May 3, 2007

Did you know that there are unions of public school principals?

Teachers unions are highly controversial and always in the news, yet you almost never hear about the existence in many districts of of unions for principals and downtown administrators. A lazy teacher is a lot smaller of a problem than a lazy principal, yet you never hear about how principals unions protect bad principals. I guess not many people can believe there are such things as principals and administrators unions.

For example, I finally found out tonight the name of the principals union in Los Angeles: The Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, which defines itself like this:

The Associated Administrators of Los Angeles (AALA) represents the Middle Managers in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

AALA is organized into four departments: Adult School Administrators, Elementary School Administrators, Secondary School Administrators and Supervisory Administrators...

AALA’s primary role is to ensure that members have the protection of Due Process, as contained in the collective bargaining agreement between AALA and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). AALA provides its members with representation in resolving grievances, counseling in the area of salaries, health benefits, retirement and professional concerns.

If you are the principle of, say, Garfield High School in East LA (where celebrated math teacher Jaime Escalante of the "Stand and Deliver" fame creamed the top few percent off the 4,372 students), you have over 230 teachers working for you, plus some large number of non-teaching staffers. That's being Management with a capital M. And, yet, these principals have their own union to keep them from being held accountable.

What's next? A union for Trident nuclear submarine captains? "Sure, Commander Frobisher may have wiped out Edmonton with an unauthorized ICBM salvo, but he has 24 years seniority, so this union is not going to let him get fired over one little screw-up!"

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

My dad was a principal in Watts for about 10 years. When people would complain about teachers unions, he would tell them about AALA, always starting off with something like, "You ain't heard nothing yet!"

Anonymous said...

There are a few organizations for CEOs I think (not formal unions of course). There's nothing in principle impossible about a union of managers, except that our view of unions is as coalitions of workers formed to oppose management.

Of course, I can't help but wonder if a CEO strike would actually be beneficial to American industry...

Anonymous said...

Most public school principals, like public school teachers, are idiots. They all have degrees in "education" which is not even a real degree. It's a joke, as anyone with a real degree knows.

There is a reason why top private schools will not hire people with degrees in "education": they are fools. They are charlatan sophists.

The first thing one could do to improve public schools would be to abolish all schools of "education" and hire people with real degrees.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who has a job that is so controlled by politics and other things beyond their control would definitely benefit from belonging to a union. Some unions may protect people who deserve to be fired, but you have not given any shred of evidence that that is the case here.

Steve Sailer said...

Here's a column from the LA Times that mentions tactics used by the principals union to try to intidimate media critics of an elementary school teacher who tries to drive dumb kids out of her school to raise her test scores:,0,5178287.column?coll=ktla-news-1

Steve Sailer said...

Here's an excerpt from the LA Times:

Union resorts to code of silence to stifle questions about principal

Bob Sipchen

October 30, 2006

Some of the smartest, hardest-working and most caring people I know are public school principals.

That said, education reformers have complained for years that the Los Angeles school district's bureaucracy either ignores complaints about bad principals or shuffles crummy principals off to other schools. "The dance of the lemons," it's called.

A recent e-mail from the union representing administrators in Los Angeles schools offers disturbing insight into why principals who have no business being on campus sometimes continue to reign.

My Oct. 2 column discussed a kindergartner's troubles with Anna Feig, the principal at Woodland Hills Elementary School. Some parents and teachers praised Feig as a strong leader who "runs a tight ship," while others called her a tyrant who they say intimidates and retaliates against those who cross her.

Two days later, Mike O'Sullivan, president of the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles (AALA) e-mailed his colleagues, calling that column "a piece of journalistic garbage that unfairly trashed the reputation and character of one of our outstanding elementary principals." Attached to his missive was a copy of a letter to the editor of The Times by the union's administrator, Dan Basalone, who said I had "demeaned one of our finest principals" and recommended that "no administrator agree to any interviews" with me.

O'Sullivan didn't return my calls and Basalone hung up on me after I insisted that we talk on the record.

If I were a principal, I'd be embarrassed that the supposed leaders of a professional organization would defend someone without an investigation, let alone declare her among the district's finest.

In the days after that column, School Me's blog exploded with comments so voluminous and vehement that it is inconceivable that the union bossmen were unaware that the principal in question is controversial.

Since then, I've received dozens of e-mails and talked to dozens of pleasant, decent-sounding people who, without a trace of irony, describe Feig as, among many other things: "a monster," "extraordinarily rude," "a bully," "beastly," "one of the nastiest persons I've ever met" and "a despot" who is "as close to pure evil as I've ever seen" and "belongs in prison for her treatment of these children."

Parents and teachers, current and former, report filing complaints almost from the moment she arrived at the West Valley school a decade back. They advised high-level administrators about an array of concerns, including their belief that the principal plays fast and loose with the permit process determining whether some students can attend the school. At least one critic wrote to the district questioning the ethics and legality of the way the school counts tardies and absences to avoid losing attendance money.

Steve Sailer said...

I suspect most problem principals in the public schools are the opposite of this principal and the manic principal described in the recent New York magazine article: most of the bad principals have just gotten lazy. And union protection just encourages that.

In my experience, an outstanding principal can do a fair amount of good at a public school. My son's old public school was a disaster in the early 1990s, when a student murdered a neighbor. The neighborhood wanted it shut down, so the school district took the extreme (for them) step of assigning an excellent principal to it. He turned it around, but now he's gone off to found a charter school.

Barry said...

I am not a principal. I am not even the son of a principal. But from raising five kids I know that it isn't an easy job, and with a tendency towards smaller schools these days, many (if not most) aren't the mega-managers described in the comments.

They do have to balance concerns of the parents, the kids, administration and the teachers while keeping the school in some sort of order. Sometimes principals get into trouble defending an unpopular teacher who, although unpopular, did the right thing, or at leastd didn't do bad enough to require the punishment demanded by the mob. NOT an easy job, whether managerial or not. And, in places like Chicago where principals are hired and fired by school parent councils --- do they have that sort of thing in Los Angeles? --- the job can be very political, with the parents looking for some place to place blame for the failings of their children.

Further, the best principals I have known seem to know everything that is happening in every corner of their school, although they never seem to be doing anything.

Under such circumstances I am not bothered by an organization that sticks up for their members, insist that their members get the due process to which they are entitled (whatever the merits of the case), provides counsel if required, and adds some modicum of fairness to what can be a very unfair situation.