Standing Up To Abusive Principals

For the past decade, I have had nothing but impeccable performance evaluations, whether they were in the corporate or academic settings. I have had the pleasure of working as a representative for executives and Training Supervisor within a Fortune 500 company, teaching at the University of Richmond, and even working as a chemist for one of the top breweries in the world.    My leadership, professionalism, work ethic, competency, knowledge, innovation, integrity, and teamwork abilities have always been evaluated at the highest levels on all of the scales that I have been compared against.   Even in my most recent evaluations, I have received exceptional ratings, including a recommendation from a third observation party that encouraged me to pursue Master Teacher status.Now, having this type of background, it would seem illogical, to the point of ignorance for a first-year administrator that has little or no experience as a principal and even far less experience as an instructional leader, (the two are not the same);  it would seem odd that this individual would deem it necessary to fabricate disciplinary actions against me based on false, and at times, desperate allegations as he abuses and misuses his authority because he does not want to do his job, but I am demanding that he does for our children.   It all began on November 28, 2007, when this principal issued a written reprimand, falsely accusing me of “insubordination” because I, as the classroom educator, refused to admit a habitual offender into my classroom that was not only disruptive, defiant, and disrespectful, but was also verbally and physically aggressive.  The principal and Director of Human Resources stated that I was “insubordinate” because I would not comply with their demand to endanger the safety of the students within my class by permitting a student, that has been a known safety threat for the past two years, to enter my classroom.   I quoted the Code of Conduct to them that required that I be “proactive” and take actions to “prevent” classroom disruptions, but they totally disregarded this policy.     It should be noted that the principal refused to discipline the administrator that would not discipline the student in question, but he did discipline me for choosing the “ethical” and “moral” option in placing the safety, learning, and well being of my students above my job status.  On December 13, 2007, this same principal, along with the Director of Middle Schools, decided in their professional wisdom, to issue another written reprimand to me, stating that I was not to use my employment contract hours while at school to document (send emails) about the safety concerns that I observed within the school.  Hmm, why would one NOT want incidents to be documented, especially when my job duties require that I document any and all issues properly.  Perhaps because if it is not in writing, it did not happen and that is exactly what abusive principals promote.Furthermore, despite NEVER having observed my classroom, or even set foot in my class, or even interacted with my students;  this principal and the Director of  Middle Schools, appointed an Instructional Coach for my class, as they deemed that I needed help regarding classroom management and instruction delivery.  Based on what data, I do not know until this day, however, as I advised him, I am always willing to learn and would welcome any assistance to improve my instruction of our students.  I was concerned at the fact that the first year teachers that I worked with did not receive the same courtesy by him that I, as a veteran teacher had.  I guess that his obsession with “getting me” was more of a priority than his obligation to support our new, struggling teachers.   That is truly sad because it is our children that ultimately suffer when a principal misuses and abuses his power and authority in this manner, with the support of central office, I may add.  So much for “KIDS FIRST!”After it was determined that the Instructional Coach approach was not effective in intimidating me through overmonitoring, which she did not, I was given another written reprimand.  In fact, I truly enjoyed the collaboration that we had regarding improving classroom motivation and hands-on instructional techniques.  It was truly an experience that promoted professional and personal growth, which eventually expanded to other educators within our school for their benefit.  I ended up becoming a “recruiter” for the Instructional Coach when sharing all that was given to me during our sessions, as a result, others became motivated to come and school-wide sessions were held.  She was a blessing in disguise for me, other teachers, and our students.  We just wish that we had had her support at the beginning of the year as opposed to in the middle of the year as a retaliatory act by an abusive principal….. but it is all good because it supported us as we supported our students! The most recent written reprimand was dated, February 15, 2008, the same day that I had my final interview with my Instructional Coach where she recommended me to be a Master Teacher.  I guess that since that plan backfired, the principal had to resort to falsified plan “B”, where he wrote me up for failing to hand in pictures of students that were throwing up gang signs in a “timely manner”.  I found the pictures on the printer at our school, and attempted to identify the students by speaking with the other teachers prior to submitting the information to administration.  I would think that the administration would want to know the student’s names. I was also confused about the fact that the abusive principal was concerned about the timeliness in which I gave the pictures to administration when, within his December 13, 2007 reprimand, he stated that I could no longer use contract hours to address or document safety issues in the school.  I tell you, “oh what a tangled web we weave, when we weave to deceive!”  He evidently forgot about his previous falsified reprimand.  That is why my mother always says to “tell the truth the first time so that you don’t have to remember the last lie that you told.”  Her advice should go into the “Abusive Principal” Recovery Handbook. The abusive principal stated that I endangered the safety of our students by not handing the pictures in right away.  I found his statements to be extremely hypocritical, especially since, once the pictures were shared with him, he took no action to remove the student that was throwing up the gang signs from the school.  The student is here to this day.  Double standards, I tell you!The abusive principal went on to even falsely accuse me of taking “unauthorized” pictures of students in the halls at school.  He “stated” that he had statements from teachers, students, and a parent indicating that I had taken pictures of students against their will.  When I asked to see the statements, he advised that he did not have them with him at school.  What the devil?!   I want to know why he took these statements out of the building and for what purpose, (that is if he really had them in the first place).   I guess that it was too much like common sense to ask me for the pictures that I had taken with my digital camera.  I am the photographer for our school’s step team and had taken many pictures previously, without question from anyone.  It is even more interesting that this abusive principal never bothered to ask the Instructional Aides that work with me everyday about the pictures, especially when they downloaded them and collected the prints for our student’s Valentine’s Day projects.  He never asked because he did not want to know the truth.  Most abusive principals do not because it would not serve their purpose of bullying, intimidating, and harassing those that are under them.  These types of principals are also discriminatory due to the fact that no other teachers or students were confronted about picture taking except me, and our students are not to have cameras at school at all, but I guess it is true when they say that abusive principals have “Burger King” practices .  They have it their way, no matter what the county, state, or federal laws say.  Finally, in the same written reprimand, the abusive principal charged me with being “unprofessional”,  “demonstrating poor judgment”, and “failing to follow the proper protocols”, when I opted to send the thirty-sixth email, since November 2007, regarding my concerns about our department head to his superiors after he had refused to even return a majority of the emails or hold the department head accountable for the fact that she does not do her job and as a result, it has resulted in our department being out of compliance with the state and federal government.   While I was not the only educator expressing these concerns, nor was I the only one ignored or dismissed, I was the only one that received a written warning for escalating my concerns on behalf of our children’s education.  I know what you are thinking, AMAZING!  How can someone focus all of their energies on coming after me when the school that they have been the leader of for over four months, that was limping when he took the helm, is not crawling….and our students are the greatest victims.   “The Dark Side of Leadership: Teacher Perspectives of Principal Mistreatment”, published in Educational Administration Quarterly, by Joseph Blase, is the first study of its kind that collects data regarding the impact of principal abuse on teachers and students.  I think that every principal should read this report in order to raise their awareness of how they can single-handedly destroy the academic and professional lives of those teachers and students around them.The abusive principal does not have our children as a consideration in his dysfunctional mind, as a result, we must ensure that they are OUR priority, even if they are not his.  That is the only way to survive an abusive principal, understand your purpose, your role, your job.  You are obligated to our students before you are obligated to anyone else.  Thinking this way will encourage you and help you to make the decision that the abusive principal does not have the capacity to make.Well, abusive principals do not care about our children or our teachers.  They only care about themselves.  The extent that this abusive principal and his supporters will go to at the expense of our students is amazing to me, especially since I am the one that received a threat from a member of the staff that he “leads”.    Abusive principals have the same profiles as any other abusive personality, they are poor communicators, bullies, take advantage of those weaker than them, have low self-esteem, surround themselves by weaker individuals that they control and give them a false sense of well-being (“yes” people), are protected from receiving consequences for their abusive behaviors by other abusers, and have a lethal combination of pride and power as the basis for their identity.Many of you are asking how can you tell if your principal is abusive, and still more are asking, am I alone in battling an abusive principal.  See the articles below for encouragement and insight.        What To Do When There is a Problem with the Principal   Learn what the signs are of a poor principal and what you as a parent can do.By Lisa Rosenthal, StaffWhat makes a great school? Strong leadership is a key factor. In What Makes a Great Principal: An Audio Slide Show, you can read about the four characteristics that great principals have in common and listen to real stories from principals on the job. 

More on Makes a Great Principal: An Audio Slide ShowWhat Makes a Great Teacher?Communicating With Your Child’s SchoolWho Makes Decisions About School Staff?Additional Resources:McEwan, Elaine K., 10 Traits of Highly Successful Schools,Waterbrook Press, 1999.This book provides concrete tools on how to evaluate principals and schools. Cooperman, Saul, How Schools Really Work, Catfeet Press, 1996.Written by a former superintendent, this helpful book provides easy-to-follow steps for evaluating principals and improving schools.Bennett, William J., The Educated Child, Simon & Schuster, 1999.What is a good education? In this guide, in addition to learning about principals and teachers, you’ll learn what good schools teach and what you can do to improve your school.  

How do you know if your principal is providing the kind of leadership that it takes to make a great school? Knowledge of these warning signs will help you to become aware, if there is a problem, and to take action. Seven Warning Signs of a Poor PrincipalIf you notice any of the following signs, you may want to contact your superintendent:1. The principal has no overall vision for the school. He doesn’t have a sense of what kind of school community he and the staff are trying to establish or what values the whole school should uphold.2. There is no plan to address academic achievement and the schools’ test scores continue to decline. Although principals can’t take all the blame for declining test scores, they should have clear goals for school-wide academic improvement that they communicate to staff and students, and ways to measure improvement against the goals. They should include staff and parents in the goal-setting process.3. The principal spends all her time in her office pushing papers. She delegates discipline decisions and dealing with parents to the school secretary. You never see her in classrooms or on the playground. She doesn’t know students’ names and doesn’t interact with them.4. The principal is seldom there. He spends much of his time away from the school in meetings or at conferences.5. The principal does not return your phone calls.If you have tried to contact her several times and she does not respond, you should be concerned. If you do make contact, but she doesn’t provide you with any possible solution, you have a problem.6.The principal tells everyone what he or she wants to hear. He says “yes” to everyone but doesn’t take action.7.The principal shows favoritism.It is obvious that certain teachers, students or parents have the ear of the principal but others do not.When a Parent Should Contact the PrincipalWhen you have a concern about your child’s academic achievement or discipline within the classroom, you should first contact your child’s teacher. If you are not satisfied with the teacher’s response, you should contact the principal. It is always better to try to work out problems with the teacher first. If you have a concern about a school-wide discipline problem or the school’s philosophy, you should contact the principal.When a Parent Should Contact the SuperintendentIf the principal does not return your phone calls or if you are dissatisfied with the response of the principal, then you should contact the superintendent. If you have concerns about the principal’s leadership abilities and you can clearly document those concerns, you should contact the superintendent. If several parents feel the same way, make an appointment as a group to visit the superintendent. There is always greater power in numbers!January 2006  *****************************************

Cheers for members battling abusive principals



The union’s “principals in need of improvement” campaign, aimed at bad principals either shaping up or shipping out, is having a positive effect, UFT Staff Director LeRoy Barr reported at the Jan. 16 Delegate Assembly. “We have some schools in which the DOE is not taking responsibility for the autocratic nature of the principals,” Barr said drolly, “so we decided to do things the old-fashioned way. And we’re good at doing things the old-fashioned way.”Barr talked about three schools where the union was “modifying behavior,” and using different strategies “so that teachers will want to come to work and children come to learn.”Representatives from three schools were on hand to tell their stories.Forty staff members from beleaguered PS 114 in Brooklyn, which was featured in the Jan. 17 New York Teacher, took to the stage, led by UFT District 18 Representative Richard Mantell and Chapter Leader Keith Peterson. Mantell said, pointing to the large staff turnout, “If this doesn’t show you what that principal is like, nothing will.” Peterson said the key to winning was “concentrating on fear, and saying ‘what are we afraid of? We’re professionals.’ So whenever the principal did things, we’d look at the contract and say, ‘That’s not very professional of you.’” Pointing to the large turnout of his colleagues, he said, “Even one of the APs wanted to join us tonight.”Introducing staff from the ACORN HS for Social Justice in Brooklyn, UFT BASIS District Representative Charles Friedman announced that “in two weeks [the principal] is gone. This principal united those who never got united before … You need a staff that will stand up,” and this staff did, Friedman said. “This principal united people like I’ve never seen.” Chapter Leader Devon Blinth agreed that it was his colleagues’ determination to stick together that got the principal — a Leadership Academy graduate and someone who gave 10 U-ratings to a staff of 40 — “to go.”Staten Island Borough Representative Emil Pietromonaco introduced Chapter Leader George Anthony and other Susan Wagner HS staff who were intimidated by school administrators and urged to change students’ grades on Regents exams.The Office of Special Investigations recommended the assistant principal be dismissed and the principal—the A.P.’s husband—be disciplined for their roles in a Regents cheating scandal. The assistant principal has since been reassigned, though not fired. The principal is still in the building, but not allowed anywhere near the Regents exam proctoring, “so the DOE in its infinite wisdom is asking the staff to move to another school to grade the exams,” Pietromonaco said.Anthony introduced a number of colleagues and then said he was “trapped in an episode of the Twilight Zone. But I had a whole support network in the UFT.”After harassment from his AP, three senior UFT officials came to confront the administrator. Anthony said he felt like telling the AP, “Say hello to my friends.”Weingarten said that what all three schools have in common is that “when a staff stays together, nobody can disrespect us, and that’s what the folks from 114, from Wagner and from SOJO can teach us. That’s what unionism is all about.” ************************

LSC members harrassed by incompetent principals


By Joe Guzman

As a new school year unfolds before us, I have a question. Why would normally educated and professional individuals in administrative positions jeopardize their careers and reputations by childish, unprofessional and (sometimes) criminal behavior — behavior that invites lawsuits, protests and public humiliation.

Does pride, bravado and personal insecurity interfere with common sense, or is it attempt to cover up incompetence, clouded judgment and blind ambition? These individuals in administrative positions are costing the Board of Education thousands of dollars in legal fees and in settlements. It seems that some of those type 75 certifications need to be re-examined and revoked.

Over the summer and into the fall, I have been in contact with numerous individuals who are eager to discuss difficult and intolerable conditions within their schools. I listen, take copious notes, and listen some more.

Blatant disregard for LSC authority, thievery, intimidation, nepotism and it’s ugly cousin, cronyism are valid concerns. Vague budget items, hidden internal accounts and unexplained fund transfers are common complaints. LSC members who have rightfully questioned such acts and have asserted their rights are harassed … or worse.

Many members are continually denied their legal right to gain access and conduct business at the school of which they were elected to represent. Many have been falsely arrested. Interference with the duties of a public official is a criminal act, and those who violate this must be held accountable. Apparently school reform has not filtered down to certain individuals yet.

Unfortunately, the politics of local school governance are not without risks in the pursuit of power and influence. The real danger lies within those whom are not equipped, (both mentally and emotionally), to handle that responsibility. Fault not only lies with corrupt administrators, but also with certain LSC members, influenced to look the other way and working against fellow members.

We all have had someone like that on our councils. They scream and holler, but say nothing, and accomplish even less. They violate the trust that the public has placed with them, and do the community a great disservice. I believe that there should be a morality test for both principals and LSC members, but then some schools would be without a principal and seats would remain unfilled on councils.

There are very good, honest and hard working principals and local school council members, doing their jobs, without controversy or attention. In sad contrast, in our next issue, we tell a story of decent council members and the endurance of arrests, threats and incredible psychotic behavior at a southwest side school. In all my years as a council member, I have never experienced what this council is going through.

If you have a story to tell, please contact us. We would like to hear from you.

Joseph GuzmanL.S.C. EditorSubstance office: (773) 725-7502Home: (312) 459-9920Email:**************I have also included a link that offers over 100 actions that SUCCESSFUL principals do! 


12 comments on “Standing Up To Abusive Principals

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  2. Anonymous says:

    I am having a problem right now with an abusive principal, you wrote some signs of a bad principal which my principal doesn’t have because it is her first year as principal she was assist principal last year so she does all the things it says a principal should do well (a quality review coming up)at least it seems that way BUT she talks down to most of her staff. She has programs for our students which teaches children respect and values but she doesn’t show respect herself.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I am having problems with an abusive principal. This is his second year only. He runs the school on rumor & innuendo, never really confirming an incident before deciding to issue reprimands. The teachers are so afraid, that they do not speak to each other while in the building, instead they feel they have to speak outside.

    I am a veteran teacher, and he has written me up 6 times between the months of September & October. Prior to his becoming principal, I have always maintained a clean record of satisfactory service. He has his minions in the school constantly watching every move I make. He waits until just before there is a long weekend or vacation to give letters about meetings that involve union representation so that teachers are tortured wondering what is going to happen. He went so far as to write up his assistant principal for being out, AND IT WAS BECAUSE HER MOTHER HAD PASSED AWAY!!

  4. Anonymous says:

    I am having problems with an abusive principal. This is his second year only. He runs the school on rumor & innuendo, never really confirming an incident before deciding to issue reprimands. The teachers are so afraid, that they do not speak to each other while in the building, instead they feel they have to speak outside.

    I am a veteran teacher, and he has written me up 6 times between the months of September & October. Prior to his becoming principal, I have always maintained a clean record of satisfactory service.

