Plaintiff's liberty interest claim is also dismissed, but with leave to replead. In addition, because Plaintiff's supplemental state claims are already pending before the New York State Supreme Court, those claims are dismissed.

I. Background

The following facts are either undisputed or drawn from Plaintiff's complaint, unless otherwise indicated. Plaintiff began her employment with the DOE as a teacher in 1984. In 1987 Plaintiff received tenure as a teacher. Plaintiff became an assistant principal in 1994 and achieved tenure in that position in 1999. In 2001, Plaintiff accepted the position of principal at Far Rockaway High School in Far Rockaway, New York. Plaintiff's status upon appointment as principal was probationary. In order to achieve tenured status and its attendant benefits, such as increased pension benefits, she would need to receive "satisfactory" performance ratings for three years.

Plaintiff received "satisfactory" performance ratings for her work during the first two years, 2001-2002 and 2002-2003. In 2003 or 2004, the DOE designated Far Rockaway High School as an "impact school" and, as a result, the DOE provided additional support to the school in the form of extra police officers and School Safety Agents in order to quell occurrences of violence in the school and to enhance a secure school environment. According to Plaintiff, it is at this point that her "immediate supervisors started to wage a campaign against plaintiff by finding fault and placing letters in her file." (See Pl.'s Mem. 2.)

Around May 2004, Plaintiff was informed that she was in jeopardy of receiving an "unsatisfactory" performance rating for her third year, the 2003-2004 school year. Rather than receive an "unsatisfactory" rating, Plaintiff entered into a contractual arrangement with the DOE in which she agreed to retire in exchange for receiving a "satisfactory" rating for the 2003-2004 school year. The text of the Plaintiff's contract with the DOE is set forth, in pertinent part, below.

Stipulation of Retirement

1. Cheryll Jones . . . agrees to retire from her employment for the New York City Department of Education ("Department") as Principal of Far Rockaway High School as of August 31, 2004.

2. Ms. Jones agrees not to seek reemployment with the Department as a principal.

3. The Department agrees to rate Ms. Jones satisfactory for the 2003-04 school year. . . .

5. Ms. Jones agrees that she has entered into this agreement freely, knowingly and openly, without coercion or duress.

6. Ms. Jones affirms that she has had access to her union representative in reaching this agreement and has consulted with him regarding the terms of this agreement, and has entered into this agreement with advice and consent.

7. This written agreement contains all the terms and conditions agreed upon by the parties and no other agreement, oral or otherwise, shall be deemed to exist or to bind any of the parties ...


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