What I have learned from this class is that ethical issues are not always black and white. Many times there are two or more options when making decisions as it pertains to a specific topic. This paper will examine the decisions made from an administrative and teaching standpoint as it pertains to a 90 minute controversy. It will securitize whether the best decisions were made by each party and why. It will be supported from the readings from the following text books, The Ethics of School Administration, Educational Leadership, and Ethical Leadership.
What happens when a teacher, an outstanding educationalist of 30 plus years, winner of many awards and accolades for numerous accomplishments and is recognized as a top educator in the discipline of the field. The teacher is also a city leader who volunteers many hours for the good of a community, who sits on unpaid boards to help develop and cultivate a city in which they live for the betterment of the entire community, has a conflict of 90 minutes between the two entities?
The following issue will be discussed in its entirety with names and school district being changed to protect those involved.
Mr. Smith is an accomplished educator who has over 30 year of teaching experience. The past 20+ years have been with the same school system. He is very dedicated to the school and students. Mr. Smith is well liked by the student body and staff; he is very visible and very involved with the many aspects that go along with the everyday operations of a school building. He has outstanding evaluations and has never been a problem for the school district. He has volunteered much of his time for projects in the school to make the building a better place for all to work. Examples of such projects are hanging art work in areas that are difficult for custodians to reach and handle. The reason is that the art work is very delicate and must be handled with care. It must be mentioned that the art work was donated to the school from Smith's own personal business. Other examples of Mr. Smith's work that goes unseen is light bulbs being replaced when burned out, supporting and supervising student involvement for community service projects, and most of all doing the job of a professional educator.
Mr. Smith is known to be at the school many times on his free weekends, evenings, or summers repairing and maintaining the classroom which he is responsible for. He has purchased supplies and materials to enhance the classroom, never expecting or asking for a refund. He has served on different school committees throughout his career in hopes of leading the building to a positive and optimistic outlook to the future.
Mr. Smith has never experienced any disciplinary actions in all the years of working for the district. He is a model educator that would be welcome in any district across our nation.
Not only has the Mr. Smith been with the school district for 20+ years, he was born and raised in the same town is which the school he works for is located. The school now is the place of his employment. He loves both the school he graduated from and works for and the city where he grew up as a young boy. He feels he needs to give back to the community in which he was born and raised. Therefore, he has made himself available as a city servant. The positions held by him have been: past president of the neighborhood association, coordinator and publisher of a large association newsletter. He has been instrumental in beginning an organization to clean up the rivers and waterways of the city. They have established a festival to celebrate the waterways which brought in money for the city from visitors who came and participated in many free activities. He is strongly involved in the betterment of the sewer and water treatment facilities of the town. He is a committee member of the Sewer Advisory Group (MORE ACCOLADES??)
Mr. Smith is a giving individual, both to the school he works for and the city in which he lives. The school district and city have to realize the benefits and assets Mr. Smith can add to each entity.
The dilemma for the Mr. Smith is a conflict of a 90 minute period. He has to decide whether to leave a school sponsored activity early and attend a decisive town meeting. Being a professional, Mr. Smith requested permission from the principal of the school, (Mr. H) and asked to be allowed to leave the school sponsored activity early to attend a very important meeting with the town.
The school sponsored activity is Parent/Teacher (PT)conferences. The PT conferences are held for two consecutive days from the time of 3:30 - 7:00 pm. Thus the entire conference time is for a total of 7 hours. The requested leave of absence would have involved leaving early at 5:30 pm on one of the conference days. The following is an excerpt from the Email banter.
"You'll see from the attached document that I have a conflict with the last 90 minutes of parent conferences on Wednesday. I have discussed this with my colleagues. They will answer questions from parents for me, if possible, and collect names of those parents who wish to meet with me personally. If I am not able to meet with the parent on Thursday I will call and make an appointment to meet them on Friday or whenever it is convenient for the parent."
Sometimes it is possible to miss a committee meeting. However, I was instrumental is setting up the Sewer Advisory Group over 5 years ago. This is the citizen group that oversees the $240 million Long Term Control Plan of City Utilities. The City just finished a critical State audit on Tuesday of this week. I am responsible for agenda items #2 and #3 of the storm water session and items #3 and #4 of the general session."
"I have copied the secretary, if you have a need to discuss this with me in person so she can schedule a meeting. Also, I have copied the Area Administrator, so she knows, since you identified in an email today that you were going to send her data sheets regarding the parent conferences."
Mr. Smith stated in his request that his colleagues in the department would be able to cover. Should a parent have the need to speak with the Mr. Smith the colleagues would take down the phone number, a time which was convenient for a callback, and to set up an alternative meeting time. Mr. Smith was being responsible for his missed time and was willing to make arrangements to meet on his own free time in which there would be no conflict.
Mr. H's response:
"Unless this committee is a paid position that will soon result in a full time position, if I were you I would request that you be excused from the Sewer Advisory Board Committee and that you be available for the families that you serve in your current paid position at the High School."
The school Mr. Smith works for is in the middle of a major change. Because the school has failed to meet AYP for 4 years in a row, they have been put on probation. A brand new administrative staff has been brought in. Fifty percent (50%) of the staff did not return to the building. Mr. Smith was lucky (or maybe not) to be part of the original 50% that got to stay with the school
The Parent/Teacher conference is a new concept just introduced to the High School. It is without a doubt that the new principal brought into help turn around the school is not like the old principal. Is Mr. H trying to build relationships and professional camaraderie with his staff but, at what cost? "Transformation begins with trust. Trust is the essential link between leader and led, vital to people's job satisfaction and loyalty, vital to followership." (Evans, 2007) Can Mr. Smith trust Mr. H?
Mr. Smith is now in a dilemma because of this 90 minute conflict.
As an aspiring administrator I have come to learn there is more than one solution to solving problems "Managers who get a reputation for being manipulative and self-interested have a hard time building networks and coalitions they need for future success" (Bolman, & Deal, 2007 p.127). Mr. H does not even consider any other option for Mr. Smith. Mr. H is not attempting to build a relationship with Mr. Smith.
"If command and instructional leadership are practiced as dominant strategies, rather than supporting ones, they can breed dependency in teachers and cast them in roles as Subordinates. Subordinates do what they are supposed to, but little else. They rely on others to manage them, rather than acting as self-managers." (Sergiovanni, 2007 p.79) "Leaders make judgments on the basis of competence and values, rather than self-interest." (Sergiovanni, 2007 p.80) If Mr. H were to analyze the request from Mr. Smith, he may see the long the value in what Mr. Smith is doing for the community. Mr. H is using his authority and is being very dominate in his position rather than supportive of Mr. Smith. Mr. H's self-interest is seeing that the entire staff be present for PT conferences which is more important than anything else in his opinion.
Mr. H may have a misconception of his "Power" and how he should be using it. Sergiovanni discusses power in two ways: Power over people and Power to the people. "Power over emphasized controlling what people do, when they do it, and how they do it. Power to views power as a source of energy for achieving shared goals and purposes." (Sergiovanni, 2007 p. 86) It is obvious from Mr. H's email that he wants to establish his power over Mr. Smith. He wants to tell Mr. Smith what to do, when to do it, and how do it. A true leader may give power to Mr. Smith and let him make a decision pertaining to the goals and purposes of his request.
"The most fundamental role of the public administrator is that of citizen. As a citizen, his or her specialty is the common good." (Starratt, 2004) Mr. Smith is very involved in the school and community. He is a model citizen. Mr. H should step back and look at the common good that Mr. Smith is trying to accomplish by being a member of the Sewer Advisory Group. Is the 90 minutes that Mr. Smith is requesting to leave as important as the 90 minutes in the town meeting? In the eyes of Mr. Smith it is just as important. To Mr. H those 90 minutes are not important. Mr. H is not accepting of Mr. Smith's request for the common good of the community.
Mr. H needs to "assume the responsibilities of citizenship by entering into various social relationship responsibilities, by respecting others for who they are and enabling them to be themselves." (Starratt, 2004) Obviously, Mr. Smith is not a teacher 24/7, just as Mr. H is not wearing the administrator's hat 24/7. Mr. Smith is being responsible as he is in various relationships with other entities, and presents himself to these different city boards. Is it too much to ask that Mr. H respect those who are enabling represent themselves to be a pillar of the community?
It is possible that Mr. H is not "present" in the request of Mr. Smith. Starratt goes on to discuss the means of being "present." "Most of the time we miss out on what is possible in challenging situations because we are not fully present to the other people, the organization levers of change, and the ideals and values already there in people waiting to be awakened and energized. "(Starrat, 2004) Being present means coming down from the balcony where you were indifferently watching your performance, engaging the other with your full attention, and risking the spontaneity of the moment to say something unrehearsed, something that responds to the authenticity of the other from your own authenticity." (Starratt, 2004) If Mr. H was truly present in Mr. Smith's request, his response in the email may have been different. Mr. H is not present and had tunnel vision, as he only see's Mr. Smith leaving 90 minutes early and shirking his responsibilities to the school.
"As a human being, the leader is responsible for taking a stand with other human beings - not above them, as someone removed from the human condition, but as one sharing fully in it." (Starrat, 2004) From Mr. H's email response, he is definitely standing way above Mr. Smith. His comment, "if I were you Iâ€¦" is completely absurd. Mr. H's has no idea who Mr. Smith is since he is a brand new principal to the building. How can he say if" I were you?" Mr. H is not taking a stand with Mr. Smith. He is acting way above Mr. Smith and not sharing in is concern. How can Mr. Smith be expected to follow such arrogance? "Feeling responsible as a human being enables leaders to put themselves in another's shoes, to feel what they feel, to look at situations from their perspectives." (Starratt 2004) Mr. H never once put himself in Mr. Smith's shoes.
"As a citizen-administrator, the leader also strives to keep in mind the ultimate common good of the civic community, which requires the leader to preserve and foster harmonious relationships within the community, especially among those subgroups that are struggling for acceptance in the larger pluralistic community." (Starratt 2004) Mr. Smith explicitly conveyed his reason to attend the meeting and why it was so important that he be in attendance. From his email to Mr. H, Mr. Smith wrote "This is the citizen group that oversees the $240 million Long Term Control Plan of City Utilities." Being a citizen of the community, I would think that Mr. H considers this a common good of the civic community. From Mr. H's standpoint, he does not. Mr. Smith is going above and beyond his duties as a citizen of the community by sitting on this very important advisory panel.