    • Peter says:

      Wow–that sounds exactly like what’s happening to me! I’ve never had a concern before, but I just signed on last year to a district which I am unfamiliar with. We moved her prior to having jobs and my wife’s job is going fine, but my teaching job is fraught with turmoil. The principal acts on rumor & innuedo, calling in my entire class to ask if I’ve done anything wrong. It’s a fishing expedition with, according to concerned students, leading questions. Usually these come when I write a referral for a behavior problem, so there are one or two students who will say anything to try to get back at me, particularly when they well understand administration is against me. However, one of my writeups (I’ve had three in two years, there was not a single collaborator in the class, yet the principal went forward with the action against me, stating, “You have to be aware of parent complaints.” When I told him no one had told me of the complaint and the accusation had been roundly refuted by an entire class, the principal simply shook his head and said it was going in my file.
      Last time I wrote a referral the mother complained and I ended up getting a “Professional Improvement Plan,” kind of the first step toward being terminated. As a new and non-tenured teacher, I am in tremendous jeopardy. My union’s view is to just allow the abuse and hope it gets better. There is some sort of weird rumor mill at this school, and now virtually no other teachers will even talk to me. I am confused and angry and feel very much betrayed. Worst of all, I am totally unempowered by the process. The union rep says administration doesn’t have to follow their own rules of procedure because they get to make them up and even change them as they go. Does anyone have any advice???

  5. Anne says:

    I have been battleing my supervisior for the past 5 years. I have a phyical disability which she claims is “not her concern”. When I brough it to the attenction of the A.D.A., the abuse increased ten fold. Facts; I have had my job assignment changed 15 times in the past 5 years. My teaching assignment changed 6 times just the first 2 months of aschool. I have no negitative evaluations and have been a good teacher and employee for the past 23 years.
    I am the only teacher in my department who has been forced to change schools every year. I’ve been told to “shut up because no one wants to hear about my phyical limitations!” And that was FROM THE DEPUTY SUPERINTENTENT.
    My Doctors have documented over 20 un-returned phone calls from my district.
    I have filed harrassment, discrimination and retailiation charges against my superviser with the Dept. of Human Rights. We go before the State in a few weeks! I’ve got 25 pages of documentation proving my case as well as statements from others. I have saved every e-mail I sent to my boss BEGGING her to talk to my doctors and read the medical accomadations I need in order to do my job. It’s interesting that my district is on the brink of bankruptcy and want to cut elementary librarians and the Arts yet have the TIME and MONEY to support and DEFEND such heartless cruel vendictive administrators who are blatantly breaking the law!!!

  6. Anonymous says:

    My husband and i moved to northcarolina to be close to his son. he found out when he got to the school that his wife had been defaming his character at the school meeting about his relationship with his son. he was invited to a school meeting they were having to bring solution to disiplinary issues with his son. at this meeting his ex-wife told lies about his relationship with his son THe principle and the counselor were in favor of what his ex wife said the principal even attacked his character. My husband defended his character and left the meeting. when he returned to the school to see his son the principal told him he could not visit his son during school hours he told the principal that he always visit his son. Then she told him he was banned from the school he asked why and she said because he walked out of the school meeting. He reported her actions to the school board. the director of student services told him that they had not recieved a ban letter as far as she knew he was not baned. She instructed him not to return to the school and wait to see if she would send him a letter. He was invited to another meeting at the counceling service for his son. The principal was present along with his sons mother and counceling service. My husband asked the principal when was she going to send him a ban letter she said she did not want to discuss it and told my husband that she told all of my stepsons teachers not to relay any information about my son to him. 7 days after this meeting and 50 + days after the first meeting he still did not recieve a ban letter. My husband and i went to the courts in VA. to get his visitation order that stated academic information could not be kept away from him unless the judge modifies. I called her to explain it to her and she was very sarcastic towards me. We went to the library and faxed the court document to the school and to the counseling service. We recieved a voice mail from his Ex- wife cursing us out the principal made her aware of my phone call that i made to the school. We saved the voice mail for evidence. Three days after the school principal recieved the court document from my husband. She sent out a ban letter to him, and sent copies to the school superintendant, director of student services, and my ex-wife lying about my behavior at the meeting. saying my behavior was threatning at the meeting which was a lye. The superintendant agreed with her and followed through with the ban. I found out that the principals Husband is the chairman of the board of education and she has been abusing her power of authority by baning parents for any and everything some one please tell us what legal actions can we take

  7. Tawanna Turner Jones says:

    I left the coment about the principal abusing their autority to my husband im leaving my email

  8. Anonymous says:

    What if you have a principal who read the book and plays it like their following it but under mines everything and bullies everyone to clean house for the DOE …. PS114 Brooklyn.

  9. Tammy hess says:

    Some one needs to address the primcable at log school in boonville in
    She was abusive to a 4th grader choking this child out .I pulled my own child out when she was in high school.I walked on to get my child and the primcable threw a handycaped child into chairs I was so disturbed by what I saw.

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