Common Dilemmas

by Rushworth Kidder and Patricia Born
The world of school system leaders is rich with right-versus-right dilemmas involving situations where a clear moral backing exists for each option but where the two are mutually exclusive. Consider these:

* Having just fired a teacher for suspected sexual harassment, do I pass this information on to a colleague in another school district who may be about to hire him? (truth versus loyalty)

* Having been offered a better opportunity in another school district, do I seek to be released from my current contract or stay until the agreed-to end? (individual versus community)

* With pressure from some quarters in the community to keep taxes low, do I nevertheless push for a new middle school to prepare for an influx of students down the road? (short-term versus long-term)

* When students cross the line of acceptable behavior—as they did at the St. Paul’s School outside Baltimore—do I exert the full force of justice or bow to the pleas of their parents and friends for an exception? (justice versus mercy)