I attended a charity auction recently, and was intrigued with the back-and-forth bidding for the “Principal of the Day” prize. The annual auction held by this private high school in San Antonio features some extravagant items, even a 30-day around-the-world cruise. As you can already tell, the school is tailored for individuals with deep pockets.

Principal for the Day

Parents bid on the prize of making their teenager principal for a day. The student will get the opportunity to take control of the school for the day, and will be envy of all the students. Probably not!

The bidding started at $200, and I thought it was going to fizzle quickly. I understand that a principal’s job is challenging, but I’m sure the winner will have limited powers. The highlight of the day might be ringing the bell, or making an end-of-day announcement. “It was great being your principal today. Thank you for behaving!” What can you really say?

The Eager Bidders

After the bidding hit $500, there were just two dads in the game. From what I know, their kids are rivals in the school, and the parents will do whatever possible to get the upper hand.

The bidding soon soared past the $1,000 and kept climbing. Many in the crowd were as shocked as I was that this prize was so valuable. Some wondered if they misunderstood the prize. Did it include the principal’s salary or part of his retirement benefits?

Given I knew the background between the two fathers, I understood they were going to keep raising the ante. Finally, the bidding slowed when at the $1,500 mark. The incremental increases were now in the $20 range and not in the hundreds.

The Winner! 

The auctioneer raised the price to $1,700, and one father held us up his card. Like in a tennis match, the crowd swung their heads to the other bidder. Showing nervousness, and at the same time some level of relief, he shook his head. The $1,700 price was too high, and he was prepared to lose this battle.

The winner was announced, and a smattering of applause was heard throughout the crowd. The winning parent looked more embarrassed than happy. I could sense the wife was a bit overwhelmed with the price, but looked happy that her hubby stuck with it and offered the highest bid. After all, her son could now rule the school for one entire day.


I’m not sure where to begin with the takeaway. I understand this was a charity event, and the money will be used for scholarships, textbooks, enhancements in technology, and so on. The benefits are obvious.

From a parent’s standpoint, I wonder the message this sends our children. “My dad paid $1,700 for me to be principal for the day.” It’s unlikely that line will carry any weight during a job interview. Moreover, leadership positions have more value when earned, and not bought.

Come to think of it … many of the problems we have around the world today arise from people who want something of value without the desire to earn it on their own.