Spring 2015

Professional Capacity

Hermenia Jenkins served as an intermediate school principal in Crosby ISD since 2003.  In June 2011, she was reassigned to the position of high school assistant principal.  Jenkins filed a grievance complaining that her reassignment was an illegal change in her professional capacity and that the reassignment violated Texas Education Code section 11.202, 19 Texas Administrative Code section 150.1021, and policy DN(LOCAL), which requires her to be the instructional leader of the campus.

Generally, the superintendent has authority to assign and reassign all personnel within the terms of their contract.  Tex. Educ. Code § 11.201.  However, according to Education Code section 21.206, if the board does not give the holder of a term contract written notice of nonrenewal within the time specified, the board has elected to employ the person in the “same professional capacity” for the following school year.  Professional capacity is determined by the terms of the contract.  In this case, the contract at issue was silent regarding the professional capacity for which Jenkins was hired.  The contract only stated that Jenkins was an “Employee.”

The commissioner has long held that a reassignment from principal to assistant principal is not a change in the professional capacity.   However, Jenkins sought to distinguish her facts from previous cases and argued that principal of a campus is a one-of-a-kind position similar to superintendent that cannot be subject to reassignment except to another principal position.

LAF originally filed an amicus brief in this case when it was on appeal to the Commissioner of Education.  The commissioner issued an opinion upholding the long line of decisions concluding that principal and assistant principal are within the same professional capacity.  The commissioner concluded that a term contract employee employed in a principal position does not make the employee's professional capacity "principal," and that Crosby ISD did not violate the Education Code by reassigning Jenkins to a non-principal position.

Jenkins appealed the commissioner’s decision to Travis County District Court.  LAF filed a brief with the Travis County District Court arguing that principal and assistant principal are within the professional capacity of administrator and that the commissioner’s decision should be upheld.  The Travis County District Court issued a final judgment affirming the commissioner’s decision with no further discussion.  Jenkins v. Crosby Indep. Sch. Dist., No. D-1-GN-14-00619 (200th Dist. Ct., Travis County, Tex. Feb. 26, 2015).  LAF’s Attorney: David Backus, Underwood Law Firm, P.C., Lubbock.