Relations between schools and municipal authorities.

PositionEducation for Arabs in Israel

The status of the municipal authority as the agent directly and officially in charge of local high schools makes this authority an important player in the local educational process, especially in the context of high schools. Most of our respondents spoke of unhealthy relations between municipal officials and school staff -- relations often marked by acrimony between municipal officials. particularly the mayor and the director of the education department, on the one hand. and the principal or some members of the staff, on the other.

Such was the case in al-Jabal. Most of the teachers employed in the local high school when it was established (fifteen years ago) were from out of town because of a shortage of academically trained candidates in the locality. The number of local academics has risen recently and, because they have few employment options, many of them have asked the municipal authority to hire them as teachers in this school. This request has created a serious problem. The local academics began to lobby the mayor through their families, who support the mayor, (24) and through members of the municipal council. The municipal authority would like to honor their requests but cannot dismiss the out-of-town senior staff without justifiable cause. Therefore, it has begun to harass these teachers in hopes of forcing them to resign. It has begun discriminating against them, as one of the teachers explained: "The thing that concerned the council treasury was the 'outside' teachers' travel cost."

The mayor has a long list of grievances against the school and its teachers. Specifically, he accuses the latter of lack of dedication in their work. In his opinion,

The teachers in the local high school do not consider their profession a calling. They do not keep tabs on their students [in school], let alone after school hours....They teach the material in class in an alienating way and do not give a thought to the student and his future.

The director of the municipal education department, in contrast, pointed to irregularities in the municipal authority, unfair treatment by the municipal authority of some high-school teachers, particularly senior staff members, and spoke of special perks given to new local teachers. We scheduled an interview with him and agreed to speak on any topic of his choosing, but he failed to appear. He later apologized and let it be known that he was afraid of dismissal in the event that his consent to be interviewed were leaked to his superiors. The estrangement between the variuos officials led the mayor himself to declare it necessary to establish a commission of inquiry to probe the state of education in his locality.

The pressure applied to the "outside" teachers was manifested in lack of advancement, in that the deprivation of administrative assignments and other privileges, and in the reduction of their teaching hours. Influence peddling and political-support gambits that local teachers played with the municipal authority officials, especially at election time, exacerbated the conflicts and polarization within the school and between the school and the authority. Another aggravating factor was religious affiliation: most of the "outside" teachers were Christian and the municipal authority was dominated by Muslims. Local Christian teachers also began to feel threatened and believed that their advancement was slower than that of Muslim and Druze teachers who were close to the mayor. The swapping of jobs between the principal and vice-principal, a confidant of the mayor and member of a...

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