Nanko v. Pennsylvania Department of Education

Did the Commission make an error by revoking Ms. Nanko’s Letter of Eligibility based upon the charge of “immorality” as the Commission had not yet specifically defined the term?

 Nanko v. PA Department of Education 663 A2d 312 (1995) 

 Attorney William Hebe for Nanko
Attorney Daniel J. Myers for PDE

 Facts: Regina Nanko applied for a Superintendent position at a school district (District) while she only possessed Elementary and Elementary Principal Certifications and an Assistant Superintendent’s Letter of Eligibility. When the District asked to see a Superintendent’s Letter of Eligibility, Ms. Nanko replied by sending a forged Superintendent’s Letter of Eligibility to the District.

 On another front, Ms. Nanko sent a separate, forged application to the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) asking to receive an authentic, Superintendent’s Letter of Eligibility. When PDE asked for the proper paperwork, she sent a forged letter of explanation, allegedly from her current Superintendent, in an attempt to explain the delay in submitting the proper paperwork to them in the first place.

 The District notified PDE of Ms. Nanko’s forgeries. PDE served Notice of Charges upon her alleging she misrepresented her employment history and her areas of certification and altered her PDE certificate. Ms. Nanko requested a hearing under the Educator Discipline Act (EDA), Section 13.

 The Hearing Officer recommended revocation of Ms. Nanko’s professional certificates. She filed exceptions to the recommendations. Oral argument was heard on the exceptions. The Professional Standards & Practices Commission (Commission) granted PDE’s motion for summary judgment, revoking the actual professional certificates she did hold.

 Issues on Appeal to Commonwealth Court:

1.     Did the Commission error in revoking Ms. Nanko’s Letter based upon the charge of “immorality” as the Commission had not yet specifically defined the term?

2.     Must an educator be criminally convicted of “immorality” before the Commission can discipline her?

 Commonwealth Court’s Opinion: The Commission had not yet written a definition of “immorality” as a regulation when PDE first accused Nanko of wrongdoing. PDE prosecuted Nanko using definitions that varied very little from the definition the Commission ultimately wrote in Title 22 of the PA Code in 1993. As a result, no due process violation was evident on behalf of either PDE or the Commission.

 The EDA permits the Commission to discipline Ms. Nanko upon evidence of either a criminal conviction or violation of the terms of the EDA itself. As the Commission found Nanko’s actions violated the EDA, it was justified in revoking her certificates. No separate criminal conviction was necessary.

 The Commonwealth Court agreed with the Commission's decision and denied Ms Nanko's appeal.  

 My Comment:

Ms. Nanko was evidently charged by PDE’s Office of Chief Counsel with acting in an “immoral” manner through her actions in misrepresenting her professional credentials to school officials.  On appeal to the Commonwealth Court, Ms. Nanko’s attorney argued that the Commission had not yet defined what constituted “immorality” under the Educator Discipline Act at the time of her hearing before the Commission’s Hearing Officer.   

 “Immorality” was a ground for termination of contract within the Public School Code’s Section 11-1122.  It is not clear to me from the reported opinion of this case whether the Commission used the definition of “immorality” established by caselaw of prosecutions for violation of 11-1122 or another source to prosecute Ms. Nanko in this case.

 In any event, the Commission did add it’s own “immorality” definition to Title 22 of the PA Code shortly after Ms. Nanko’s case was decided.  See below.

 Purdons Title 24 Education, Chapter 1. Public School Code of 1949, Article XI Professional Employees, Subarticle (C) Tenure, Section 11-1122 Causes for Termination of Contract

 Purdons Title 24 Education, Chapter 2. Miscellaneous Laws Relating to Schools, Educator Discipline Act, Section 2070.9c Imposition of Discipline on Additional Grounds

PA Code Section 22 Education; Definitions of Statutory Terms Chapter 237



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