Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Are Principals friends of public education?

The BC Principals and Vice Principals Association has chosen a couple of times to wade in on the teachers' job action. Unfortunately they have chosen to mostly remain silent, or worse to oppose teacher actions - including when we are pushing for changes to improve student learning.

In 2002, when class size limits and class composition limits were illegally removed from teacher collective agreements, the Principals supported government. They wanted the "flexibility" to arrange classes however they wanted. In my school, within three short years, this meant every PE 9 class had gone from 30 up to 40 students. Principals abused this authority and quickly drastically oversize classes became the norm.

The BCPVPA has been almost silent on two decades of funding cuts to education budgets. Rather than speak out, they often claim they are working behind the scenes. This simply feeds in to a false impression that cuts are not hurting kids.

During the current job action, many Principals have refused to do struck work as required by the Labour Relations Board. It is these Principal actions that have led to most of the cancellations of field trips and other activities because Principals would not do the paperwork. Where they are, these events have gone ahead. A common complaint is that they shouldn't have to do "teacher work", but since when was teacher work so inundated with forms, money collection, and administrivia? The reality is that Principals have been downloading this work to teachers for years. Why haven't administrators advocated for adequate secretarial support in schools to meet these needs? It is nonsensical to use teacher time (that could otherwise be spent on student learning activities) for paperwork.

Principals have routinely refused to speak out when individual classes are not appropriate for student learning. Under the School Act guidelines, they must state their opinion on class organization for any class that is oversize or overcrowded. Despite 12,000 classes in this category, every single Principal for every single class has "signed off" on the class, attesting it is "appropriate for student learning". Where is the integrity in making such a claim when the real reasons (typically said privately to teachers) are lack of funding?

Principals should be joining teachers and speaking up. They only need to look south to see that they too will soon be in the firing line with a government obsessed with US style "reform". 


  1. They would want "flexibility" because it makes their jobs easier. Scheduling is a hard problem. Harder when you need smaller class sizes but the government & board won't pay for enough teachers.

    The direction that authority flows makes it easy for principals to blame teachers and to push work onto teachers. It's hard work to go against authority and get the government and school boards to pony up the cash to hire more people. The principals could end up labeled as "whiners" or "not a team player". Then next year they get replaced by someone who will just accept whatever the higher-ups throw at them.

  2. I suspect they would be more willing to speak up if they were unionized. Tara, I'm wondering if you see that as a possibility someday?

  3. Principals used to be a part of the BCTF and were removed by gov't some time ago.

    I don't really like the whole management model in schools - I think it de-professionalizes teachers. There are some interesting schools in the US (surprise!) that do not have Principals. Sometimes they get lots of buy in because the teachers feel truly part of the school leadership/decision making, rather than feeling that they are at the bottom of top-down diktats that simply don't make any sense on the ground.

    Here's an article about it: http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Education/2010/0901/School-teachers-in-charge-Why-some-schools-are-forgoing-principals