Ty Harris has been demoted from principal to associate principal at James Blair Middle School, but it doesn’t appear as if this new position means anything different from before.
“My day to day duties seem to more closely align with those of a Principal’s than an (assistant principal),” he wrote in an email.
On Feb. 6, Harris was “reassigned” from principal to associate principal at the school after complaints of bullying were voiced by parents during a school board meeting in January. Corey Murphy, WJCC’s chief of staff, has stepped up as acting principal for the remainder of the school year.
James Blair Middle School is the only middle school in the district with an associate principal, according to staff listings on the district website. In fact, Harris is the only employee with the title “associate principal” at all the schools, elementary middle and high school, in the district ever, said Eileen Cox, spokeswoman for the district.
Charles Pyle, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Education, did not have any information on the definition of an associate principal.
“This is a local designation,” he said. “Divisions certify annually regarding their compliance or non-compliance with the (Standards of Quality) staffing standards.”
Harris insisted his new position still holds similar duties as when he was principal.
But he is no longer the principal.
“I can’t define Associate Principal. All I know is that I have poured my blood, sweat and tears into JBMS and our students,” he said. “Far beyond what anyone realizes, and I will continue to do so regardless of my title.”
Cox said an associate principal has more autonomy and oversight than an assistant principal. She described the position as somewhere between principal and assistant principal.
Despite the change in position, Harris’ salary of $105,060 when he was the principal will remain the same.
Cox said according to WJCC and Virginia policy, a superintendent can reassign principals within a division so long as their salary is not impacted for that school year.
“Associate principal is on the same (pay) grade as a middle school principal so there’s a range,” Cox said.
Even though there’s no other associate principal position inthe district, Cox said when there is a new title or job description for a position in the district, pay ranges are decided by the Human Resources Department. The department looks at how the role’s responsibilities correlate to pay grade.
That range, she said, is between $77,805 and $124,524.
At the other three middle schools, the principal is staffed with one or more assistant principals, a position which falls under a different salary category that ranges from $62,500 – $99,965, Cox said.
At Lois Hornsby Middle School, for example, the Superintendent’s Operating Budget by Cost Center reports the assistant principal’s salary and wages in 2017 totaled to $70,738 and in 2019 were budgeted at $73,182.
However, Harris’s stable pay grade has not yet impacted the district’s budget because while the district brought Murphy to the school for the position, they are keeping Murphy at his original salary of $121,540.
“It is budget neutral,” Cox said. “Dr. Murphy is the chief of staff and taking on added responsibilities at this time and his pay remains the same. Mr. Harris’s pay also remains the same.”
That could change in the next year, however.
While Murphy remains “acting principal” for the rest of the school year with the same salary, next year the school might be hiring a new principal which would add another person, and salary, to the workforce at the school.
Cox said the new position wasn’t entirely out of the school board’s plans. There are no set plans for what will happen to Harris in his current position, and Cox said those determinations are made after analyzing the school’s needs at the end of the year.
“The school board have had budget discussions,” she said. “They talk about the need to have additional administrators at the middle school level…this isn’t something that’s not in line with philosophical discussions the board has already had.”