Appeal, No. 34, Jan. T., 1956, from order of Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, Dec. T., 1954, No. 1761, in case of C. Milbourne Smith v. School District of the Township of Darby. Order reversed.
Donald W. Lehrkinder, with him Edward D. McLaughlin, for appellant.
Howard M. Lutz, with him Edward H. Bryant, Jr., and Lutz, Fronefield, Warner & Bryant, for appellee.
Before Jones, C.j., Bell, Chidsey, Musmanno, Arnold, Jones and Cohen, JJ.
OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE BENJAMIN R. JONES
Appellant was for many years the Supervising Principal of Darby Township School District with an annual salary of $4,775. The Darby Township School District, a 4th class school district, on July 6, 1954 became a 3rd class school district.*fn1 On July 13, 1954 the school board abolished the position of Supervising Principal, created the office of Associate Superintendent,*fn2 elected someone other than appellant to that office,
and assigned appellant to the position of Principal of the Junior High School at the same salary but without the annual increment.
Appellant, contending that the board's action constituted an unlawful demotion both in type of position and in salary (the latter because of the loss of the annual increment), requested a hearing before the school board. From the board's failure*fn3 to grant a hearing he appealed to the Superintendent of Public Instruction. After oral argument, the Superintendent, in a written opinion, concluded that he lacked jurisdiction to hear the appeal. An appeal was then taken to the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County and that court made absolute a rule to show cause why the appeal should not be dismissed. From that order this appeal ensued.
On this appeal three questions arise: (1) did the school board's action of July 13, 1954 abolishing the position of Supervising Principal and assigning appellant - then Supervising Principal - to the position of Junior High School Principal constitute a demotion in type of position or in salary, or both; (2) if the board's action constituted a demotion either in type of position or in salary, or both, was such demotion in violation of Article XI, § 1151 of the Public School Code of 1949;*fn4 (3) has the appellant pursued the appropriate remedy to enforce his rights?
A demotion of a professional employee is a removal from one position and an appointment to a lower position; it is a reduction in type of position as compared
with other professional employees having the same status: Simmler v. Philadelphia et al., 329 Pa. 197, 202, 198 A. 1; Smith v. Philadelphia School District, 334 Pa. 197, 205, 5 A.2d 535; Wesenberg Case, 346 Pa. 438, 441, 444, 31 A.2d 151; Pittsburgh School District Appeal, 356 Pa. 282, 286, 287, 52 A.2d 17; 78 C.J.S. § 205, p. 1099.
As Supervising Principal the appellant supervised all the schools in the district; in his new position, he supervises only one school in the district. Different qualifications are required of a Supervising Principal than are required of a Principal of a Junior High School. While one qualified to be a Supervising Principal is qualified to perform the duties of a Principal of a Junior High School, yet if the situation be reversed, the lack of qualifications of the latter to perform the duties of the former instantly appears and compels the conclusion that appellant's assignment did effect a demotion in type of position. The positions of Principal and Supervising Principal are dissimilar and not of the same or a comparable class. While in this case the salary of the Supervising Principal and that of Principal of the Junior High School happens to be the same (with the exception of the annual increment), a demotion in type of position means something more than a reduction in salary. To demote is to reduce to a lower rank or class and there may be a demotion in type of position even though the salary remains the same.
Various statutory provisions recognize a distinction between a Supervising Principal and a Principal (even in the tenure provisions) and place them in separate categories as to salary, increments, qualifications and duties. The school board by its assignment has changed appellant's classification and placed him in a subordinate class. As Supervising Principal the appellant
was second in command of the affairs of the district, whereas now, as Principal, he is at most third in command.
On previous occasions our courts have considered the problem of a demotion either in type of position or salary. In Dugan v. Dupont Borough School District, 359 Pa. 590, 595, 59 A.2d 888, a Supervising Principal assigned as Principal of an elementary school was held to have been demoted. In Commonwealth ex rel. Ricapito v. Bethlehem School District, 148 Pa. Superior Ct. 426, 433, 434, 25 A.2d 786, Ricapito, a music teacher, was appointed "Assistant Principal" of a high school with the title of "Dean" and the following year the board abolished this office and assigned Ricapito as a music teacher; the Superior Court held that Ricapito had not been demoted. In Houtz Appeal, 361 Pa. 537, 65 A.2d 420, a Supervising Principal resigned and Houtz - ineligible to be appointed Supervising Principal - was assigned as "Principal of Schools" under a contract to "teach" under "supervision and authority of ... [a] Supervising Principal"; later the board stated its intent to appoint a Supervising Principal and abolish the office of "Principal of Schools". After a prior appeal to this court (357 Pa. 621, 55 A.2d 375), Houtz was assigned to duty as ...