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January 19, 2013


Wow, so interesting--and complicated!

My immediate (i.e., not thoroughly thought-through--what a tongue-twister) thoughts:

If this happened at SA, I'm guessing that the GGE, an upper-level administrator who has also been (though isn't now) an English teacher, would probably serve for a year.

Your department is showing off its functionality and collegiality by even having this discussion. I can think of SA depts that would be flamboyantly displaying their lack of both around this kind of uncertainty!

You are in a position to negotiate here. Whatever the head has up her sleeve is probably going to be worth mulling over. I know you've shared with me that FGS is very transparent about salary and there isn't a lot of room to negotiate that--but there are other things, like time (except I gather that you don't want to teach much less) and the possibility of D. working there. If you look like the obvious person to your colleagues--and I'm sure you look like the obvious person to the head--well, then, there is strong incentive to make it possible for the obvious person to do it.

Do you have a sense yet of how open they might be to hiring D.?

So exciting!

MS, it's really not clear at all how open they'll be to hiring D., and for me that's the big open question. If it were simply not a possibility, then I would be happy to negotiate doing the chair position for a year, keeping my current fifth-period equivalence, and teaching one less class.

On the other hand, if none of us internal folks takes on the position, and the sabbatical replacement is therefore also the chair, then there won't be a non-chair temporary position for D. to apply for at all! So the whole D. possibility is only an issue if we take care of department leadership internally.

It's all very convoluted and complicated. Oy.

What about seeking out someone in an allied department (social studies? foreign lang?) and seeing if they would be interim chair? Especially if the chair wouldn't deal with curricular issues for the year and truly focus on administrative things? That would at least keep the position internal to the school...

Thanks for the suggestion, Hypatia ... but I would bet good money that the departmental functionality and collegiality that MS noted would disappear fairly quickly if someone from another department were put in the interim chair role! We all get along quite well, but we have a strong sense of departmental boundaries in the upper school! (but not in the middle school, where lots of folks teach in multiple departments.)

Splitting between two (one taking a course release in each term?) can work. Rarely does splitting among more. At least in my experience.

At my place, we had someone from one department step in to chair a department in the short run (up to a year). That can work well if the outsider has both institutional experience and good people skills to work with the new department but that entirely depends on the department culture, so I understand your hesitation.

Good luck!

I LOVE the option of two people sharing the job, and I'd be impressed if the administration allowed it as a possibility. We've kicked around the idea here, because overall no one really wants to be chair, but there are two of us who might consider being talked into it, and we would love to do it together. We've both (at different times) been interim chair, and we each frequently consult the other - she's sensible about the things I don't get, and vice versa, so I think between us we make a really decent chair. (Which is not really the situation you're talking about, but I got so excited about seeing someone actually consider that possibility that I had to share. There's no way our dept. would actually let that happen.)

At least it sounds like everyone's being open and honest and well-meaning about the possibilities and what they mean, which is the biggest hurdle for things like this. Keeping my fingers crossed for D. and for a good chair solution for you!

As an economist, my main thought is... what can be done to the job to make it so it would be worthwhile to you as a one year position? How much additional salary or course reduction or modified duties etc? What would it take for it to be worthwhile for you and keep you still writing your book? You could also ask for a guarantee that you'd get your magazine position back and not do hockey.

Each one of your colleagues could be thinking about what it would take for them as well...

Since one can get a little crazy with brainstorming, here is a crazy/creative thought - what about a student taking on some of the role (a senior, or recent grad taking a gap year).

in my department, we have an interim "triumvirate." One person is the named head, and then 2 help out. Each has a discrete role. No one wanted to be head - esp because we are hiring and are a state school -- hiring therefore takes far longer than anyone expects -- thus there is no clear end in sight. I think it is working quite well, and faculty were involved in finding this solution, which has definitely helped ensure its success.

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Who is this What Now?

  • I'm an English teacher at Fabulous Girls' School (FGS). I'm a convert to Judaism. I am partner to D. We live in an adorable, messy little house in Adventure City. Two cats -- the Muse and the Contemplative -- live with us and keep life at home plenty adventurous.

    Email me at whatnowblogger at yahoo dot com.

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