I came across a commissioner's decision from a few years ago about a term contract non-renewal in Bryan ISD. The district had non-renewed an assistant principal, who appealed to the commissioner and lost, mostly on procedural issues, but who very likely would have lost anyway. But I was very interested in what the assistant principal had done that led to the non-renewal.
One of the primary duties of an assistant principal is taking care of discipline. And apparently, this AP took her job very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that in another incarnation of this story she might have been the subject of an inspiring movie. But in real life, it is possible to take your job too seriously and to lose sight of the very legitimate limitations that we all must work within.
The school district said that the AP was not following district policy, and that she had been warned several times. Two of the district's concerns were these:
- Excessive numbers of citations made by law enforcement authorities at [AP's] request and student suspensions for disciplinary reasons that were out of compliance with board policy
- Having twice as many disciplinary actions than any other assistant principal and more than all of the other principals combined.
I actually think a good case could have been made that these reasons are not, by themselves, an indicator that she was not acting appropriately. Presumably the citations were properly made by the law enforcement officers. The fact that she made use of this resource more than other principals might mean a number of different things. it could mean that she was making use of a resource other principals were ignoring (which would make want to question how well other principals were handling discipline). It might also mean that her campus simply had more disciplinary problems than others. of course, it could also mean that there were more disciplinary problems because she was unable to get control of the problem, or it could mean that she was skipping less severe disciplinary techniques in favor of skipping right to the police. Without a good inquiry into the facts, it's impossible to know whether the number of disciplinary actions she had under her watch were an indicator of incompetence or not.
But the reason the board non-renewed her that really go me was this one:
students for more than the three days permitted by board policy.
- Violating federal special education laws and
regulations by changing the placement of a student with disabilities for more
than the permitted ten day period.
Although it's stated as two problems, it's really the same thing: she was suspending students for longer than allowed by law and district policy. Some may say this is a "get tough" stance that is sorely needed in difficult schools. Even if there were some evidence that her methods were effective (and I'm not saying they were, there's no information about that in the case), it's not up to an individual to change policies that have already been set by a higher authority. Actually, let me rephrase that - not only is it not up to an individual to unilaterally change the policies, it can also be illegal, as well as insubordinate and likely to get you fired.