Monday, June 2, 2008

Busy Summer!

Clean! Clean! Clean the school. Today, I was completing all the end of the year reports and it hit me. My summer is going to be slammed. In addition to my job, I am working on my final degree: 4 classes, an exam, and a paper. That doesn't sound that bad. At least there is an end in sight. The 4 classes will consume M-TH from 5-9, 1 online class (done in my free time), and one class which meets 2 Sundays a month. The exam is a comprehensive exam of all the leadership classes in my doctoral program. Then there is that paper. That lengthy bound book, which is the right of passage of all the other egg heads and misguided scholars. I must confess that my motives for all this education are less than noble.

Money! The root of all evil.

If it weren't for my desire to provide for my wife and 2 girls, I would probably still be in the classroom. Teaching was certainly more noble and intrinsically rewarding. Unfortunately, our society does not pay well for being noble.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tough Decisions??

A good friend of mine asked me what is the hardest part of being a principal.

Bureaucracy? (I almost chose this one)

My answer: Making tough decisions to solve difficult problems.

I have a student, Biff, who was SENT OFF (my term for a juvenile detention center) and missed most of the school year. I must admit that I feel sorry for the little turd. Dad is incarcerated (in a real detention center). Mom is an addict. Biff lives with his grandmother, who is really trying to straighten him out. She came to me about a week ago and asked if I knew of any summer programs where she could send Biff. She works from 8 to 4 and is worried about leaving him home unsupervised. She began to cry. I don't like when grandmas cry in my office. I am not wired to handle that very well.

Tough Decision:
This summer I will be short staffed on custodial help. Normally, we hire a kid to come and work when we are short-handed. I threw out the notion of hiring Biff for this summer. My secretary thinks I am nuts. A few teachers have vowed to lock up all personal belongings (although Biff has never stolen anything-his issues normally involve tobacco, girls, and his temper). They might be right. I can just picture the debacle. He might be annoying. He might steal things. He might be lazy. I just don't know if it is worth the risk. I could list a 1,000 reasons not to hire this kid for the summer, but my gut tells me to do it. I got a hunch about the kid. Every single one on one encounter I have had with Biff has been respectful. If I had his parents, I would act out too. I really just think he needs somebody to believe in him.

I told him I would make my final decision and let him know tomorrow. We will see.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Are you going to use that?

This is that time of year when teachers retire, resign, or fall victim to non-renewal. I might add that as an administrator the latter is the most unpleasant part of my job. It is always heart wrenching when you tell someone (who has a family) that they no longer have a job. Luckily, this year my school only has retirements and resignations. It has given me a chance to watch another interesting dynamic in schools.

I call it the Vulture Effect.

I noticed the swarm this afternoon as the remaining staff circled the classrooms of departing loved ones. I wondered what was going on, and then it became all to clear.


The first round of scavengers goes for the personal items. These are the items which the dead must choose to give away or pack up into a box and haul away to an attic never to be used again. Once the extremities have been picked clean, then comes the ravenous assault on the main flesh of a room. This is wear the buzzards come and ask semi-permission. (Some don't even ask)

"I want her desk."
"I want the SmartBoard."
"May I have her teacher's desk?"
"May I have their planning period?"
"May I have their parking spot?"
(We don't really have parking spots, but if we did they would ask)

May we at least wait til they leave the building before we devour their existence? Who cares that the 1st year college grad walks into a room devoid of all semblance of human life?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Why do we give grades?-A rant

I woke up this morning all happy. One week to go and today is our awards program. I was helping set up, when I got called to the office for an urgent parent meeting. I rush back to the office only to find Goober (I love Andy Griffith by the way). This hayseed has given me problems on more than one occasion. His son Goob suffers from a chronic case of won't-hit-a-lick. I smile and escort Goober to my office.

"How can I help you?" I asked patiently.

"I just can't let Goob fail the 8th grade," replied Goober.

"Well, technically he can go to summer school and take care of the two F's he has."

" I am leaving for W. Virginia, and he has to go with me," said Goober matter of factly.

What a tube steak! This moron is really asking me to promote his child for doing nothing, nada, zilch.

"Sir, I guess you got a tough choice to make. He can go to summer school or he can remain in the eighth grade."

