February 2, 2006
Dr. Larry E. Parsons
Mason County Board of Education
1200 Main Street
Point Pleasant, WV 25550
Dear Superintendent Parsons:
I am in receipt of your request for an opinion regarding the possible elimination of
an elementary school principalship. Specifically, you explain:
It is anticipated that at the end of the current school year we will have an
excess of one elementary school principal. The district is currently in the
process of filling a vocational/technical school principalship. A question has
arisen concerning the ability of an elementary school principal who loses his
or her position and who has appropriate certification, to displace the
vocational/technical school principal (should the vocational/technical school
principal be the least senior principal in the system).
West Virginia Code ?18A-4-7a(j)(2) provides that ?an employee subject to release
shall be employed in any other professional position where the employee is certified and
was previously employed or to any lateral area for which the employee is certified, licensed
or both, if the employee's seniority is greater than the seniority of any other employee in
that area of certification . . .? West Virginia Code ?18A-4-7a(k) states that in developing
lateral transfer polices, counties must ?give consideration to the rank of each position in
terms of title; nature of responsibilities; salary level; certification, licensure or both; and
days in the period of employment.? (Emphasis added). The employment term for the
elementary principal in question is 210 days. The employment term for the
vocational/technical principal is 240 days. Accordingly, your lateral transfer policy does
not (and cannot) indicate that vocational school principal positions are lateral to elementary
school principal positions.
The West Virginia Education and State Employees Grievance Board has generally
found that an employee cannot move into a promotion through the lateral transfer process.
See, G. O'Dell Dingess v. Lincoln County Board of Education, Docket No. 98-22-053 (May
29, 1998). Likewise, the Mason County Lateral Transfer Policy specifically states that
?Gaining a promotion through the reduction in force process is not allowable . . .? If the
elementary school principal whose job was eliminated was permitted to displace the
vocational school principal, the elementary school principal would gain a promotion.
Thus, it is my opinion that an elementary school principal who loses his or her
position does not have the ability to displace the vocational/technical school principal even
if the displaced elementary principal has the appropriate certification and the
vocational/technical school principal is the least senior principal in the system.
Hoping that I have been of service, I am
Steven L. Paine
State Superintendent of Schools