Juul Agreement* entered into by the parties extending a teacher’s probationary period held valid notwithstanding its not being presented to and approved by the school board
Marshall v Pittsford Cent. Sch. Dist., 2012 NY Slip Op 07791
A probationary teacher [T] had “the expectation that her probationary period would last for three years.”
At the end of her third probationary year T was informed by the School Superintendent that the Superintendent would not be recommended T to the school board for tenure. In lieu of termination, T entered into a Juul agreement* with the school district. Accordingly, T was granted a fourth probationary year in exchange for the waiver of her right to a claim of tenure by estoppel.
Although the Juul Agreement was signed by T, the Teacher’s Association President and the School Superintendent, it was neither presented to nor ratified by the school board.
Prior to the end of T’s fourth probationary year, the Superintendent again advised T that the she would not recommend T for tenure. T was also told that her appointment as a probationary teacher with school district would end on June 30.
The school board voted to deny T tenure, whereupon T filed a petition pursuant to CPLR Article 78 seeking a court order "declaring" that she has tenure with the School District.
Supreme Court dismissed T’s petition; the Appellate Division affirmed the lower court’s ruling.
The Appellate Division explained that the record establishes that the Juul agreement between T and the school district was fairly made, holding that “T is estopped from challenging its validity, including the waiver of her right to tenure by estoppel contained therein.”
Conceding that the Juul agreement had not approved by the school board, which omission was characterized by the Appellate Division as “an impermissible abdication of a school board's responsibility to act as trustee …,” the court said that nevertheless agreed with [the school district] that T was equitably estopped** from disaffirming the Juul agreement despite the school board's failure to authorize or ratify it.
Here, said the court, the Superintendent unequivocally stated that she did not intend to recommend T for tenure at the end of her third probationary year based on T's evaluations and input from the Principal. In lieu of the Superintendent's recommending to the Board that T be denied tenure, the parties entered into the Juul agreement.
Further, said the Appellate Division the agreement expressly stated that "the Superintendent . . . has informed [T] that she will not be recommended for tenure at the end of her probationary period (June 30, 2010); and . . . the Superintendent has informed [T] that she is willing to recommend an extension of her probationary period for one year."
The agreement signed by the parties identified above also included a clause that stated that T "accepts the extension of her probationary period until June 30, 2011," and that T "agrees that she waives any right to claim status as tenured teacher by estoppel, acquiescence or any other reason as a result of this extension."
Inasmuch as the record establishes that the Juulagreement was fairly made, the Appellate Division ruled that T is estopped from challenging its validity and may not now disavow her waiver of her right to tenure by estoppel.
* In Juul v Board of Education, 76 A.D.2d 837, [Affirmed 55 NY2d 648], the Appellate Division held that agreements to extend probationary periods are valid and enforceable when found to be a "knowing and voluntary waiver of the protections afforded by the Education Law."
** The Appellate Division said that “"Equitable estoppel is imposed by law in the interest of fairness to prevent the enforcement of rights which would work a fraud or injustice upon the person against whom enforcement is sought and who, in justifiable reliance upon the opposing party's words or conduct, has been misled into acting upon the belief that such enforcement would not be sought."
The decision is posted on the Internet at: