Q: We have an assistant principal who is very strong in curriculum but struggles with enforcing student discipline. Are we able to reassign her to an instructional coordinator position for the 2021-2022 school year?
A: Yes. A reassignment from assistant principal to instructional coordinator is permissible because both positions are within the same professional capacity of administrator.
Administrator and teacher reassignments occur frequently during the summer holiday and at the beginning of the academic year as school districts tackle new and changing student populations as well as educational and business needs. Districts seeking to reassign professional employees during this time should be mindful of key provisions in the Texas Education Code. Specifically, the Education Code requires districts that do not propose the nonrenewal of an expiring term contract prior to the tenth day before the final day of instruction to reemploy its certified professional employees during the next school year in the “same professional capacity.” See Tex. Educ. Code § 21.206(b). What amounts to the “same professional capacity” is often debated because the phrase is not expressly defined in the Texas Education Code. Fortunately, decisions from the Commissioner of Education interpreting the “same professional capacity” requirement provide guidance for school district decision-making.
The seminal Commissioner decision interpreting the meaning of the phrase “same professional capacity” is Barich v. San Felipe-Del Rio Consolidated Independent School District. In Barich, the Commissioner stated in pertinent part: “[T]he legislature, by using the term ‘same professional capacity’ (instead of “the exact same position’), intended to allow school districts to be flexible in their personnel assignments while discouraging the abuse of the district’s inherent or contractual reassignment authority. . .. Factors to be considered in determining the validity of such a placement include, but are not necessarily limited to, differences in authority, duties, and salary.” Dkt. No. 117-R1a-484 (Comm’r Educ. 1985). Since Barich, the Commissioner has repeatedly applied these factors and upheld campus administrator reassignments. See Gustafson v. Canutillo Indep. Sch. Dist., Dkt. No. 113-R10-0812 (Comm’r Educ. 2014) (upholding the reassignment from high school principal to elementary school assistant principal); see Murillo v. Laredo Indep. Sch. Dist., Dkt. No. 027-R3-0108 (Comm’r Educ. 2012) (upholding the reassignment from middle school principal to human resources coordinator); see Eliz v. Donna Indep. Sch. Dist., Dkt. No. 011-R3-999 (Comm’r Educ. 2000) (upholding the reassignment from attendance coordinator to middle school assistant principal).
When reassignments or other organizational changes result in a reduction in an employee’s number of days worked or decrease in overall compensation between contract years, school districts should be cognizant that notice of such reduction, regardless whether such difference results from reassignment, the removal of a stipend, or the reduction in the number of days worked, must be issued to the employee in writing at least 45 calendar days before the first day of instruction. See Tex. Educ. Code § 21.210. This is applicable even when the employee is on a multiple year contract.
Please contact your local school attorney if you seek additional information or have specific questions regarding reassignments of certified professional employees.