In response to the post, “A Reader Shares… Sunday Advice – 2/7/10,” a reader writes:

“I do not like to disagree with Don Brown, Sean Cain, or Bob Brezina but I am going to have to on this point.

The principal is NOT the only pure advocate for students on the campus and to make that flippant statement is ludicrous! I know several campus administrators and I am one of them, who are not the head principal but are very happy with where I am placed at the current time and we are powerful advocates for the students, sometimes MORE than the principal.

Not every assistant principal is striving for a seat in the big chair, and I absolutely do not put any other need before the students. I do not know where this philosophy was born, but is has become a common philosophy among the LYS staff and it really pisses me off! Counselors, nurses, special education teachers, and AP’s can sometimes be the best advocates for students.

As far as I am concerned, many principals spend a little too much time at central office worried about their next promotion to central office. Head principals are sometimes the most out-of-touch people on the campus. So to say they are the only true advocate is idiotic and stupid.

Don’t piss off this Marine, I will send rounds down range without aiming first. Friendly fire can be the deadliest.”

SC Response
Oh, the power of context. The pure (not only) advocate rule is short hand for a longer explanation, which is obviously warranted at this time. The rule is not meant to imply that individuals, regardless of position, are not motivated to ensure that student needs are met and can not set aside adult wants. This occurs all of the time. Instead the rule recognizes that certain roles can have role specific agendas that can be contrary to a student first agenda.

For example, teachers do all of the heavy lifting in education. They are where the rubber hits the road and student learning is directly correlated to their sweat equity. But it is human nature to want to reduce your work load and take labor saving short cuts. Saving labor and maximizing instructional effectiveness is often a mutually exclusive proposition.

Assistant principals, as a role, often serve as the “bad cop” on the campus. In this role, sacrificing the needs of a few students to facilitate order and effective school operations can be a logical course of action. As an aside, you were trained in a program specifically designed to protect students from this type of situation, so you know first hand the fights we had everyday with adults who did not share our philosophy.

Central Office personnel are generally focused on the “big” picture. Even with the purest of hearts, they make decisions that are best for the whole, even when they know that those decisions, by necessity, will be detrimental to some individuals.

Board members, as elected officials are naturally oriented toward political necessities, which by definition are the needs and wants of adults.

The principal, due to the fact that she is most directly accountable for the performance of her campus, is put in the position to be the best pure advocate for each individual student. The principal occupies the sweet spot where self-interest and community interest is best defined by student performance. Thus, Brown’s Rule.

Brown’s Rule is not meant to be insulting. It is meant to stimulate awareness and to serve as both a warning and a challenge to rise above ourselves and set aside our personal needs. This recognition of positional roles and the need to balance their destructive “passions” is not a new concept or dilemma. Brown’s rule simply recognizes at a school level what Adams, Hamilton, Madison identified and then built organizational structures to overcome at the nation building level.

Now to your comment, which fired me up. If you are going to disagree, do so at full speed! First, hopefully you can now see that the comment is not flippant. Plus, you know that Brown (and Brezina) is very deliberate in what he says. A skill that he has honed through decades of leadership at the campus, district, community, state and national levels.

Second, we all agree that individually, educators in all positions make numerous decisions each day the place the needs of students over their individual wants. Again, the rule illustrates that there are position based agendas that if not checked, can easily run counter to the needs of students.

Third, yes, there are ineffective, lazy, and just plain bad principals. And for as tough as some people think I am on teachers, I’m ten times as tough on leadership in general and principals in particular (again, as you have witnessed first hand). A bad teacher can sink a class, but a bad principal can sink an entire school.

So hold your fire Marine. There’s no need to frag the messenger. E. Don, is there anything that you want to add?

Think. Work. Achieve.

Your turn…