More than one international educator has found themselves working for a greedy business owner whose only focus is to extract maximum profits from his or her school. Some school owners know literally nothing about education, yet see it as a lucrative business scheme while at the same time elevating their supposed philanthropic and social profile in the community.
Directors, like teachers, have good reason to stay on the right side of their bosses. But, at what point is a school director simply the minion of a greedy owner or board of directors, or in the worst-case scenario, complicit in the money-oriented venture called a “school”?
I’ve worked at both for-profit and non-profit schools. Neither designation guaranteed the type of experience I would have. At one school, the director supported his teachers against powerful parents and a board focused on what could kindly be termed a ‘minimalist’ agenda. He had the fortitude to stand up for what he believed in and refused to be reduced to puppet status. In the end, this director’s allegiance to students, staff and high educational standards cost him his job.
Another school was a different story. This director was the proverbial mouthpiece and bearer of bad news concerning pay reductions, health insurance cuts, non-existent supplies, and non-reimbursed shipping allowances. He went so far as to insist teachers bend to powerful parents (aka: paying customers) who were demanding their lazy kids get the grades they were “paying” for. The staff lost respect for him, and many of us jumped ship. Here was a PhD in Education who had sold out for a buck and was reduced to being a referee merely wielding the ax of the owner’s expectations, demands and threats.
The international teaching arena is rife with business people selling a high-priced, third-class education cleverly disguised behind the aura of credentialed Anglo faces from the US and UK. It appears there are some school directors ready and willing to do their unconscious bidding. I’m sure others are not so willing, yet succumb to the need to make a living.
Have you worked for a greedy school owner? What did you learn from the experience? Any advice for your colleagues on how to deal with a director who is loyal only to a ruthless board or owner?