Taking the Bully By The Horns
One of the great joys of summer
is to have the occasional opportunity to dive into
the piles of books set aside for vacation reading.
This summer, however, my delight has been tempered
by the events of late June. As a result, I have been
forced to delve into a topic of research that I find
I refer, of course to June
28, when Chancellor Joel Klein saw fit to publicly
humiliate 45 Principals. All of you are by now undoubtedly
familiar with what took place. The Department of Education
announced the removal of 45 Principals, whose names
were published during the following days in the city’s major newspapers.
But the tables soon turned on the Chancellor. Many of
those on the hit list included those who had retired
earlier in the year, were Interim Acting or were still
on probation. One Principal retired because she has cancer.
It soon became clear to many reporters that they had
been used to promote Joel Klein’s agenda.
Mr. Klein tried to present himself as an effective leader
who will not put up with poor performance and who swiftly
separates the wheat from the chaff. But his publicity
stunt backfired. By pumping up the numbers and misrepresenting
the truth, he ended up with mud on his shoes.
He still had a chance to show a human side. I sent him
a letter asking for an apology. Now a real leader would
have had the guts to stand up and admit he made a mistake.
Need I say more?
I have been in the school
system since 1959. I have seen about 15 Chancellors
come and go. I have seen decentralization hailed as
a cure as to what ailed the school system and I watched
it go out with hardly a whimper of resistance. I have
seen layoffs, budget crunches, and desperate times
for the city’s schools. I don’t remember
a more despicable display of power by any leader of the
As irresponsible as Mr. Klein’s
actions were on the face of it, his remarks sent a
message throughout the system, which brings me to the
topic for the remainder of this column: workplace bullying.
By publicly embracing such a policy, Mr. Klein promotes
the use of such tactics throughout the system. We cannot
stand for that kind of gross behavior. According to
my research, workplace bullying is persistent, intrusive
behavior exhibited by one or more individuals. It includes
humiliating, unwarranted offensive behavior toward
an individual or groups of employees. Such malicious
attacks on personal or professional performance are
typically unpredictable, unfair, irrational and often
unseen. Workplace bullying is an abuse of power or
position that can cause such anxiety that people gradually
lose all belief in themselves, and may suffer physical
or mental illness as a result. Bullying has been identified
as a more crippling and devastating problem than all
the other work-related stresses put together.
The literature is clear about how to handle bullying.
And I have said this again and again to my members. Do
not be afraid. A bully works through lies and deception.
You are not the problem, I tell my members; the bully
Jill Levy is the President of the Council of Supervisors
and Administrators which represents the principals,
assistant principals, supervisors, and administrators
in NYC public schools and day care directors.