Brooklyn Tech Search For New Principal

Nov 21, 2019 by

The Parents Association and Leadership Team of Brooklyn Technical High School, referring to their concern about the current selection process, last week complained to Chancellor Richard Carranza that “parents, students and other stakeholders were deprived of their right to have the best possible principal.”

Presumably they are using “other” to mean the professional staff and did not identify them as such because they don’t represent them and therefore cannot speak for them. They value their educators highly. 

The parents expressed dissatisfaction with candidates who were interviewed who they felt shouldn’t have been and others who were not interviewed but should have been, as they saw it.  A couple of “outstanding” and “highly respected”  current assistant principals were not called, while four other aspirants with no experience as a principal or work history in the New York City school system were sympathetically interrogated. One of the candidates deemed worthy of an invitation was a former principal who had been removed from his position after having driven out a sizable portion of the teaching staff and alienating parents and students.

Only a person suffering from naive trust in the integrity of the DOE’s  hiring practices for school-level supervisors would be dismayed by evidence of par-for-the course tainted considerations.  

For many years, even prior to mayoral control, when the school system was decentralized into dozens of districts that functioned  largely autonomously and not for the most part in name only, as they do now, the selection of a school principal was more of a political than an educational decision.  Jobs were “spoken for” years in advance of the start of the so-called search process, sometimes before a vacancy existed on the books. 

 Applicants who “knew someone” played the game of going for the gold, going through the motions, knowing that they’d emerge as runner-up this time, with the tacit promise of the payoff coming down the road.

They called it being “a good fit” for the school.  That phrase was offered rendered with an utterance of the lips and the wink of an eye.

Although superintendents ultimately picked new principals, the “done deal” was often out of their hands which they accepted in order to keep their loft positions. They were often puppets of school boards that were led by a single dynamic leader or manipulated by influential community groups which consistently controlled a majority of the 14 member board and voted as a block as dictated.  Because the same board would also vote whether to extend the superintendent’s contract, that chief bureaucrat of the district would be a “rubber stamp.”

Since Brooklyn Tech parents are vigilant, savvy and not frightened of making waves, even a tsunami if necessary, they are likely to eventually get  the principal they want.  That school leader won’t be a scholar or published textbook author, as would have been commonplace a generation or two ago, but we must let go of fantasy and move with these times when being a brilliant academician is not a priority or even a qualification anymore.

The DOE’s talent pool is still quite deep.  Endowments and activism may facilitate the recruitment of new principals to our schools,  because the “squeaky wheel gets oiled”, but each and every school in our public school system deserves a strong principal who believes in collaborate decision-making.

But that would require a revolutionary re-wind of the DOE’s culture and legacy.

Ron Isaac

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