Layers of Accountability: Are We Accountable to Parents?

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— Hope K.

Guest Article Ken Langley, South Africa

Schools serve the families in their communities. School Principals serve the parents of those families.

Most of us, whether from a parent or a principal perspective, would agree with those statements. Nevertheless, it remains a topic of heated debate, frustration and misunderstanding. In my experience as a school principal, much of the frustration arises out of a lack of comprehension of what I would call 'layers of accountability'. 

School principals, in their leadership are accountable on a number of different levels. Not only are they accountable to parents, they are also accountable to their Board, the Education Department, relevant legislation pertaining to schools, principles of good practice and, above all, to the Word of God. This accountability occurs in layers and it is vital for the principal to be clear about the hierarchy that exists in the layers of accountability. This clarity must be established in the principal's own mind and must then be communicated clearly to stakeholders in the school. 

Parents at a school may be disappointed at times when the principal takes actions that do not line up with their own, sometimes narrow and selfish desires for their children. These disappointments, if left unchecked, will develop over time into resentment and still later into bitterness. In the face of such opposition, the school principal must remain clear in his resolve to adhere to accountability to fundamental educational principles and Biblical directives. Even Jesus found himself in situations where he disappointed the expectations of his loyal followers because his layers of accountability called him to place accountability to his Father and his mission on earth as the greater priority. "Get behind me, Satan!" he said to Peter, in Mark 8:33, "You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns." 

Unfortunately, parents will occasionally fail to see the motives of the heart of the principal in his decision-making. They will attribute what they perceive as a poor decision to lack of competence or insight, and will aggressively oppose the school's direction, questioning the level of accountability expected from the school principal. I like what Paul wrote about this:

This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. (1 Corinthians 4:1-5 NIV)

Notice that Paul does not say that he doesn't care at all what the people think, he says he cares 'very little'.  It is important for us, as school principals, to ensure that we do not totally disregard what parents in our school feel; we should simply care very little in comparison to our level of accountability to God and his calling for our school.

Regardless of our hurt or betrayal felt regarding the vindictive attacks of some parents, we must, must, must prove faithful to the trust we have been given. Part of this faithful response must be to never tire of stating, clarifying and reinforcing the motives of our heart in each leadership decision, emphasizing our accountability to the God that has given us this trust. Apart from addressing the concerns of the parents, this exercise can serve to align our own thinking with our Father's abundant wisdom! Perhaps the Holy Spirit will even reveal the hardness of our own heart and direct us to re-examine the relevant layers of accountability pertaining to the situation.