Monday, June 09, 2008

I Saw It Coming, But That Didn’t Make It Any Easier


Longtime readers know that I’ve been enrolled in a school leadership program this year with an eye towards maybe, eventually making the transition from classroom to the principalship. I’ve done well in my classes—I’d recommend Eastern’s program to anyone—but there’s been a nagging fear in the back of my head for a while now: my union work.

The circumstances that lead to me becoming president of my local are colorful, and when I’ve managed to get some more distance from the situation I’ll probably spill exactly why I took the office. At the end of the day, though, it’s left me in a position where I’m the union president, the lead negotiator for our open contract, and the political action coordinator for my local Uniserv council—I’m in it up to my neck, and that’s OK because I really like my union work.

There’s the problem, though, and it involves the administrative internship that is required before you can get your principal’s certificate. During the internship you need to make the transition from teacher to administrator, to be able to look at situations with an administrator’s eye, and be able to take part in the functions of the school from a completely administrative point of view. As union president, though, I can’t do that.

As an example, let’s consider disciplinary actions. Recently in my school we discovered that one of the paraprofessionals (parapros) had a folder on her computer where she was storing some racy, racy pictures that she’d found on the internet. They were discovered by the tech when he was doing routine maintenance. The para and the superintendent met that same day with the PSE president, the para was out the door that same afternoon, and she was out of a job within just a couple of days. This all happened under the watch of the administrative intern I have in my building now.

Now consider if that was a teacher. What’s my role in the room: administrative intern, or union president? Here you truly can’t live in both worlds, because those two worlds are in conflict. It doesn’t work.

So on Wednesday before class I met with the two men who run my program, and they laid it all out on the table: either quit your union work, or quit the program. I told them that with negotiations having begun the day before I simply could not do that—not only would it be unethical, but when word got around that Ryan quit on the members so that he could go play administrator any chance that I would have to lead the teachers from a moral viewpoint would be completely ruined. People would understand me moving into administration; people would not understand me leaving them in the lurch to pursue my own interests.

So I had to make a choice, but there was only one choice to make. I’m going to have to give back the state-funded internship grant that I received from the Association of Washington School principals, and after I complete the class I’m in now it’s game over. Maybe the year will come where I’m out of my involvement with the WEA and where I’m not representing the people in my district, and then I can look at making the shift.

As for now, though, this will need to be a dream deferred.

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ryan,

I hope your dream is not deferred too long. We need ethical, thoughtful educators like you in the principalship. We will continue to fight for the state funded internship, so that when you get back at it, there will be another one waiting for you.

Gary Kipp
Executive Director
Association of Washington School Principals

10:09 AM  
Blogger Darren said...

I didn't see the conflict in the situation with the paraprofessional at all--unless you see the union's role as trying to get rulebreakers off the hook instead of ensuring they're given appropriate due process.

7:23 AM  
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12:36 AM  

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