School principals can’t only be responsible to ministers

Centre for Civic Education (CCE) reminds of the detrimental consequences of legal provision, which prescribes that minister, not the school and managerial boards, appoints the principals of educational institutions, because it decreases the level of democratic participation of local community and teaching staff. Practice also proved that this creates room for the implementation of arbitrariness and discrimination against those who contemplate in a different manner.

This was backed by the verdict of Basic Court in Podgorica, which annulled and rendered the decision of Public institution Secondary School “Vaso Aligrudić” unlawful. That decision referred to the disciplinary measure of income reduction to one of the professors of that school, Mladen Klikovac.

As a reminder, after a series of personal disagreements between the director of PI Secondary School “Vaso Aligrudić” Veselin Pićurić and professor Klikovac, Pićurić launched a disciplinary procedure against Klikovac, which resulted in the reduction of his salary in the amount of 5% for the duration of 3 months due to the alleged disciplinary misdemeanour. In this case, the disciplinary procedure was launched illegally in terms of the process, because Pićurić both launched and passed the disciplinary decision based on the principle of “I sued you, I get to judge you”, instead of excluding himself from the process and allowing the third party to make the decision. Henceforth, the acting judge clearly recognised the illegality of such act.

This case also constitutes the judicial confirmation that the appointment of school principals by the minister narrows the level of accountability of principals to minister only, in other words, it leavers more room for malfeasances and conflicts with opponents.

Disciplinary procedures in schools must not become a commonplace when solving personal disagreements at the expense of those with less power. Thus, this verdict is a strong warning for the competent Ministry to consider the initiative to amend the law in the part concerned with the appointment of school principals. CCE would like to believe that there are more principals who perform professionally and fairly, and that these cases and poor practice are a rare occurrence which must be sanctioned efficiently. However, this will likely not happen as long as the principals are protected by the ministers.

Mira Popović, Programme associate