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Baron v. New York City Dep't of Education

July 7, 2009

SUSAN BARON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND CITY OF NEW YORK, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Block, Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff, Susan Baron ("Baron"), alleges that defendant, New York City Department of Education ("DOE"), terminated her from its Teaching Fellows Program ("the Program") based on her age, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-34. DOE moves for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. For the following reasons, the motion is granted.

I.

The following undisputed facts are taken from the parties' Rule 56.1 statements: The Program provides education and training -- culminating in a teaching certificate -- for those wishing to teach in New York City's public schools. Baron was accepted into the program on March 9, 2004. According to records produced by DOE, Baron was one of 1907 fellows in 2004; of the 1774 for whom age data are available, 87% (1545/1774) were below the age of 40, while 13% (229/1774) were 40 or above. Baron was 47 years old in 2004.

A. Baron's Pre-Service Training

Each teaching fellow must complete "pre-service training" consisting of three components: master's-level coursework, sessions with a Fellow Advisor ("FA"), and a "hands on" field placement at a local school. Each fellow is assigned to a cohort of other fellows, who take classes and attend workshops together.

Baron's pre-service training took place over the summer of 2004; her FA was Petra Wiehe ("Wiehe"). She was initially assigned to a cohort taking classes at Mercy College in the Bronx; however, she asked the Program's staff if she could be reassigned to a college in Manhattan. The request was granted and Baron was notified by email that she would be reassigned to a cohort taking classes at Hunter College ("Hunter"). Baron did not check her email, however, and missed the first day of classes.

Although Baron attended classes for the remainder of the term, she was not officially registered at Hunter and, as a result, was not able to gain access to Hunter's library and computer lab. At her deposition, Baron asserted that Hunter's Teaching Fellows Coordinator, Joyce Silvershein ("Silvershein"), was responsible for her registration, but that Silvershein "[n]ever had any intention of registering [her]" because "they decided within seven to 10 days that I was no longer in the program." Decl. of Jamie M. Zinaman (Sept. 19, 2009), Ex. D at 93. According to Silvershein, Baron could not be registered because she never submitted a personal statement, a required part of her application materials, see id., Ex. Q; Baron does not dispute this.

B. The June 30th Meeting

During the first week of her pre-service training, Baron's instructors at Hunter expressed concern that she "was disrespectful to her fellow students and participated in a way that dominated class discussion in a negative way." Zinaman Decl., Ex. Q. Program officials met with Baron on June 30, 2004, to address these concerns; the attendees were Baron, Wiehe, Silvershein and two Program staff members, Andie Corso ("Corso") and Amy Way ("Way").

A memorandum used as the agenda for the two-hour meeting stated that Baron was "not currently making satisfactory progress toward the completion of pre-service training," Zinaman Decl., Ex. F; more specifically, the memo stated that "Susan's interactions with staff and other Fellows have raised concerns regarding Susan's ability to meet three key performance indicators: appropriate response to environment, problem solving and professionalism." Id.

Way's notes of the meeting, which were incorporated into the memorandum and given to Baron, reflect that Program officials addressed each area of concern and suggested ways Baron could improve:

* "Stay on point in FA Session/Coursework. Make clear connections to the topic of conversation. You will know that you are succeeding if no Fellows interrupt you or cut you off."

* "Be accountable for all information sent in messages. This will require you to be pro-active in seeking information."

* "Make sure that you are listening twice as long as you speak."

* "Be aware of the expectations that others have in the school and university culture."

* "Interact with everyone in a respectful and controlled way. Take care that your tone is not hostile or defensive. We will be checking in with your professor and FA and other people with whom you interact...."

Id., Ex. L. According to Way's notes, Baron responded by "deflecting blame" and saying that she was "not able to get a heads up." Id., Ex. K. She also mentioned that she had "no access to computers," id.; in response, it was suggested that "she use the computer lab in the Teaching Fellows office, go ...


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