The woman in the picture is Sharron Smalls, the principal of Jane Addams High School in the Bronx. This was on her facebook page. According to the Huffington Post, the students have already passed it around. By this point I am sure every Jane Addams student and some of their parents have seen it. At the outset, I would like to state that I believe there is nothing wrong with this picture. She is a grown woman and entitled to a life.
Now imagine this was a teacher. Not only that, imagine she was a teacher who was being investigated for gross academic malfeasance by giving kids credit for classes they never took. The teacher bashing parade would kick into high gear. We would hear the familiar cants of teachers being lazy, dishonest and perverted. Sanctimonious outrage would burst forth from the hypocrite circle. Ultimately, the only solution for the good of society and the kids would be to fire her. OSI would be at the school interviewing every student and staff member until they find enough people willing to lie. She would be “reassigned” while she waits (and waits some more) for a 3020a hearing that will decide if she is still entitled to a license. Her union will tell her that she should have never been on facebook at all and that she will lose her career. Even if not terminated at the 3020a hearing, she will probably have to pay a huge fine and lose her position. She would be thrown into the pool of ATRs who have to travel to a different school every week, in hopes she will be demoralized by the inhumane process. Most likely, however, she would be fired.
The good news for Sharron Smalls is that she is not a teacher. The public, for whatever reason, is not nearly as enthusiastic about destroying administrators as they are teachers. More importantly, principals are the chosen people of the great Lord Bloomberg. Not only are they immune from any type of discipline, but His Excellency holds out a promised land of milk and honey for them in the form of promotions to useless six-figure jobs in the “district” or at Tweed. In short, being a principal in NYC means having all the protections from accountability that teachers are accused of having. Teachers are crucified in order to redeem the sins of administrators.
Of course, this does not mean that all administrators are bad. This also does not mean that I believe Sharron Smalls should be disciplined for the facebook photo. However, whenever a teacher gets disciplined for something similarly trivial, you can rest assured there was an administrator behind it. The percentage of reassigned teachers in NYC, combined with the endless list of personal horror stories in the blogosphere about vindictive principals, points to an endemic abuse of power at the administrative level. It is a type of abuse that is disturbing for many reasons. Most importantly, why does an increase in principal power automatically mean an increase in abuse of that power? This may seem like a naïve question and maybe I should just settle for the bromide that absolute power corrupts absolutely. But public education is a naïve institution where values of fairness and goodness should predominate. Why is it that we cannot expect anything more from administrators than the same cruel ethos that defines the “real world”? At the same time that teachers are required to be Mother Theresas, administrators are allowed to be Machiavellis and Napoleons.
It proves how much we value our education system. A society that cares about its schools would make the job of school leader a higher calling. We would say to administrators “if you want to keep this position, you must work in a spirit of community-building and you must be a role model to students and teachers”. It would be a privilege to be a school leader and only the most sober and upright educators would qualify. Of course, principals have so much power now that they could let themselves be guided by these morals at any time. I have worked under some that do. Yet, the fact remains that it is entirely up to the principal what they want to be. So why are so many choosing to lead through fear, lies and harassment?
Because Bloomberg, the education deformers and everyone else who has called for taking away teacher rights and giving them to principals do not care about schools. To them, schools are nothing more than a public institution to be raided for every cent it has, much like deformers did to the military and prisons. Unfortunately, these are the people recruiting and hiring our principals. These are the people setting policy for principals to implement. The unwritten policy is clear: destroy veteran teachers, destroy teaching as a profession and make everything about grades and exams. What kind of people would be attracted to this mission? Certainly not people who respect teachers or care about kids.
That is why the principals who do see school leadership as a higher calling are extraordinary. We should have more of them. After all, they can buck the system much easier than teachers. But that is not the role school leaders are expected to play. Instead, they are made to feel on the winning side of the school reform movement. Every success for the deformers has trickled down to them. This has ended up making them foot soldiers in the war to destroy the teaching profession. While the deformers make off with millions of dollars from destroying public schools, principals get a relative pittance of a six-figure salary for doing all of the daily dirty work. (And there is a lot to be done). What else can we expect? The wealthy have always been turning members of the working class against each other. They lend certain people a limited amount of power so that they may destroy people they hate, whether it is a principal with the power to destroy teachers or police with the power to destroy protestors. It is a diffused form of authoritarianism, a bureaucracy of oppression. It is a perfect Nazi system.