In Comparative Government, we’ve learned about the various political systems of countries from around the world. We’ve covered their history, economic situation and demographics all in an effort to fully understand their political system. But what we don’t learn about as much is opportunity. Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s president, could have been the country’s best leader had he not been corrupt. Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain failed to live up to his full potential because his government got mired in Iraq.
Stuyvesant has a large and complex bureaucracy that rivals that of a small city. As with any bureaucracy, its effectiveness is determined by its leader. So it is that with Stuyvesant under the guidance of Principal Stanley Teitel, we have lost an opportunity for something greater.
It seems that Teitel’s fatal flaw is his avoidance of blame and decision-making responsibility. In two major issues over the past year, he has tried to duck-intentionally or otherwise- making a big call until the truth was discovered by the rest of the school community. Last year, in deciding whom the next Coordinator of Student Affairs would be, he cited a stipulation in the teacher’s contract that the position had to be reassigned. This was not true. Just this month he quoted a nonexistent Chancellor’s regulation that required students to remain in the building during their free periods. In actuality, the Chancellor has said that it is up to Teitel himself to dictate such policy.
This leads to two possible, but equally counterproductive, conclusions. Teitel could honestly be unfamiliar with the rules and regulations that dictate the rights of students and teachers. Or even worse, he is purposefully trying to shirk responsibility to avoid being held accountable for an unfavorable decision.
The more likely of the two is that Teitel is trying to please everyone at once, which in and of itself is not a bad goal. After all, who doesn’t like to come out of a negotiation session with some sort of concession? The problem is that in attempting this impossible task, he ends up making decisions based on what he expects the school community will want-which is rarely what is actually wantedor making no decision at all, letting the issue stagnate.
His delegation of duties to other members of his cabinet compounds this problem. Last term, when the administration began voiding IDs of latecomers from lunch, Teitel was unaware that the policy even existed until The Spectator asked him about it. He had let other administrators dictate a schoolwide policy that should have come across his desk, but in an effort to not be involved, I believe, he took no such role.
Now, delegation of responsibility is not indicative of poor judgment. In fact, the greatest of leaders have mastered to whom to give what responsibilities and when. Teitel, however, has delegated too much authority to people who are not necessarily entitled to it, the mark of a leader with room to improve. Teitel needs to shed the idea that he can please everyone and stick to making the best decisions he can for the school, which so badly deserves