Monday, August 01, 2011

Shelia Jackson brouhaha gives us a peek into the everyday world of principals and teachers

There are two common scenarios in schools, and one that is about as rare as a perfect SAT score:
1) The principal does whatever the teachers want, or
2) The teacher and principal are always at each others' throats, or, in rare instances,
3) The principal is a strong leader who is able to give direction to teachers and keep them happy at the same time.

Sadly, this story reveals the truth about how principals and teachers commonly behave. It's not a pretty picture. Teachers in the four schools I taught at during my career were very aggressive toward their principals. More often than not, the principals just caved in and gave them what they wanted. One principal tried so hard to please the teachers that he ended up $14,000 over budget and got fired. After he left, the staff talked about how nice he was. I spent years at one school watching staff members yell at the principal for two hours straight at staff meeting after staff meeting. I remember those teachers were upset when I left to pick up my son when his daycare closed. They were going to yell, and we were all going to listen.

My last school, Castle Park Elementary, recently had eleven principals in eleven years.

Trustee's Relationship Complicates School's Principal Saga
July 31, 2011
by Emily Alpert
Voice of San Diego

When Gwendolyn Kirkland took over Fulton, the interim principal immediately stepped into controversy.

...Before Kirkland came, it had had the same principal for seven years. Former Principal Caroline King made a point of keeping her door open and once treated her teachers to massages and manicures.

Gwendolyn Kirkland was a different kind of leader. Teachers complained she was hard to reach and unwilling to compromise. They rattled off a litany of concerns from scheduling things at the last minute to breaking union rules.

"It just seemed like she wanted to do it her way or no way," said Sherie Edwards, a Fulton parent who also works there as a special education technician.

Some parents thought Kirkland was a welcome change. Nikena Carter felt like the last principal just wanted to be friends with everyone, but Kirkland was willing to challenge teachers to help kids. Kirkland said she was worried by "toxic types of behavior" on campus, unprofessionalism and rudeness.

"She always wanted to know what our issues were," said Carter, who has two children at Fulton. "She even cared what our children had to say."...

Several parents lodged complaints about a teacher who had spoken up in front of the school board. Principal Kirkland had been sympathetic to their concerns.

"The teacher said my child wouldn't go to college. That she'd work at Burger King or McDonald's," said Veronica Muñoz, another mother who backed Kirkland. "But Ms. Kirkland helped me a lot."

Some teachers saw the complaints as mere retaliation for questioning Kirkland and Campbell...

[Maura Larkins' comment: I know that many, if not most teachers, are frightened and hostile when a parent complains. Why not just listen to the parents? If their complaint is justified, do something to fix things. If it's not, the least a teacher can do is show respect and concern for the parent and child.]

No comments: