To the Editor: Teachers and school Principals are natural adversaries, but that does not mean they must be antagonists.
A healthy dynamic tension is productive, just as it is supposed to be among the branches of government. As long as conflicts are not driven by grudges, ego jockeying and turf wars, they can be essential to a school’s smooth operation.
In the best schools, Principals and Teachers are co-leaders. They are jointly driven by professional duty and emotional investment in children and quality education.
During the misrule of former Mayor Bloomberg and his enforcer Chancellors, school Principals were relegated to being political animals. They often were forced to act like enemies of classroom educators rather than partners. Often it was against their better judgment. Pressure was applied to Principals by the external bureaucracy, which was passed down the chain of command and took a toll on idealism and sometimes the integrity of the mission of pure education.
Some Principals risked being in the cross-hairs of the system by bucking elements of its business-model ideology.
Supervisors and Teachers need to close ranks when the welfare of students is at stake. There can be no sitting on the sidelines. We are on common ground on most critical issues, such as the necessity for reasonable student discipline standards. Without it there can be no security, tranquility or learning.
The Council of Supervisors and Administrators (CSA), which represents Principals and Assistant Principals and is in the midst of contract negotiations since the old one expired months ago, has noted that “some students believe there are little or no consequences for disruptive, openly defiant and even violent behavior,” adding that “staff members feel unsupported.”
It referred to the precipitous drop in student suspensions in recent years and that only 21 percent of their members are satisfied with the discipline reforms recently promulgated by the Department of Education. Although they share the philosophy that drives these reforms, they are anxious about how they are presently working in practice.
The CSA and United Federation of Teachers share the view that mindless punishment is counter-productive, but that alternatives, such as restorative justice and techniques for de-escalation of crisis, must be not only enlightened, but efficacious.
Increased school funding could help successfully address the issue of discipline also. That would be in the interest of the entire school community.
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