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January 18, 2011

Reassignment of personnel

Reassignment of personnel
Appeal of Scott Rabler, Commissioner’s Decision No. 15,539

Scott Rabler appealed his transfer* from his position as a High School Principal to an untitled position “as a principal performing various administrative duties.” The Commissioner dismissed his appeal, commenting that school administrators may be transferred within their tenure areas without their consent, In contrast, the Commissioner noted that such personnel may not be transferred outside their tenure areas involuntarily.

According to the decision, Rabler claimed that the school board had established “High School Principal” as a separate tenure area and that he was improperly transferred to another tenure area without his consent. The Commissioner found nothing in the record to substantiate Rabler’s claim. Further, said the Commissioner, Rabler did not establish that “his new duties constitute work in a separate tenure area.” In view of this, Rabler’s representation that he was reassigned outside his tenure area was not persuasive.

Noting that in an appeal to the Commissioner, the appellant has the burden of demonstrating a clear legal right to the relief requested and the burden of establishing the facts upon which he or she seeks relief, the Commissioner held that Rabler failed to meet these burdens and dismissed his appeal.

In addition, in response to Rabler’s argument that the school superintendent “exceeded his authority in making the transfer without the approval of [the] respondent board,” the Commissioner said that Education Law §§1711 and 2508 authorize a superintendent to transfer personnel from school to school.

The Commissioner also found that the board had given the superintendent “clear and broad” authority to make such personnel changes. This authority, said the Commissioner was set out in the superintendent’s contract with the board by its including provisions granting the superintendent the authority to “organize and reorganize the administrative and supervisory staff, including instructional and non-instructional personnel, in a manner which, in the Superintendent’s judgment, best serves the District.”

In contrast, reassignment of a tenured individual may not be made for disciplinary reasons without complying with the provisions of §3020-a of the Education Law. Here, however, the Commissioner concluded that Rabler’s reassignment had not been made to punish him for alleged misconduct.

The only evidence Rabler presented in support of his claim that his reassignment was disciplinary in nature was an article from the local newspaper asserting that an unnamed sources told the reporter that Rabler was transferred as a result of his misconduct. The Commissioner commented that “It is well settled that newspaper articles do not constitute evidence of the truth of the statements contained therein.”

The Commissioner then said that “on the record before me, I am constrained to dismiss the appeal.”

* Although the decision occasionally uses the term "transfers" to describe the personnel change involved here, Rabler’s change was, in fact a "reassignment." Transfers typically involve moving an individual under the jurisdiction of one appointing authority to the jurisdiction of a different appointing authority and usually requires the approval of the individual involved. In contrast, a reassignment is the placement of an individual under the jurisdiction of one appointing authority to another position under the jurisdiction of the same appointing authority-- and the approval of the individual is not required unless a collective bargaining agreement provides otherwise.

For the full text of the decision, go to:

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