One of the most critical relationships that needs to be in place and be highly effective is that between the board and their principal. The principal is the boards’ employee but, more importantly, operates both as professional leader and the chief executive for the board. How well that working relationship operates can have a significant impact on the operation of the school.
For the most part that relationship operates well, and there is nothing wrong with some robust debate along the way, but there may be times when the working relationship between the board and their principal needs some attention. For that reason we have a provision in the Secondary Principals Collective Agreement (c 4.3) which focus on what should happen to work through such a situation.
During the last renegotiation of the collective agreement there was discussion on how the provision operates and its effectiveness. As a result additional steps were provided to assist the process.
Para 4.3.2 was added, and the clause now reads:
"4.3 Working Relationship
4.3.1 Where there is a problem in the working relationship between the principal and the board (including individual board members) that has not been informally resolved and is to the detriment of the school, the board, in consultation with the principal, may consider appointing a suitably qualified independent person to mediate or facilitate between the parties and/or undertake an impartial and objective assessment of the concern(s).
4.3.2 This does not preclude the principal from requesting the process outlined in 4.3.1, to which the board shall give due consideration; or either the board or the principal from utilising Part Eleven of this agreement to resolve any issues arising from their working relationship." Secondary Principals’ Collective Agreement 2013-2016 part 4.3
From experience we find that taking a proactive approach can resolve matters early and successfully.
The key is the concept of good faith where the Employment Relations Act 2000 “requires the parties to an employment relationship to be active and constructive in establishing and maintaining a productive employment relationship in which the parties are, among other things, responsive and communicative”.
Unpicking the clause might be a useful example of how this may occur. In the first instance attempts should be made to resolve the problem informally. This can be through a conversation between the chair and principal or as part of the regular feedback as part of the performance review process. This ensures each is clear about what the issues are.
If the problem remains, then the board, in consultation with the principal, can engage some independent person to assist in resolving the problem.
It is not a one way process though, as the principal can also suggest that this occur and in good faith the board must give “due consideration” to that request. It would be unwise not to take up that opportunity, even if the board does not think there is a problem. One of the parties to the employment relationship does and that should be sufficient.
Alternatively the provisions in Part 11 of the collective can be applied which deal with resolving employment relationship problems. To some degree these are complementary to 4.3 but it gives more structure to the process.