Administrators face dilemma in supporting striking teachers amid disruption
- Teacher strikes that have spread to several states have often put administrators in the position of supporting their staff but still grappling with ways to handle the disruptions caused by the days they schools are shut down, District Administration reports.
- All 55 superintendents in West Virginia supported teachers when they were out for nine days in February, but then had to make up the days under state law, canceling spring break and using teacher professional development days. The strike by teachers in Oklahoma disrupted testing, for example, and some also worry students who rely on meals at schools missed them.
- One expert says administrators should work with teachers to understand their concerns, should prepare for work stoppages, and should communicate accurately and quickly with students, families and the community if there is a job action. They should also have a “trusted peer” with whom to consult.
The Wall Street Journal has recently reported that, in Arizona, administrators had to soothe parents who were irked by the strike because their students were out of school. And in Colorado, administrators closed schools preemptively when work stoppage involved teachers taking sick days and protesting in other ways to avoid the state’s ban on strikes.
Often, administrators have supported teachers — notably in Tulsa, OK, where both the Washington Post and Education Week reported that the superintendent believed the teacher demands for higher pay and more money for education were legitimate. Deborah Gist joined protesters at the state capitol and spoke to legislators.
While administrators must make a decision about simply being supportive of their staff when they are considering a job action, they also may back them because in many instances they are asking for more school funding and support for students.
Georgetown professor Joseph McCartin, the director of the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University, has said that such labor actions are “bargaining for the common good” because they go beyond the personal issues and are address issues important to our communities and help point to shared goals.
- District Administration K12 teacher strikes pose challenges for administrators