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In re Application of Mastronardi

Supreme Court, New York

August 1, 2013

In the Matter of the Application of MARIE MASTRONARDI, Petitioner,
v.
CITY OF NEW YORK, THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, DENNIS WALCOTT, Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, Respondents. For an Order Pursuant to Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules, Index No. 100557/13

Unpublished Opinion

DECISION/ORDER

HON. CYNTHIA S. KERN, J.S.C.

Recitation, as required by CPLR 2219(a), of the papers considered in the review of this motion for

Papers Numbered

Notice of Motion and Affidavits Annexed.................................... 1

Notice of Cross Motion and Answering Affidavits.......................2

Replying Affidavits...................................................................... 3

Exhibits...................................................................................... 4

Petitioner Marie Mastronardi brings the instant petition pursuant to Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules ("CPLR") challenging respondent the New York City Department of Education's (the "DOE") determination sustaining her Unsatisfactory end-of-year rating ("U-rating") for the 2011-2012 school year as a middle school English and special education teacher and seeks a reversal of that rating to "Satisfactory." For the reasons set forth below, the petition is denied.

The relevant facts are as follows. Petitioner is currently employed by the DOE as a teacher of English and Language Arts at Jonas Bronck Academy ("JBA"), M.S. 228 in the Bronx, New York and was in such employ during the 2011-2012 school year. On or about September 19, 2011, Principal Donalda Chumney ("Principal Chumney") conducted an informal, walk-through visit of a morning advisory group that petitioner was supervising. During her visit, Principal Chumney observed that petitioner had tasked the eighth-grade students she was advising with coloring and decorating a graphic logo but were not otherwise engaged. Principal Chumney provided petitioner with comments and recommendations for a more academically-focused advisory group. On or about November 15, 2011, Principal Chumney e-mailed petitioner to document her concerns with a vocabulary quiz that petitioner had left to be administered to her students on November 10, 2011. In the letter, Principal Chumney stated that the quiz contained numerous grammatical errors which were confusing to both the students and the faculty. Principal Chumney further remarked that the language used in the quiz was abusive and not acceptable. Petitioner was directed to reply to Principal Chumney's e-mail outlining her plan to respond to her concerns and to submit her next vocabulary quiz for review.

On or about December 7, 2011, Principal Chumney and Assistant Principal Giselle Fortiche-Ocampo ("AP Fortiche-Ocampo") formally observed petitioner's classroom instruction. The administrators reported that during the observation, petitioner was unable to execute her lesson according to plans she previously submitted and that there was a disparity between petitioner's lesson objectives as she described them and the lesson as finally presented to the students. Additionally, Principal Chumney and AP Fortiche-Ocampo noted that petitioner failed to address individual students' level of performance, skill and needs during the lesson and that petitioner failed to collect student homework that had been assigned the previous day and only did so after being reminded by one of her students. In light of their observations, the administrators rated petitioner's lesson "Unsatisfactory" and reported that they met with petitioner in a post-observation conference on December 8, 2011 to discuss the observations and written recommendations for improvement.

On April 19 and 20, 2012, AP Fortiche-Ocampo conducted a formal observation and examination "of petitioner's student instructional portfolios and noted that they failed to meet expectations in nearly every category. AP Fortiche-Ocampo noted that she did not see evidence of petitioner's students playing an "active role in the compilation, management and organization of their portfolios" as required. Additionally, any feedback given to the students in their portfolios was primarily numeric with few instances of written recommendations and commendations as required by school policy. AP Fortiche-Ocampo followed up on her previous observation of petitioner's students' portfolios by conducting a formal observation on May 14, 2012. AP Fortiche-Ocampo noted that the portfolios still failed to meet expectations in three categories despite the feedback and recommendations that had been articulated in her earlier memorandum as there was still no indication that "students have any role in the compilation, management and organization of their own work." Thus, AP Fortiche-Ocampo rated her formal observation of petitioner's classroom management as "Unsatisfactory" in light of her findings that petitioner failed to implement the recommendations and feedback from the previous formal observation.

On or about May 11, 2012, Principal Chumney sent a letter to petitioner documenting an act of professional misconduct that occurred on April 2, 2012 when petitioner sent an e-mail to fourteen teachers and administrators at 9:20 pm advising its recipients that thirty-six of her seventy-two students would be re-taking an assessment test in lieu of their regularly scheduled advisory at 8:25 am during the following two mornings. At no time prior to sending the e-mail did petitioner confer with AP Fortiche-Ocampo who lead her team or any other administrator to obtain permission to change the schedule of a sizeable portion of JBA's eighth grade students the next morning.

Principal Chumney reported that such behavior reflected poorly on petitioner's classroom management that she found herself in a situation where "50% of all of the students [she is] assigned to teach, must be offered the opportunity to retake a 45-minute-long reading assessment that they should have been able to perform, with integrity, in the English Language Arts ...


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