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Mark P. Murphy

mpm273@psu.edu
Educational Leadership
The Pennsylvania State University

Sunday, October 19, 2008

If it's not broke, oh, it is broke?

Note: This post was authored by "Carrie," a public school principal, and posted by the blog administrator.

"If it's not Broke, oh, it is broke?"

In my job as principal among other responsibilities I manage the building budget. Facilities, tools, supplies, and equipment cost money. What gets attention and support; what waits?

One of my most recent dilemmas involves where to spend our limited school resources. The superintendent created an entrepreneurial environment during her tenure. This included grant writing, planning for matching funds, and utilizing the building from early morning to late at night. If she had her way we would run 24/7/365 and make a reasonable return on the investment.

When the building, tools, and equipment are used hard repair and replacement are inevitable. Here are my choices for this week:

Hand washing stations in 8 labs need repaired or replaced; replacement costs for each station estimated at $7,000 and $10,000 each or $90 per hour for time and pay for materials as needed.

The cafeteria manager and the baking and pastry chef share the walk-in freezer. The food service manager (who moved to another district) ordered in bulk over the summer for fall delivery and government surplus was also delivered recently. The chef is gearing up for several large events in October and November and the other cafeteria managers have no room in their freezers at their schools. Additionally the three door reach-in freeze in the baking and pastry lab was diagnosed with two warped doors needing replaced at the cost of $1,400 each or to replace the entire freezer at the cost of $6,700.

With the help of local and grant funds over the past few years several of the manufacturing labs received new equipment, power, floors, and paint. The welding lab nearly doubled in floor space and equipment. Something having to do with the tig welders continues to set off the fire alarm pull stations in random parts of the building. It seems the additional tig welders or the movement of all the tig welders to a new bus bar or the ground or the proximity to the fire alarm wires creates the alarm. As the building principal you do not want to see your volunteer fire fighters several times over the course of two weeks. The company that installed the wiring and panel and the monitoring company do not suggest the same repair; electrical contractors are currently providing quotes. To date fixes range from internal and low cost and external over $10,000.

A major piece of equipment in the manufacturing cluster program is down and repair costs exceed 50% of the old equipment; a new piece could cost $20,000 or more. There is another class in the building with the same equipment.

The maintenance supervisor has been out since the end of May.

You may ask where the dilemma is. While these are facilities and equipment concerns students and teachers are impacted.

Interpretation of the problem (ethic of critique)
Stakeholders in this situation are students, teachers, maintenance/custodians, employers, community, and me. Students could be without a voice, are often impacted, and they do not know. For example the instructor teachers on other machines and does not use the manufacturing equipment or tig welder. The employers are impacted when the student applies for a job and starts working lacking a skill set. The community feels the clash when prices go up or the student employee loses a job. We also have adult education classes in the building; adult students also pay for training which should include tig welding.

Teachers take pride in their labs and their students. Teachers without proper facilities, equipment and tools are demoralized. This can be a very vocal or silent group. Maintenance and custodians work to keep facilities and equipment clean and safe, another vocal or silent group.

Relevant arenas of practice consist of self, profession, and organization. I see this as circle or figure-8 race track: self v. profession v. organization. When I refer to self I refer to each individual student, teacher, maintenance/custodian, and employer involved. These individuals clash with the profession and organization that should provide and yet have limited resources. The organization’s limited resources force a choice or choices providing for some and not all involved in the dilemma.

I believe pride in work and self are values in the conflict.

The turbulence created from the conflict impact morale and a feeling of helplessness. The teachers want the best for their students and themselves. When facilities and equipment are less than optimal discouragement descends.

Towards a humane response (ethic of care)
In this situation different stakeholders are faced with some similar and different levels of motivation. For example all stakeholders are concerned with values grounded in preference i.e. self, personal preference, habitual, and comfort. Students, teachers, employers, and community are motivated by outcomes. Is the student getting the proper training on the proper equipment? Are the facilities adequate? Is the student employable? Perceptions of others, consultation, and expert opinion are gathered when deciding where to spend money. This is not an experience in which the trans-rational appear.

The conflict is interpersonal for some and intrapersonal for me. The teachers, employers, and maintenance/custodians are at times at odds with one another. The intrapersonal conflict for me is the ultimate decisions for committing the resources. The human needs are to value and feel valued and validated by committing the funds to the program/s.

Ethical action (ethic of justice)

I believe the action or response that would maximize benefits and respect individual rights for all stakeholders is to give everyone new, now; this is not an option. I return to a much used educational word: adequate. Adequate sounds inadequate, sounds less than I want in my lab, in my school, for my students, or for my teachers.

Do the ends justify the means? And if this is truly an ethical dilemma how will I resolve the dilemma? In this example I lean toward avoidance and creative insubordination. Avoidance is not unconstructive in this regard; it is the solution that considers the desired outcomes and avoidance of negatives. There is a fine line between insubordination and subordination and in the above circumstances working in a team often drives the best results. The ends v. means? I liked the newspaper test reference. If this was in the paper tonight or tomorrow, what would I say? How would I feel? Would I still be working here?

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