Dear Cooki

Cooki Levy

How does the HOS appropriately end a conversation with a parent who has become rude and aggressive?

Here again, it is the job of the HOS to model and insist upon a tone of mutual respect. We understand that parents may become very emotional when discussing their children, especially when there are difficulties, and we know as well that the most vulnerable children often have the most vulnerable parents. For this reason, we expect that feelings may run high. The HOS may want to state this at the outset of a meeting that s/he knows will be difficult: “I know that you are very upset and angry. But we will only be able to help your child and find a solution if we listen to each other and speak with respect.” If the parent does become rude and aggressive, and a reminder about tone goes unheeded, the HOS should end the meeting, saying, “I see that you are unable to continue the meeting now. I will call you tomorrow to schedule a follow-up meeting when we will be able to speak and listen to each other in a more productive way.” The HOS should then stand up and end the meeting. The HOS should NEVER respond to a rude and aggressive parent by raising his voice or becoming rude or dismissive in return.

A board member calls to intervene on behalf of the child of close friends. His intervention is completely inappropriate, yet he is a valued member of the school’s executive committee. How does the HOS respond?

The task of the HOS is to educate board members as to their role in the school, clarifying which areas are the domain of the professionals and which belong to the lay leadership. It is in this context that the HOS can respond to the board member’s attempt to intervene. The HOS response to the board member should attempt to depersonalize the situation, speaking about maintaining the integrity of the board and seeking his/her partnership in achieving this goal, and about the inability of the HOS to discuss any student with a member of the board, “which I am sure you understand.” The HOS should also seek the help of the board chair, asking him or her to find an appropriate time and place to remind the Executive Committee members of the boundaries of their role. Once again, it is the job of the HOS to establish the tone of mutual respect that should be the hallmark of all communications.♦

Cooki Levy was the longtime head of the Akiva School in Westmount, Quebec, and is a mentor in the Day School Leadership Training Institute. Dear Cooki accepts questions from all school stakeholders. To submit a question, write to, with “Dear Cooki” in the subject line.

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HaYidion Networking Autumn 2012
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