What's the Matter?
It's the teachers, dummy: As a longtime parent and a sometime PTA officer at public schools in South San Francisco and elsewhere, I read your article with a bit of skepticism ["The Principal Matter," Feature, 7/9].
Oftentimes the reason principals are unpopular with teachers is that they are trying to force them to do their job. The "union rep" is often the laziest teacher of the lot. She is so busy handling union work that she has no time to teach much.
Being a school principal is especially tough. It's much worse than being the normal middle manager, who has to report to superiors (bureaucrats at the school district, in this case) and contend with subordinates (teachers). He or she also must deal with parents, some of whom are incredibly neurotic about their children, and the gaggle of semi-unemployed lawyers out there who are ready to sue the district at the drop of a hat on behalf of a disgruntled parent trying to make some money on the side.
I wish [Ashley] Harrell could have gone into depth with "Ms. Nancy," the secretary "from the beginning." After all, she's been around the longest and she's the one who's upset that the teachers are slandering the principal. I found that very telling. Also, I wish the author could have gotten some parents to step forward, such as the ones who apparently like Mr. Cho.
Lazy teachers tend to talk about the need for "respect for faculty" and "empowerment." These are code words for letting teachers do whatever they want without having to be accountable to parents and principals.
From a parent's perspective, the case at three schools two of my sons attended was this: the tough-ass principal tried to get lazy teachers (protected at all costs by the union, despite their incompetence, as noted in the article) fired or transferred to another school. And, as the ritual goes, the teacher files a "grievance" via the union with the district.
Mark Sanchez, a charter school instructor and another guy trying to build a political career via the school board, is never going to do anything to ruffle teachers' feathers. He needs their vote to get elected to the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco.
It appears to me that Mr. Cho could have been a bit more diplomatic. But I suspect he was merely trying to get the less motivated [members] of his teaching staff to get out there and actually do what they're supposed to do: teach, grade homework, and do a good job.
P. Morgan Sparks
It's the administrators, stupid: It is very sad that administrators — the people being paid to oversee the smooth running of schools — are frequently the biggest obstacles between a failing and succeeding school.
In some cases, you have an administrator who was once a good teacher and has a good organizational and pragmatic knowledge of running schools in the areas of discipline and of student, teacher, and parent involvement. The second rung on the ladder is the person who was a good teacher, but has no knowledge of administration. The third is good at administration but does not understand teaching because he or she jumped into the career based on the perk of "running things and getting paid more." And the last (unfortunately the most common) is the person who worked hard to look like he or she would be a good administrator, but just managed to jump through all the hoops the city/state placed in the way. This is profoundly easy — mostly because the reality is that being an administrator is a profoundly hard job.
Lincoln is a decent school on the edge. So [schools superintendent Carlos] Garcia: Send a person who won't send that delicate balance over the edge!
When It Reigns, It Pours
Have a nice day, Stan!: Nice article ["Nonconformity Still Reigns!", Feature, 7/2]. And by the way, I do not like that Gregory Jacobs, "The Bushman," who boards the bus holding tree branches that look freshly torn off young Western Addition trees, from the Panhandle, or who knows where.
I also dislike the Brown twins. I always wish them "Have a nice day!" when I cross their paths, which they can take as sardonically or appropriately as they want to.