Question: Is this ethical behavior?

Two years ago--we had a principal who was just OK--not great, but she filled in when our previous principal left short notice. After nine months, this woman announced her resignation for family committement reasons. Shortly after her announcement, certain parents whom she appointed to the selection committee for her successor tried to lobby for her to be kept on with a schedule that would have allowed her to have the best of both worlds--but not one that was realistic for running a school. This was shot down by the superintendent. A new principal was appointed. At no time before this person's appointment and the intitial attempt to keep her on did this woman indicate she wanted to be there fulltime and be fully committed to the school. The new principal--who was from outside the community came on board and immediately had a target on his back thanks to the parents who were unpleased with the inability to keep the previous principal (who also abdicated quite a bit of school decision making power to them) in her role. No matter what he did, these families would put seed of doubt in parents/teachers heads. A few months later, the prev. principal decided that she was willing to come back full time--all they needed to do was get rid of the current principal. And so it began for two years straight. He couldn't make a decision without her in the background quietly coaching her favorites on how to undermine those decisions. After two years, three pastoral changes, one implementation of a school advisory council (in which the current principal tried to make the prev one and one of her cohorts members in an effort to let them be part of the solutions), they have succeeded in ruining this person and his contract was not renewed. I'm not saying that's the only reason--but they contributed mightily to lobbying for this woman to return. Now she may come back in her previous role. To me, her behavior was completely unethical and wrong. If she didn't want to leave in the first place--she shouldn't have left. She shouldn't have spent two years telling people--If the current one goes, I'll come back. I don't think that sort of behavior is becoming of a person who wants to lead children. Especially since she sits in board meetings passing ethical and moral judgement on others, putting on the pillar of the community act. Before she left the first time, I talked to her about the decision not to give her the schedule she wanted (I thought it was a reckless idea that flattered her ego, period, but..) She said at that time that no one could do our school as well as she did. Problem was, she wasn't that great to start. But her ego and her attitude of superiority, added with her scheming to return to her job (she even turned down others, waiting to see if she was offered this one!) I find repulsive. Is this just me---or do other people see this as being of concern?

Asked by Burnedout



Advice from PTO Today

Rose H writes:
Your question vividly describes what can happen in all aspects of life, not just in schools, but in businesses and even in personal situations. People lobbying for jobs, badmouthing others, yes, that's not upstanding behavior, but it isn't illegal, either.

Seems to me, though, that you now have a great opportunity as a parent volunteer. The dust has finally settled and so now is the time for parents to move forward on projects to help the kids, get some family nights set up to start building (or perhaps rebuilding) a sense of community at your school.

This article on building school traditions could give you some tips on getting an event established that becomes an ongoing part of the school's community.

Or, this piece gives you a list of quick and easy events if you need something to jump start your efforts.

And, if you check out our School Family Nights, you can download a free kit to help you put together a fun event.

Good luck!

Community Advice

Burnedout writes:
My concern though is her coming back as principal, after getting the one we had just terminated. To me, I'm hoping that our pastor--who has indicated he's aware of her behavior--will decide that it's unbecoming behavior for a Catholic school principal, and not give her the position she covets. While it may not be illegal, I question her character and the methods she and her flock of parent supporters used to oust her successor. Would you want this person at the head of your child's school? Would you trust this person who used bully-like tactics to in charge? I'm very scared.

Meanwhile, these ideas you sent I'll pass on to the person chairing those events.

Community Advice

Burnedout writes:
Meant to add--the dust is far from settled--there are still decisions to be made by the pastor and his selection committee as to whom the new principal will be. I'm trying to decide though--should he select her, should I continue to keep my son in that school if I feel this strongly? My son loves his school, loves his classmates. But I'm very, very scared of her being in charge. I am at a loss.

Advice from PTO Today

Craig writes:
There are a lot of elements that make a school successful. The principal is important, but that's only one factor. The teachers, the sense of community and caring, a creative approach to learning -- there are lots of factors that might affect your choice of a school, and only you can evaluate how one particular school meets the needs of your child and your family. On the other hand, it's certainly important at this point, while the search is going on, to let the superintendent and the search committee know your feelings. If others feel the same way, make sure they express their opinions as well. It's very important to do this in a professional and not an emotional manner. The more emotional you are, the more easily they will be able to dismiss your concerns as a simple personality conflict.

Community Advice

Burnedout writes:
Thanks Craig. I did meet with the pastor a few weeks ago to express my concerns on other matters, but mostly how this former principal and some people behaved in meetings. He indicated to me then he saw through their games. And he's mentioned to others that he would never re-hire her because she isn't coming off as trustworthy. But there are other people whose opinion he values and listens to that have a different view of her because she, for lack of a better word, "sucks up" to them. She puts on a good show.

After the pastor announced the current prinicpal wasn't returning, I sent a quick email to him that I hoped he wouldn't reappoint her, that I felt not only myself, but others, were keenly aware of how she operated and had concerns. In another email, I made note of the fact in his letter, he talked about a new team--fresh start--adding that I'm praying for someone who has the qualities I really came to admire in the current principal, could meet the pastor's expectations more fully (probably no one can. . but that's another story), and could come into our school with an unbiased view/fresh outlook on what is strong/what needs to improve. I've also encouraged those who have approached me about losing the current principal to voice their opinions to him as well. The only saving grace is I think other decision makers outside of the parish are aware of what's going on and may be able to influence this as well.

Bottom line--you are right that the school is bigger than one key individual. But I worry about how much she and those close to her are going to drive things into the ground. Sadly, I think the chaos she and her chosen ones have created has hurt our school over the last few years, under the guise of "we want what's best". She's got blinders on when it comes to her favorites. For instance, last year's H.S.A. president was someone she hand selected as VP right before she left. Our VPs become presidents automatically the following year. This woman selected was just entering in the school that year. She knew NOTHING about the school. She shadowed the pres (also a close friend of the former principal) the year before, but once she took over, changed the entire tone of H.S.A.--tried to make it less about fundraising, more about controlling the school. She was negative and bitter that she had no say in who was appointed to the advisory board. She was rude and demanding of people--I used to do a lot of things for H.S.A. and refused last year after she told me "how it's going to be done my way." She allowed meetings to turn into attack sessions. People stopped being involved. No one would step up for any officer roles--and she blamed that on the current principal--but I know it's because NO one could stand her nor did they want to clean up the mess of negativity she made. And the former prinicpal defended her saying she was the "most inclusive of all presidents". REALLY? This is what we'll be dealing with???

Hanging on for a bumpy ride.

Community Advice

Scottyb writes:
The principal decides to take a large sum of monies from PTO to pay for Christmas party inviting teachers at her home. This is a poorly funded PTO with very little funds and principal routinely uses monies in a similar fashion. Ethical? What is the best way to confront these types of situations? There are no minutes, budgets, and not sure who is signing checks. Thank you

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