(FOR MY BOSS)
ETHICS FOR THE SCHOOL PRINCIPAL
By Prof. Efrain Suarez-Arce
Administration of Financial Resources in Educational Institutions
Prof. Edna Orta-Anes
“If you cannot be ethical and honest please do not assume the leadership position of principal at a school.”
According to Community Tool Box, Ethical behavior, in its simplest terms, is knowing and doing what is right. Of course different individuals, different cultures, and different religions define “right.” in different ways.
The decisions we make as school administrators, as well as the ways by which we make those decisions, determine whether or not we are ethical leaders. The issue of ethical leadership is one we simply can’t avoid.
As an ethical leader, I must first act and make decisions ethically and also lead ethically – in the ways I treat people in everyday interaction, in my attitudes, in the ways I encourage, and in the directions in which I steer the school or organization that has been entrusted to me.
Ethical leadership is both visible and invisible. The visible part is in the way the leader works with and treats others, in his behavior in public, in his statements and his actions. The invisible aspects of ethical leadership lie in the leader’s character, in his decision-making process, in his mindset, in the set of values and principles on which he draws, and in his courage to make ethical decisions in tough situations.
Ethical leaders are ethical over time, proving again and again that ethics are an integral part of the intellectual and philosophical framework they use to understand and relate to the world.
According to John C. Maxwell, “Ethics entails action; it is not just a topic to mull or debate.” Is it right? Is it fair? Is it equitable? Is it honest? Is it good for people? These are all questions of ethics.
Unethical behavior is not only what you believe to be right and fair, it is a reflection of one’s personal brand and what people can expect from us personally and professionally. Even celebrities such as Wesley Snipes, Willie Nelson, and Darryl Strawberry have fallen from grace in the eyes of the public and learned the hard way that unethical—and in their cases, illegal—behavior such as tax evasion can result in a prison term. The consequences of unethical behavior can range from embarrassment to suspension, loss of job, or even jail time, depending on the act.
Rosa L. Weaver, a retired principal and an assistant professor at Northern Kentucky University, in her article for the National Association of Elementary School Principals, states that principals are faced with hundreds of decisions each day and that many of those decisions are based on fairness, equity, and the success of students.
- a) Be a role model for fairness. Make a conscious effort to be fair to personnel and students. Faculty, staff, and students need to know that they will be treated fairly when you make a decision.
- b) Be consistent. Parents and teachers need to trust that your decisions will be consistent and that you will not make exceptions.
- c) Train teachers to be responsible for their actions. Many teachers have had little ethics training, so you must provide them with opportunities to discuss ethical dilemmas. Teachers need to understand that they are responsible for all of their actions, especially in providing lessons that meet the needs of all students. They must also fairly assess students only on material that was taught in class. Teachers are also responsible for classroom discipline, and they should have the opportunity to discuss moral dilemmas that could arise.
- d) Know the mores of your school community. What is acceptable in some communities is not acceptable in others.
- e) Understand that you and your teachers are accountable for your actions 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Because educators are held to a higher standard than other professionals, many teachers and principals have lost their jobs because of their actions outside of school. For example, an argument with a neighbor can result in police action and negative press.
- f) Provide adequate supervision of students at all times. Someone must be responsible for students from the time that the first one enters your building until the last one leaves.
- g) Make sure that your teachers avoid being alone with students. There have been many accusations of inappropriate action when there were no witnesses to defend the teacher.
- h) Don’t avoid situations in your school that require your intervention. For example, immediately confront a teacher who bullies or ridicules students. If a teacher flirts with students or tells inappropriate jokes, others will perceive that you find this behavior acceptable if you don’t say anything.
- i) Avoid inappropriate relationships with students. Principals and teachers face ethical dilemmas when they call children at home or meet them outside of school without a good professional reason. There is really no good reason for a student to visit the home of a teacher or principal, and nothing good can come of it.
- j) The AASA’s Statement of Ethics for Educational Leaders states that our conduct as school administrators must conform to an ethical code of behavior, The school administrator provides professional leadership across the district and also across the community. This responsibility requires the administrator to maintain high standards of professional conduct while recognizing that his or her actions will be viewed and appraised by the community, professional associates and students. The work of the leader must emphasize accountability and results, increased student achievement, and high expectations for each and every student.
 There’s No Such Thing as “Business” Ethics (New York: Center Street, 2003), 23–24.
 Manual Velasquez, Claire Andre, Thomas Shanks, and Michael J. Meyer, “What Is Ethics?” Santa Clara University, http://www.scu.edu/ethics/practicing/decision/whatisethics.html (accessed August 31, 2009).
 Stefanie Fontenez, “Tax-Troubled Celebrities, Politicians, Outlaws,” CNN.com, April 15, 2008, http://www.cnn.com/2008/LIVING/wayoflife/04/15/famous.tax/index.html