Mr. H seems like he wants to control and govern all aspects of the teaching staff. "teachers become less dependent on administrators, are better able to manage themselves, and share the burdens of leadership more fully." (Sergiovanni, 2007, p. 81.) Mr. Smith took it upon himself to organize alternative arrangements in order for him to attend the city meeting. Mr. H did not appreciate this as he felt he was being insubordinate
If Mr. H was "honest, fair, competent and forward-looking", as Robert Evans explains in the Authentic Leader, then the entire situation of this 90 minute controversy would have never been an issue. "Clearly, then, school leaders seeking change need to begin by thinking of what will inspire trust among their constituents." (Evans, 2007) These attributes of a leader seem to be very easy to understand and practice, yet many times leaders overlook them.
Integrity is also another virtue that must be present when discussing leadership. "Integrity is a fundamental consistency between one's values, goals, and actions." (Evans, 2007) Mr. Smith integrity was well within the boundaries of a good moral decision, even though Mr. H. disagreed.
Did Mr. Smith come first in Mr. H's view? Did Mr. H really create harmony and build an "emotional bond" with Mr. Smith? Did "people really come first?" Was Mr. H being affiliative? This is one of the six leadership styles that D. Goleman discussed in the book, Emotional Intelligence (1995) Affiliative leadership style is one where the leader creates harmony and builds emotional bonds. (Fullan, 2001)
As stated in the beginning of this paper, when making ethical and moral decissions there can be more than one way to determine a conclusion. It is my personal view that each party involved may have approached the situation in a different way in order to have alleviated this predicament.
As I look at this situation from the teacher's standpoint, I too would have been very upset if I were not able to attend a very important meeting even though it conflicted with a contractual agreement of my permanent job. That being said, Mr. Smith has two personal days to use as per contract language. He may use those days at any time as deemed necessary.
Mr. Smith made a moral decision to be open and honest with Mr. H and request to leave early from the Parent Teacher conference. Obviously, this was not the best decision Mr. Smith made. On the other hand if Mr. Smith requested his personal day before the actual date, then Mr. H would have had no recourse but to recognize and permit Mr. Smith to use this day for personal reasons. According to contract language, a personal day cannot be questioned as to the purpose of its use. Mr. Smith wanted to be open and honest by asking for a 90 minute early release.
Mr. H. could have made several alternative decisions when responding to Mr. Smith's response. One decisions Is that Mr. H could have been a true leader and told Mr. Smith that there would be no problem with him leaving early. Mr. H may have said that he could take time out of his schedule and possibly man the table for Mr. Smith for a 30 minute time frame along with his other two assistant principals and one administrative assistant. Of these four administrators, I do not see why it would not have been possible for these administrators to cover the 90 minutes. Having the opportunity to help Mr. Smith in his dilemma would show the compassion and concern for Mr. Smith not only as a school employee but, as a citizen of the community.
Another very reasonable decision that Mr. H. could have suggested is that Mr. Smith would have to use one of his personal days as established in the school corporation contract. It is both Mr. H.'s and Mr. Smith's responsibility to know and understand the contract. Obviously, Mr. Smith did know the contract and used his half personal day for 90 minutes. Mr. H. never offered up that option. Instead, Mr. H recognized Mr. Smith as being insubordinate in disobeying his request to not attend the meeting.
How can one have respect for a leader that does not show compassion or care for individuals? Currently, as the case has moved on to the next level, Mr. Smith is now under the microscope of the school corporation. He had to agree to sign an agreement that he will not be insubordinate in any future decisions that the principal may make. Should he be insubordinate, termination of his 30+ years of teaching can be ended.
Administrators have many difficult decisions to make each and every day. It is those decisions that are well thought out and evaluated that make a great leader. Those leaders that jump to conclusions and make rash decisions are individuals that think they are great leaders but in all actuality are ones that tear apart a great team. These individuals must be recognized as someone who is not making an accurate decision for the good of the whole cause.
It is this case and the cases that have been reviewed and analyzed thru-out this course that I have come to a very important realization as it pertains to pursuing an administrator's license. I have learned that becoming an administrator is one profession that I no longer have a desire to pursue. School issues are not black and white. Also, in my own personal opinion there is no longer a real "family atmosphere." in the schools. We know that data and results are of a great importance in today's schools, but also we have to remember that without a great leadership structure and organization, schools will still suffer and many great teachers will begin to make a mass exodus from the classroom.
As for Mr. Smith, his predicament makes for a very long year with the anticipation of retirement at the end of the school year. For Mr. H., he will continue to tear apart a once great staff and feel like he is doing this for the good of the cause but, in actuality he is doing it to stroke his own ego and make himself feel like without his leadership the school would fail. Again, in my own personal opinion, this is so far from the truth that he cannot even see out further than his nose extends from his face.
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