Tuesday, May 27, 2008

My Own Despot

I worked for what I would call a semi-despot in that she wanted everything her own way - contract be damned. Not an educator in the sense of ever having taught much at all, but a political appointee - yes we had them in the 70's – she also never letters in the file or looked to cost someone their job. If you were sick she went all the way to support you (she would be vilified by Kleinites today for things like that.) Her dad was a fireman and she believed in unions - as long as they didn't interfere with her.

There were also lots of abuses - like favors for those who "cooperated" the unfairness of which used to drive people wild.

Really, a complex person who had a lot of good to go with the bad. It was her way or the highway and she was relentless in getting her way. Most of us had to stand by and watch the dumbest educational decisions being made and enormous sums of money wasted. We even had those practice high stakes tests Klein is pushing backin the 90's (without Aris).

When I became chapter leader, I saw it as my job to make the school a more democratic place to work, with a lot more transparency and the enforcement of teachers' rights. I was not a grievance nut and in fact filed maybe one of two in my 3 active years on the job. That was mostly due to teachers not wanting to deal with the relentless retaliation that would result. I bore a bunch of it but used my chapter leader newspaper (the predecessor to Ed Notes) very effectively to provide information to the members about what was going on. The paper (including jokes) was read by everyone, including parents. She would go to principal meetings and say she had the chapter leader from hell. I tell people all the time - publish, publish, publish. It is the most effective way to fight them. Even say good things sometimes. And keep them confused and on the defensive.

Since they couldn't go after me on my teaching, they went after my computer program, which I had built from scratch. Finding that most of my colleagues did not have the stomach for a prolonged struggle, I took a district tech job offer when it came, to which my principal celebrated with this statement to my new boss, "My car was stolen today, but this makes up for it."

Funny thing is, I was assigned to cover the school for tech support and once I was no longer teaching there, she greeted me with a kiss and a hug when I came around. And even gave me money for Ed Notes (which began life as a weekly school chapter report focused on her leadership. When I see her I call her the mother of Ed Notes.

Believe me, most teachers who worked for her would take her over 80% of the principals we hear about today (her Leadership Academy replacement is despised). She wanted her way but backed teachers (even me when I had an incident with a kid) 100%.

After what I hear today, if I saw her I would give her a big hug. And so would most of my former colleagues.


Anonymous said...

I know I am not up In NY to really see what is going on today, but hug her? Not me Norm! Perhaps you forgot the binding arbitration I had with her. Or the NY Times article labeling her one of the 50 worst principals in NYC.I can go on and on...but won't.
I think the UFT has to get back to what it is supposed to be; a union to support teachers and school staff and do what the members are paying dues for it to due. Protect them and fight for them.
Come on Randy give it a try! For old times sake!

ed notes online said...

We all mellow in our old age. I know about all the stuff, but do remember the support for people with cancer and other illnesses. You know people used to tell me to start my car by remote control. But you will never find a principal today who will stand up for the good bad and ugly like she did. Like I said - a very mixed bag.

And I did hug her the last time I saw her.

But you were right all along - I should have promoted you for chapter leader when I went on sabbatical. That would have been fun.

Funny but I was just asked a question yesterday by a Bronx teacher whose principal is asking them not only sign out but ask for permission to leave the building and I IM'd her about your arbitration. I am going to give her your email so you can fill her in.