The former principal of Salazar Elementary School has been returned to her position after the Robstown school board overturned her reassignment to the Alternative Learning Center.

The school board voted 4-3 last week to reinstate Cristina De Alejandro as principal of Salazar. Board members Adolfo Lopez, Jerry and Ricardo Gonzalez and Roberto Tapia voted to overturn the administration's assignment of De Alejandro to Salazar while board members Rosendo Espinoza and Victor and Eva Orona voted to uphold the administrative change.

De Alejandro was reassigned in June as principal of the ALC/ Disciplinary Alternative Education Program. Ten other campus administrators were also reassigned throughout the school district at the time for the 2007-08 school year.

Among them, former ALC/DAEP principal Jose Chapa was moved to assistant principal of Robstown High School and Robyn Pesek was reassigned from assistant principal of instruction at Salazar to interim principal at Salazar.

Board member Adolfo Lopez cast the lone dissenting vote on the reassignments at the June 12 meeting.

Superintendent Roberto Garcia said De Alejandro was reassigned due to "academic performance reasons at Salazar," citing declining test scores.

Math, reading and writing test scores have dropped consistently for three consecutive years among Hattie Martin Elementary School third- and fourth-graders.

Salazar, comprised of pre-kindergarten through second-graders, is the feeder school to Hattie Martin and its third- and fourth-grade students.

Meanwhile, Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills scores at Lotspeich and San Pedro elementary schools have improved in the last three years, with the exception of math scores at San Pedro, while Hattie Martin scores have declined across the board since 2005.

For example, 80 percent of Hattie Martin fourth-graders met the state standard in math in 2005, and just 69 percent met the math standard in 2007. Just 55 percent of Hattie Martin third-graders met the math standard in 2007, down from 61 percent in 2005.

Meanwhile, Lotspeich improved dramatically in math during the same timeframe. Just 65 percent of Lotspeich fourth-graders met the math standard in 2005 and 93 percent of Lotspeich fourth-graders met the math standard last year.

Seale Junior High School was rated "academically unacceptable" in 2006-07 due to math scores and the administration said it responded, in part, with major shifts in several school principals.

De Alejandro said she didn't know about her reassignment until after the school board approved the long list of administrative assignments at the June 12 meeting.

She said she met with Garcia both informally and formally about her reassignment before filing a grievance in June, which Garcia denied.

De Alejandro appealed Garcia's decision to the school board, which is the final arbitrator of employee grievances.

The school board met in executive session at its Sept. 20 meeting, hearing opposing arguments from school district attorney John Bell and De Alejandro's attorney, Tony Conners of Austin.

After two hours, the board came back into public session and voted narrowly to return De Alejandro to Salazar.

"We're pleased with the decision by the board," Conners said on behalf of De Alejandro and her husband outside the meeting.

Conners said he showed the school board in executive session that De Alejandro had a positive appraisal by her supervisors, she was meeting the school's action plan, and she was taking steps to address student performance at Salazar.

He noted that Salazar students, which are from pre-kindergarten through second grade, do not take the TAKS tests until they enter the third grade at Hattie Martin Elementary School.

Conners said holding De Alejandro responsible for the scores of Hattie Martin students was akin to holding junior high school administrators responsible for the academic performance of high school students.

"She looks forward to working with the superintendent and (superintendent of curriculum Diana) Silvas to address student performance at Salazar," Conners said, adding De Alejandro was at a disadvantage because she has already missed three months of school this year at Salazar due to her reassignment.

Furthermore, Conners said De Alejandro has spent 32 of her 34 year-career with Robstown schools at the elementary level as a teacher and principal, before being reassigned in June. De Alejandro was an assistant principal at the high school for two years, about 20 years ago, Conners said.

"It's obviously a big change. Her qualifications and experience didn't match up," he said. "She believes she's better suited to serve the district at the elementary level given her 32 years of experience at the elementary level."

Jerry Gonzalez, a swing vote on the typically divided Robstown school board, told the newspaper he voted to reinstate De Alejandro because of the student/administrator ratio at the ALC/DAEP.

"She has too many kids there that aren't even supposed to be at that school," Gonzalez said.