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Wolf v. New York City Dep't of Education

April 14, 2010

JOYCE WOLF, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, "DOE", AND LAURA RODRIGUEZ IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SUPERINTENDENT OF REGION 10, AND LAURA RODRIGUEZ, INDIVIDUALLY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cedarbaum, J.

OPINION

Joyce Wolf sues the New York City Department of Education ("BOE") and Laura Rodriguez (collectively, "Defendants") for employment discrimination pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the New York State Human Rights Law ("SHRL"), N.Y. Exec. Law § 296 et seq. The complaint alleges that Defendants discriminated against her on the basis of her ethnic and racial background. Defendants move for summary judgment on all of Plaintiff's claims. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are undisputed, except where specifically noted.

Plaintiff is Caucasian and has been employed by the BOE since 1981. She has served as an Assistant Principal at Public School 72 ("P.S. 72") since August of 2001. Plaintiff previously served at Intermediate School 131 as Interim Assistant Principal from 1991 to 1993, and Assistant Principal from 1993 to 2001.

Margarita Colon is Hispanic and has been employed by the BOE since 1985. Ms. Colon served as an Assistant Principal at Albert Einstein Intermediate School 131 from September of 1996 through February of 2007.

In the fall of 2006, Maria DeSalvio, then the Principal of P.S. 72, determined that she needed to retire for medical reasons. She spoke to her Local Instructional Superintendent ("LIS"), Althea Serrant, who organized a meeting with Regional Superintendent Laura Rodriguez. In December of 2006, Ms. DeSalvio informed Ms. Rodriguez, Ms. Serrant, and Deputy Regional Superintendent Jose Ruiz that she planned to retire before the conclusion of the academic year. At the time of Ms. DeSalvio's retirement, P.S. 72 was designated a "School in Need of Improvement (SINI)."

Ms. DeSalvio affirms that at the December meeting regarding her retirement, Ms. Rodriguez "indicated that it was time for a minority to be principal of Public School 72," and that Ms. Serrant and Mr. Ruiz sat silently and did not object to this comment. (DeSalvio Aff., ¶ 19.) Although an outgoing principal has no authority to name her successor, in her affidavit, Ms. DeSalvio swears that she recommended Plaintiff for the position on both an interim and permanent basis and advocated in her favor. According to Ms. DeSalvio, Ms. Rodriguez "nodded her head in a negative fashion" and "continued to reject [DeSalvio's] proposals and reiterate that it was time for a minority." (DeSalvio Aff., ¶ 21.) For the purposes of this motion, Defendants concede that Ms. Rodriguez commented that "it was time for a minority [principal]."

I. Selection of Interim Acting Principal

The parties agree that Regulation C-30 of the Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education ("Regulation C-30") governs the selection process for principals. Section XI provides for interim acting assignments as follows:

Appointing authorities should anticipate, post, and complete the selection process by the time a vacancy actually occurs. If this is not possible, an interim acting supervisor may be assigned temporarily by the appointing superintendent for principal positions.... The process used to place a supervisor in an interim acting assignment is not to be used to substitute [for] the interview and selection process outlined in the regulation [for permanent positions]. (Regulation C-30, Section XI.) Ms. Serrant was the appointing superintendent for P.S. 72.

In January of 2007, a five-person panel consisting of Ms. Serrant, Ms. Rodriguez, Mr. Ruiz, LIS Dov Rokeach, and LIS Irene Rogan, conducted interviews of Plaintiff and Ms. Colon for the position of Interim Acting Principal of P.S. 72. Three of the panel members were ethnic or racial minorities,*fn1 and every member reported to Ms. Rodriguez.

Following the interviews, Ms. Colon was selected to serve as Interim Acting Principal of P.S. 72. Defendants have offered testimonial and documentary evidence, the truth of which Plaintiff contests, that Ms. Colon was selected for her superior instructional knowledge regarding ways to improve student achievement. In particular, the Defendants have submitted a memorandum on BOE letterhead containing the interviewing panel's evaluation. The memorandum states that "Ms. Margarita Colon demonstrated the ability to meet the needs of the School In Need of Improvement," while Plaintiff "did not demonstrate her instructional knowledge in leading a school to improve student achievement." (Sitaras Decl., Ex. D.)

II. Selection of Principal

The Principal selection process includes two steps under Regulation C-30: Level I and Level II. At Level I, a committee comprised of constituents of the relevant school interviews and rates candidates submitted to it by the appointing superintendent. Those ratings are then submitted to the appointing superintendent for ...


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