Friday, November 28, 2008
Chapter Leaders Who Are Targeted By Principals Should Have An Independent Investigation To Determine If Their Removal From The School Is Required
Being a Chapter Leader (CL) at a school is probably the toughest job a teacher can have and the good ones spend more time preforming their duties then the time allocated by the contract. It is very common for CLs to spend an hour or more beyond the school day taking care of business. This does not include disciplinary hearings, grievances, school committees and union meetings. The election of CLs is the last democratic process in the UFT, where all other union leaders (except the President) are appointed by the head of the union. The CLs are elected by the direct vote of the school staff. Therefore, the CL is usually the liaison between the Principal and the school staff. Unfortunately, many of the CLs become targets for the Principal, especially the more effective CLs.
Time and again I hear stories of CLs confronting the Principal with issues and being retaliated against by being harassed, investigated, and in some cases removed from the school. This creates a chilling effect not only at the school but in other schools where both the Principals and CLs know how the game is played. Is it any wonder that in some schools nobody wants the CL position? Further, especially in the elementary schools, the CL seems to be closer to the administration then the staff that they are supposed to represent. In some schools the CL position makes the teacher a target and every year a new CL must be voted on as the previous CL either quits, transfers, or is removed from the school. Being a CL is probably a thankless job except for those teachers who want to move into high union positions and the rest of the CLs, unless they kiss the Principal's butt, are the real heroes of the union. Inadequate compensation, long hours, and a possible target for insecure Principals.
To ensure that Principals no longer retaliate against the CL I propose the following investigative process. First, any CL being investigates will have a real independent investigation. No, not the unfair and biased investigations by OSI or SCI. This special investigator will be selected by both the union and the DOE and this person will hold an in-house interview with all parties involved. including the CL and make a truly independent judgement to determine if the CL gets a LIF or is removed from the school. This will stop Principal harassment and retaliation of CLs. Second, the same investigator can be used to determine if the administrator should be penalized for unprofessional actions against the CL, including a LIF and removal. Finally, the independent investigator can be used as a witness for and against the CL in disciplinary hearings, including 3020-a proceedings.
While all teachers should have such protections, a good start would be with the CL and this protection should be included in any new contracts signed by the UFT.
P.S. I am not a Chapter Leader but I have seen and heard enough of these incidents that a real investigative process is necessary for them.