Minor conflict reveals an unprincipled principal

Everyone has pet peeves that get them worked up, and authority figures that misuse their positions rank high on my list. Usually I observe this digression from afar. However I recently was used as a scapegoat by an elementary school principal in an attempt to save her school from closure.

I was in my second year as a volunteer reading tutor at my neighborhood elementary school. The first year was heavenly with a short walk, an easy-going teacher and the sweet, six-year-old student that I tutored. However, the next year my child's substitute, second-grade teacher was quite unfriendly. I tolerated her gruff demeanor as a minor impediment in order to tutor my child, but the coup-de-grace came when I arrived to tutor my student one day.

"She's not here today," the sub sneered before brusquely walking off.

I felt her response was inappropriate, and I approached the principal about the educator's questionable interpersonal skills. I expected to hear that she was a problem employee and that others also had difficulty with her.

Wrong! The principal appeared surprised with my revelations. She speculated my perception had to do with "cultural differences." This explanation was incongruous with my life experiences and contrary to my belief that rudeness knows no color.

Despite the principal's lack of support, I decided to bide my time knowing that the regular teacher would soon return from maternity leave. I figured interacting with the regular teacher had to be an improvement.

Wrong again! The sub was warm and fuzzy compared to my child's permanent teacher. Clearly, a "sisterhood" gathering had taken place among these educators and I was both figuratively and literally the odd man out. In order to peacefully coexist I was going to have to placate my child's teacher. In the end, compromising my values and remaining in this uncomfortable environment outweighed my reservations of leaving the child I had tutored for the past year and a half.

I felt my student's ability to stay on task as well as her improved reading skills would enable her to succeed with or without my presence. Moreover with numerous nearby schools in need of tutors I left this unfortunate experience eager to start anew.

But like a reoccurring bad dream, the same cast of characters reappeared. While working with the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) for school closures, the principal and her teacher cohorts recognized me at a Town Hall meeting. Soon afterward the principal sent a letter about me to our committee littered with inaccuracies, statements taken out of context, insinuating I held a vendetta against her school and most disturbingly, implying that I was a racist. Fearing the latter could derail our CAC work given the racial overtones at the Town Hall meetings, I was prepared to resign. However, my committee mates encouraged me to remain.

The absurdity of her letter defies logic. First of all, I wasn't on the sub-committee that proposed closing her school. In fact, to avoid an appearance of a conflict of interest I publicly recused myself from voting on the fate of her school and another one where I had worked. Second, contrary to this principal's perception during our committee deliberations I was one of her school's strongest advocates. Finally, unbeknownst to this principal, the criteria that CAC was beholden to resulted in under-populated, academically-poor performing and predominately low-income schools such as hers being susceptible to closure.

In the grand scheme, this authority figure's Orwellian-like letter of misrepresentations is insignificant in the shadow of such pressing matters as global warming and the Iraq conflict. Nonetheless, as the steward of such a sacred institution, the principal's actions took liberties with the public's trust in our education professionals and undermined the integrity of her position.

How can we expect our impressionable young people to do the "right things" when led by an unprincipled principal?

Have some input for Central Area resident Joe Kadushin? Write him at the address or e-dress listed below.[[In-content Ad]]