When you have a crazy principal….

Summer is over for my family; it’s dead and gone. School started for the kids last Monday and they actually attended a whole five days before the Labor Day Weekend. That is pretty usually for our school district. We usually go for two or three days, have the Labor Day weekend and they do a four day week. I’m not complaining and the kids aren’t complain either. They both seem excited to be going to school this year. That is always good for a parent to know that their children don’t hate school.

The weather has also turned into days of rain, clouds, cold temperatures, and windstorms. My white trash pool is full of debris and with no sunshine, the solar panels are not heating up the pool water so I’m not going inside it. I’m pretty sure the water in the pool is now 65 degrees F. In the middle of the pool is a pile of cedar branches. Oh, poor me, I have First World problems. 

With the disappearance of our wonderful sunny summer weather and the start of school, I’m back in the thick of my school photography season. Most of the prep work of my business has been taken care of but I still have schools booking into dates. I have one holdout where the principal has decided that she wants a new photographer. She is making it difficult for the PTA and I to book a date for school photos at her school. She blames me for her royal screw up. She is a narcissistic control freak who has to reinvent the wheel and touch every program. She believes she is an expert in everything (including school photographer and yearbook design and production). I’ve heard from various staff members, parents, and PTA members she is changing how everything is done in the school. Systems that worked fine in the past and that are time tested, refined, and work are now changed because “she has a better idea”.

I mentioned she blamed me for a failure on her part. I didn’t know she blamed me until the PTA president told me. Let’s take a trip back memory lane, to last spring. I’ve been trying to get the school to schedule the activity photo day for the yearbook group for months because the yearbook deadline was approaching. Little did I know the principal has to personal look at everything and had created a bottleneck in the communication process. Instead of a principal focusing on school administration, she is to focusing on micromanaging everything in the school building. I’m surprised she hasn’t personally told everyone to just have their email accounts come through her first.

In the past, for activity group/club/sport team photo day, we worked with the main office, had a time schedule, and the office would make an announcement that a certain group should now come down to have their photo taken. The system had worked for the past 15 years.

 Well, the Principal (brand new to the school) decided she didn’t want to do it that way. She decided that they would send runners to get the kids. She neglected to inform the teachers of the new process or me. She thought God would someone let us know.

So I’m photographing the various groups on time according to the time table and the schedule I was given. No one gave me rosters to check if the kids were all there or a walkie talkie for communication. No staff members came out to tell me that kids were “missing” from the photos. I was doing it the exact same way I have always done, you know, the way that actually worked.

So now the principal is trying to get rid of me because she blames me for her failed system. She doesn’t like to admit that, hey, she screwed up because she didn’t want to listen to her staff or the photographer with 22 years experience. We had a system that was time tested and worked. It has been refined and adjusted over the years by a team of people, not one person who had an “idea” of how to do it.

She also tried to get the PTA to purchase 300 yearbooks, when in the past, the PTA (I’m also a PTA member) has sold only 223 yearbooks in their best year (which was last year). We did not want to have unsold 75 yearbooks which the PTA would have had to eat the cost of. The PTA and I refused to do it so she took the yearbook project over and purchased 300 yearbooks with school funds. Did she sell 300 books? No, she didn’t. She has at least 50 yearbooks leftover that you and I (as taxpayers) paid for. That is at least $750.00 wasted (some estimates put unsold books at 75 copies for a loss of $1125.00). That’s money that could have been spent directly on the education of the school children in her school. She blames the lack of sales to kids missing from the yearbook group photos. Hmm, with a turnover of 400-500 kids out of 600 kids in the school per year, there isn’t a lot kids that stay a whole school year. Maybe if she knew her student population and the demographic make up of her families, she might have a better clue of how the yearbooks would sell. But again, why listen to historical sales figures. She must be a business expert too!

Now, I’m all for continuos improvement. I have a business degree from the University of Washington and have been in photography for 22 years, I know a little bit about how to photograph large number of people in a short amount of time. I also know about yearbooks and looking at past sales figures to project what future sales will be.. I like to improve sales because that leads to more business and profits for me. However, I will not take an order just for short term gain when I know the end product (in this case yearbooks) won’t be all sold. That’s bad business and bad business ethics.

I really dislike how this principal is trying to make me the scrape goat for her mismanagement. I’d like to go over her head and complain but I honestly don’t think the district cares about this problem. And the policy is usually to leave decisions up to the principal. The PTA and I have a school photo contract but the principal just says she wants to find a replacement for me.

I think a better solution is to contact the local newspaper or Jessie Jones from KIRO TV Channel 7 CBS news to talk with her. Ask why she is wasting taxpayers money and stealing money from the PTA (I pay them a commission from the school photo sales). With everything on her plate, I can’t imagine she will remember she also needs to book a school photographer. I’m hoping she forgets and then in November, when parents ask the school when “Photo Day is?”, she will be like “Oh, crap! I forgot I was trying to do a power play with the PTA and didn’t schedule a photographer for school photos!”. Of course, I suspect she is already talking with another photography company and will book with them. The PTA and I will be cut out, they will lose their commission, and the parents will get crappy school photos. So everyone wins, right