Interpretation's Date: February 2, 2006
by superintendent Steven L. Paine
Section: V. Personnel
SubSection: B. Principals, Supervisors, and Central Office Administrators



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


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