COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS

Suffolk, ss. Division of Administrative Law Appeals

Marilyn LaBossiere,

Petitioner

v. Docket No. CR-06-307

Teachers' Retirement System,

Respondent

Appearance for Petitioner:

Brian A. Riley, Esq.

Mass. Teachers Association
20 Ashburton Place
Boston, MA 02108

Appearance for Respondent:

James O'Leary, Esq.

Teachers' Retirement System
One Charles Park
Cambridge, MA 02142

Administrative Magistrate:

Maria A. Imparato, Esq.

DECISION

Marilyn LaBossiere filed a timely appeal under G. L. c. 32, s. 16 (4) of the May 8, 2006 decision of the Teachers' Retirement System to deny her request to purchase credit for her out-of-state service rendered as a Graduate Teaching Assistant from September 1, 1974 to May 31, 1976. (Exs. 1, 2)

I held a hearing on January 17, 2008 at the office of the Division of Administrative Law Appeals, 98 North Washington Street, Boston. I admitted documents into evidence. (Exs. 1 - 8) After hearing I received from the Board an email response of Dr. David Bucke dated January 21, 2008 that I marked as Exhibit 9. I marked the joint-prehearing memorandum of the parties "A" for identification. The Petitioner testified. There is one tape cassette of the hearing.

FINDINGS OF FACT

1. Marilyn LaBossiere is an active member of the Teachers' Retirement System. She has taught in the Natick public schools since September 1979.

2. From September 1, 1974 to May 31, 1975, and from September 1, 1975 to May 31, 1976, Ms. LaBossiere worked as a Graduate Teaching Assistant ("GTA") at the University of Vermont. (Ex. 5, Testimony)

3. Ms. LaBossiere worked for a geology professor, David P. Bucke, Ph.D., who was responsible for Geology I lectures. Ms. LaBossiere was responsible for Geology I labs. Professor Bucke developed the curriculum. (Ex. 6, Testimony)

4. Ms. LaBossiere was in charge of three classes per semester of between 12 and 15 students. She met once a week for between 3 and 5 hours with each group, either in the lab or in the field. Ms. LaBossiere planned in-lab experiences and field trips. (Ex. 6, Testimony)

5. Ms. LaBossiere prepared and graded quizzes and lab assignments. Ms. LaBossiere gave students lab grades that were averaged into the student's final grade for the course that was determined by Dr. Bucke. (Ex. 6, Testimony)

6. Ms. LaBossiere qualified to be a GTA because she possessed a Bachelor's Degree and she was enrolled in a graduate program. She was expected to devote half-time effort of 18 to 20 hours per week to her teaching responsibilities, although teacher certification was not required for her position. As a GTA Ms. LaBossiere was not a professor and was not eligible for tenure. (Ex. 7)

7. The faculty in the geology department all had at least a Ph.D. (Ex. 9)

8. Ms. LaBossiere had office hours, but since she worked in the building, she was accessible to students all day. (Testimony)

9. Ms. LaBossiere filed an out-of-state public school service purchase application on April 9, 2006 seeking to purchase credit for her work as a GTA under G. L. c. 32, s. 3 (4). (Ex. 5)

10. The Board denied Ms. LaBossiere's request, and she appealed. (Exs. 1, 2)

CONCLUSION AND ORDER

The decision of the Teachers' Retirement System is affirmed. Marilyn LaBossiere may not purchase credit for her work as a Graduate Teaching Assistant at the University of Vermont between 1974 and 1976 under the provisions of G. L. c. 32, s. 3 (4).

G. L. c. 32, s. 3 (4) provides:

Any member in service … who had rendered service in any other state for any previous period … as a teacher, principal, supervisor or president in a state normal school, state teachers college or like institution, or other college under exclusive public control and supervision … may, before the date any retirement allowance becomes effective for him, pay into the annuity savings fund of the system … an amount equal to that which would have been withheld as regular deductions from his regular compensation for such previous period … had such service been rendered in a public school of the commonwealth and had he been a member of the teachers' retirement system during the period the service was rendered. (emphasis supplied)

G.L. c. 21, s. 1 defines a teacher as:

[A]ny person who is employed by one or more school committees or boards of trustees or by any combination of such committees and boards on a basis of not less than half-time service as a teacher, school psychologist, school psychiatrist, school adjustment counselor or school social worker … director of occupational guidance and placement … principal, supervisor or superintendent in any public school … or as a supervisor or teacher of adult civic education …

This section allows a member to purchase credit for out-of-state service as a teacher, principal, supervisor or president in a public college. No such right is granted for service as a Graduate Teaching Assistant. Furthermore, the Petitioner's work as a GTA was not the functional equivalent of a teacher. In the Appeals Court case of Thomas LaChance v. CRAB, case no. 04-P-81, January 11, 2005, the Appeals Court noted that both CRAB and the Superior Court had previously applied the statutory definition of teacher "to jobs that were functional equivalents of those listed," citing Squeglia v. CRAB, Suffolk Superior Court Civil Action No. 00-2416, 5/2/01; and Spash v. Teachers' Retirement Board, CR-98-620 (DALA dec. 1/11/00; no CRAB dec.). The Appeals Court concluded that Mr. LaChance was not functioning as a teacher in his position of research assistant. He functioned as the assistant to a college professor of oceanography by acting as a laboratory assistant in charge of guiding students through lab experiments assigned by the professor. He did not have a graduate degree, nor did he hold any teaching certification. He worked under a professor who held a doctorate. He taught lab sessions of the professor's courses. He performed research and writing, and co-authored some of the professor's papers. He filled in and lectured when the professor was out at sea doing research. The Appeals Court deemed his work to be not functionally equivalent to that of a teacher.

The instant case is analogous to LaChance. Although the instant Petitioner had teaching duties, and a fair amount of autonomy in planning and grading lab work, she "functioned as an assistant to a college professor, not as a college professor in her own right." (Id., pp. 8-9) She did not hold a doctorate, which was apparently a requirement to be a professor in the geology department. She was not considered a member of the faculty and was not eligible for tenure.

I conclude that the Petitioner is not entitled to purchase credit for her work as a GTA because she does not meet the definition of teacher in G. L. c. 32, s. 1, and because the work she performed was not the functional equivalent of a teacher.

The decision of the Teachers' Retirement System is affirmed.

SO ORDERED.

DIVISION OF ADMINISTRATIVE LAW APPEALS

Maria A. Imparato
Administrative Magistrate

DATED: 3/11/08


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