Why I'm not qualified to be a principal

The first step to becoming an LAUSD principal is understanding how the administration works, or doesn't work. The administration is a closed bureaucracy that spares no expense in stifling reform it sees as threatening its privileged position. In order to accomplish this dubious end, school administrators establish many prerequisites of questionable significance in determining who will be allowed to join their ranks. This meant that even during the best of times they often struggled to fill job.

For example, I have three college degrees: a bachelor's in European history, a master's in education, and a doctor of jurisprudence. In addition, I was a line producer in the film industry, where I was responsible for implementing the budgets of several multimillion-dollar films, and yet an ex-teacher with no business skills is more easily qualified to be a principal than I am.

After I initially qualified to take the principals' examination and interview, I was told that I no longer qualified because I didn't have one year of out-of-classroom experience. Having written several charters and Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accreditation reports, having served on a school-governance council, and having spent a year as a union representative were not considered equivalent experience. As for the examination and interview, you are not given your exam scores, and your interview is conducted by old-line principals whose main concern seems to be that you will not rock the boat of their privileged positions.

A friend who is an immigrant from the old Soviet Union and teaches high school Spanish told me: "The Los Angeles Unified School District bureaucracy is the closest thing to the Communist Party bureaucracy I have experienced since leaving Russia."

Obviously, the purpose of the LAUSD bureaucracy, which has a larger budget than the City of Los Angeles, is not to pragmatically educate all citizens to their potential but to maintain its own power, position, and social status quo. Is there anywhere in the United States where big-city school districts are any different?

flickr:Cat Sidh


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12 2009

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