The Confident Administrator

Andy Kowalczyk's picture

Have you ever had a parent question your decision? Administrators make hundreds of decisions each week, maybe each day, and most of them go without debate. Lately, I have experienced parents questioning my decisions with “fake news” types of arguments. These conversations can decrease an administrator’s morale and motivation to continue to try to make a difference in positive ways.

For example, this past week a parent questioned my understanding of bullying and how I handled a situation. I was called incompetent and my master’s degree was questioned because I didn’t agree that a situation is called bullying when a boy yells at a girl, even though she is swearing at him. (The students didn’t know each other and had never spoke to each other before.) Our administrative team has debated the amount of time we spend listening to adults degrade us -- calling us names, and telling us how to do our job when most haven’t had the experience of working with a large number of teens -- before we politely end the conversation.

Sometimes, when the conversation is over, you get the feeling that the parent will be moving up the administrative chain of command. Do board members and your superintendent understand the situations at hand when bizarre conversations go up the ladder to them? Should that be a conversation we have with our superiors so we are on the same page when this happens?

Now that I have been an administrator for over ten years, I occasionally find myself reviewing past decisions. Many of these include parents arguing with me, insisting that their son or daughter is innocent. I remain firm, fair, and consistent, but the excuses from parents and students often conflict with common sense. Should a student have been disciplined when I found a cigarette (that was so old it was falling apart) under the seat of his newly acquired used car? Should a senior student be disciplined if his or her blood alcohol level is 0.03 after his dad argues he and his son stopped drinking at midnight while working on a truck the night before? Parents often have believable stories that may or may not be true - this forces us to question our decision to stand firm on what we believe is true.

I heard about an amazing mother who told a priest a little white lie so her son avoided missing a District basketball tournament practice because it was the same time as a religious retreat. If my mom...I mean someone's mom, a normally outstanding parent, can fabricate a story to avoid this conflict, what parent wouldn’t try to alter facts to make their child look innocent? As administrators, we can’t let outside influences affect our decision to do what is right. Doing the work up front to guide our decisions should create a confidence regardless of what parents may report.

Andy Kowalczyk is an Assistant Principal at Bay City High School and represents Region 4 on the MASSP Board of Directors