A state Supreme Court justice has ruled that the court could not determine if it is reasonable to eliminate the vice principal’s position at Lake George Junior-Senior High School.
The court is allowing litigation to continue on the question of whether the Lake George Board of Education and Superintendent Lynne Rutnik violated the state’s Open Meetings Law, according to a court decision from Oct. 26.
The school board in March approved the elimination of the vice principal position for the 2018-19 school year and creation of an interim role to align the district’s curriculum.
Lake George United for Education, a group of taxpayers and residents formed to oppose the actions by the board, argued that the board illegally discussed the changes in executive session. The group filed an Article 78 lawsuit to appeal the school board’s decisions.
The group alleges four causes of action or claims:
1. The board failed to put any information of the restructuring on any of the meeting agendas nor did the board discuss it in public session.
2. The board had four illegal executive sessions to discuss the restructuring before announcing the change in late January 2018.
3. The board continued to discuss it in executive session after announcing the change.
4. The board failed to give purposeful reasoning for the change.
With those claims, the group wants the school board and superintendent to not discuss such things in future executive sessions, be trained on what is allowed in executive session and invalidate the actions eliminating the vice principal position and creating the new interim position.
The court, in its Oct. 26 ruling, determined that state Supreme Court is not the place to review the appropriateness of an educational change, which is the fourth claim.
“The commissioner of education, not the court, has the background, experience and specialized knowledge to evaluate whether such action was rational and reasonable,” the court’s decision and order reads.
The first three causes of action are awaiting a response by the school district, which was originally scheduled to be within 10 days after Oct. 26. There has been an extension of the deadline, but the specifics were not known Friday.
The United for Education group also had filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to prevent the district from enacting the change.
But the court decision noted that the departing vice principal, Cody Conley, has taken a “like position,” in this case a Saratoga Springs high school assistant principal job.
To justify the injunction, the court stated it needs proof that the board violated the Open Meetings Law beyond “mere negligence.”
Also, the injunction must have three elements: “a probability of success on the merits, the danger of irreparable injury if an injunction were not issued, and that the equities balance in favor of the party seeking the injunction,” the court’s ruling reads.
The court said the three elements were not established and the injunction was denied.
“The ability of the board to manage the district should not be curtailed while the legal dispute remains undecided,” the ruling read.
The school district tried to have the case dismissed because Conley has not joined the United for Education’s lawsuit. The court determined the dismissal request lacked merit and that the lawsuit was focused on the position more than the person.
The case will resume when the district’s response is submitted.