School Principals On The (Metaphorical) Path of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette

Jun 26, 2019 by

It was reported to me earlier today by a New York City public school teacher, on the last day of the school year, that she got into a little dispute this morning with a colleague about the authority vested in principals. It was kicked off by a discussion about which teachers on staff would retain their positions and which would not, owing to discretionary judgment and action of the principal.

One of the most irksome and ill-founded statements made by a teacher to me, some years back, was: ” I understand that giving principals the power to hire and fire does make sense–after all, it is their building.”
No it’s not!  

Call them CEO, confer on them sovereignty over the budget, rubber-stamp all their personnel decisions even when they’re despicably unjust, confer on them absolute discretion over matters of which they have no knowledge, and pay them like brain surgeons, but they’re still not the owners of the building and rightful possessors souls of its occupants, no matter their age, title, prestige,influence or connections.

This morbid deference to principals is the root of what is directly and indirectly ailing the school system. 

The school is a cooperative and the surrender to an exaggerated concept of leadership has enabled principals to think of themselves as Plantagenet monarchs.  There is no reason why principals should enjoy the sanction to force their Will in almost every major matter.  It should be enough for them to leave their mark.
The principal may be the lord and master of the school’s masonry, but its humanity ( and all their aggregate talent ) is the common property, legacy  and claim of all stakeholders.

And the best principals understand that.

Ron Isaac

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