If San Diego school principals and district administrators follow through with their efforts to unionize, what might the new organization look like? I decided to ask Michael O’Sullivan, the president of the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles.
The union formed about two decades ago, with the blessing of L.A.’s school board. Before the union was formed, the school administrators were represented by six different associations, which proved to be a headache for the district. Here’s what O’Sullivan said:
The advantages are that you have an organization which can deal directly with the board of education, with the superintendent in the loop, obviously, that can establish a contract and establish a structure where administrators’ rights are protected. That’s not to say that they’re being trampled.
I asked O’Sullivan what it was like to have a union that represents both the supervisors, and their supervisees. He admitted it created an unusual dynamic at times:
I’ve represented many administrators in a real toe-to-toe battle with their principal. And the next year, I represented that principal in some other issue. …
It’s not about who is right and wrong, it’s about the fairness of the process.
Finally, I asked him how the administrators got along with the local teachers’ union, which is known for the power it wields over the Los Angeles district. Here is what he said:
We have sort of a formal detente. Like you might imagine, a lot of it is personal. I can go out and have a drink with the teachers’ union president, and we can shoot the breeze. And the next day, we can be shouting at each other in the paper.