In a recent article, Boston Public School official Tommy Chang has opted to reinstate former principal Michael Contompasis to extinguish the fireworks associated with alleged Boston Latin School racism. Chang has taken a step backwards by endorsing a leadership style that has contributed to the present culture of the Boston Latin School. Chang can only expect to extinguish the Boston Latin School racism fireworks by recruiting leaders who have the leadership characteristics associated with promoting positive racial teacher student classroom relationships (Properateasclaships).
In a recent article, Michael Contompasis Named Interim Boston Latin School Headmaster, it was reported that Contompasis served as headmaster at the Boston Latin School from 1976 to 1998. Contompasis graduated from Boston Latin in 1957. He was selected as the COO of Boston Public Schools in 1998, and served as the district’s superintendent from 2005 to 2007.
It is ridiculous to believe that Contompasis will have the leadership characteristics necessary to appropriately extinguish the racism fireworks. If anything can be expected, it is that he is an expert at inhibiting any attempts to transform the schools culture to one that benefits Black students.
This type of behavior has become a primary reason why Blacks do not trust school officials. Some minorities believe they cannot trust White institutions becuase Black students are convinced that White teachers are racist and prejudiced and reject White teachers’ authority due to their experience with racism. Black students frequently find themselves in classrooms where their culture, racial, and linguistic identities are under constant attack that manifests as a multitude of disciplinary actions, suspensions, and expulsions.
What are the leadership characteristics that perpetuate racism fireworks?
Leaders who emphasize discipline perpetuate racism fireworks. This type of leader believes that students want to be disciplined. They hold the assumption that Black students are untrustworthy and emphasize the usage of coercion, tight controls, threats, and punishments to eliminate any fireworks associated with racism. They discriminate against students by detracting from the primary function of teaching, which decreases educational opportunities for students. These leaders support teachers who discriminate against students who are not White, male, and middle class.
Teachers with high percentages of Blacks in their classroom are more likely to use an authoritarian classroom management approach. Black students react to arbitrary and autocratic White teacher disciplinary assertiveness by believing that a White man is still trying to tell them what to do.
Leaders who expect to appropriately extinguish any fireworks associate with racism must have several additional leadership characteristics which include:
- Servant leaders take precautionary steps, remove obstacles, empower followers, and are persuasive.
- Social Justice leaders define and create theories and practices that ensure greater opportunities for all children.
- Feminist leaders create child-centered schools by ensuring staff members treat students with respect and dignity.
- Participative management leaders focus on self-reference, relationships seen and unseen, information sharing and deciphering, and self-organization.
- Transformational leaders develop shared visions within the organization, use research teams or school improvement teams as a way of sharing power, and allow teachers to experiment with new ideas. Transformational leaders create a reflective thinking process that results in rethinking patterns of historical behavior and enables followers to look at problems from different angles, and facilitate second-order changes.
- Transactional leaders require compliance from employees in exchange for expected rewards. Transactional leadership receives support from bureaucratic authority. If a bureaucracy is to operate successfully, it must maintain an unusual level of conformity.
Leaders who will avoid the fireworks associated with racism in schools will have an ethical platform grounded in values too. This leaders ethical values will correspond to faithfully developing good relationships. In this case, the leader will focus directly on enhancing the relationships between teachers and students. This leader will avoid the racism fireworks by embracing the development of a moral community and making the well-being of all students the fundamental center of all moral and ethical decisions.
Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 4707 Cherry Hill, NJ 08034
Author of Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships and Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships: Methodology
The Raccelerate Phenomenon
Treasures of Hidden Racism in Education
“The model that you use to analyze teacher-student relationships is a good one for most school districts”.
~ Joe Vas ~ Perth Amboy Mayor
“Dr. Campbell’s Cultural Relationship Training Program is comprehensive, informative, and should be required training for all schools”
~ Darrell Pope ~ Hutchinson Kansas NAACP President