2006-09-07 / View From the Middle

View From The Middle

Forty-Four Assistant Principals And Nowhere To Put Them
By Charles Rogers


I must admit I couldn't let the story about the 44 assistant principals who couldn't find a home go without saying something . This is almost too much fodder for anybody's column!

The story goes that there are 44 of these second-highest-echelon on the books that need placing and there's nowhere to place them, according to Schools Chancellor Joel Klein.

As the rosters were being filled for the school year that started this week, apparently the principals (there are 1,450 of them) went through the list and, for some reason, did not choose these 44 (heretofore called the "frightful forty-four!").

Now, the connotation in Klein's memo to principals was really quite sad, when you think of it. According to published highlights of the chancellor's letter, there are "44 excessed assistant principals in our school system. These are administrators who have apparently been unable to find positions in any one of our 1,400 schools, despite the fact that we have many vacancies..." There's more, of course, and we'll get to the obvious frustration that the top educator in the city has to deal with soon enough.

Suffice to say, at this time, to even have to issue such a notice to principals can show you how the unions - in this case the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators - can not only tie the hands of the city leaders but, because of foolish greed can, and do, wind up costing the citizens more and more every day. Millions more.

Generally, the top salary for each one would top out at about $108,000 per year. That's a total of $5.2 million, I understand (not being that good at arithmetic, but, hey, I'm not an assistant principal).

The union says they cannot be let go - it's in their contract, and they cannot be relegated to doing a teacher's (ugh!) job. That's in their contract too. Heaven forbid they should denigrate themselves to doing a teacher's job at this point in their lives! For one thing, their own union would probably disown them.

So Klein has to put them into a desk job somewhere; into a position where, he said in his memo to principals last week, he would "spend millions of dollars creating unnecessary jobs...because they could not find work in any school" and he would refuse to let them exercise a contractual right to bump less senior workers, which would be his prerogative, except that he's obviously a nice guy - with empathy.

Now let's get this straight. These people were pro-moted from teacher to assistant principal because, it would seem, they did a good job as teachers.

And still nobody wants them!

How depressing that must be to those in question. It was suggested that the forty-four (I'm getting more familiar with their name now) were "inept" and that's what kept them on the non-hiring list. The union, of course, disputes that and gave creditable reasons for their argument to the media last week, noting that they all received "satisfactory" ratings last year. I mean, I'm sure they're nice people. The way they've been portrayed, you'd think they were in a scene out of a Charles Dickens novel ("Sir, may I have more bread??"...."Mooore? You want mooore?" - That kind of thing).

I don't envy Chancellor Klein. He and his buddy Mayor Michael Bloomberg have done a pretty good job so far and it looks like they at least might have a handle on this year's agenda. It makes you wonder, though, how the people in the teaching profession can get around the bureaucracy of not just the Department of Education, but of the unions.

Yes, the unions are getting them good money and perks for what they do. And the educators deserve a great deal of praise in most cases. But, meanwhile, those very same unions, by their own greed and selfaggrandizement, are becoming a hindrance to the administration of education itself.

As a result of a few stupid paragraphs in their contract, these assistant principals are being held back from helping the system and, instead, are hindering it and costing the taxpayer more. Worse yet, there are probably many (too many) students who could use tutoring that these educators are supposedly capable of.

Unfortunately, the situation comes about around Labor Day, a special time in America when we are supposed to honor unions for the good they do.

Good luck to the forty-four and, oh, yes - good luck to the kids, too.

"...Now let's get this straight. These people were promoted from teacher to assistant principal because, it would seem, they did a good job as teachers.

And still nobody wants them!..."

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