"Naw, I can't believe after all I have done for this school system you won't help me out here."

"I can't do for your son, what I won't do for any other student. That isn't fair. You really want me to pass him on to the 9th grade," I replied.

"No, I want you to put him in 9th grade and then if he screws up again, put him back in 8th," retorted Goober.


Why am I rationalizing with Goober? This moron couldn't toast bread.

"I can't help you. My decision is final!"

"I guess I am going to have to home school him then."

"Can I get you the paperwork?" I retorted ever-so-quickly.

The next time you pundits want to point to the good ole days of education and describe how our public schools are failing, come and have a conversation with Goober. The schools in this country are filled with parents like Goober and their offspring are Goobs. Schools haven't changed. Kids haven't changed. The way we parent and raise kids has.

Whew! I feel so much better now!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Giddy Up!

This is my first non-original story. I apologize, but it is so good that it deserves to be told. I borrow this one from dear ole Dad. He was in education for over 40 years, and this is one of his faves. He passed away nearly 2 years ago and I miss him so I thought I would share his story.

My father always taught me that there are 3 groups which you MUST make friends with to survive in a school setting.

1. Secretary/Bookkeeper-They are the gate keepers and virtually run the school.

2. Custodians- The more they like you, the better they clean your area. Let me just say now that I love all custodians and that I largely believe this story to be an isolated incident. I hope.

3. Lunchroom ladies- I have never been charged for anything extra.

Dad (Superintendent at the time) got a phone call from the local police. A lady had made several calls about a truck parked on the lower end of her property. The police had been out on several occassions but had never seen the truck. During her latest call, she said that the truck had "Property of (School system name) on it" and that she is tired of the truck parking by her barn. Dad called the high school principal and inquired about a work truck. The principal told Dad that Larry (the high school custodian) took the truck everyday and ran courier to other schools. He informed Dad that Larry had just left. My Dad gave this information to the police, and they dispatched a unit. About 30 minutes later, Dad was summoned to the police station.

For some reason, they refused to give Dad the bad news over the phone.

The Barney Fifes were all laughing when Dad entered the police station. The arresting officer informed Dad that when he walked into the barn Larry was standing on a bucket and giving it to Betsy (A cow) up the poop shoot. The ribbing that insued was fierce.

"I hope he washed his hands afterwards."

"Where do you find these people."

"Maybe you should expand your abstinence lessons to school personnel."

Dad didn't see the humor at the time, but he was always a serious man while at work. I never asked if the dude wore protection. Sorry, I digressed a little there. I am happy to report that the cow is fine. Maybe a little lonely now, but fine none the less. The custodian lost his job, and the police kept the story out of the papers.

And that, my friends, is the rest of the story.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Can't I just get a burger?

Do fast food restaurants have a screening process?

I ignored it for years, but when I moved into administration I began to pay more attention to the personnel flipping my burger in the back. One by one I would mark restaurants off the list, as they would choose to employ from the land of misfit toys. I just couldn't concentrate on eating my burger when I knew the guy making it was suspended for fighting or put in in-school for profanity. Now, I am not implying that these teenagers might take the opportunity for revenge by doctoring my food.

Well, that is exactly what I am saying.

One of my favorite fast food joints is Wendy's. I am a big fellow, so I just love to put away a double w/cheese combo. Delicious!

I walked in the other day, and who do I see in the kitchen but Petey! I'll be damn. Who would trust this kid with a spatula and a slab of meat? I have now vowed to boycott all the fast food restaurants in the town where I work.

I guess the bright side is that I might lose some weight.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Just Your Average Friday with 1 Week To Go

I arrived at school at my usual 6:45. Normally, my favorite part of the day. School, soft music, no one else. I normally have about 30 minutes to meditate, but not today. My secretary arrived 15 min. early. She was upset that 3 subs had cancelled, and we were going to have to pull teachers off their planning periods. All total we had 11 subs. Welcome to school.

7:20-Walked into the lunchroom and Roy was standing on the lunchroom table again. (This normally happens about once a week) I escort Roy to the school nurse and kindly ask her to give him a double dose of the 6 (no I am not exaggerating) pills he takes every morning.

8:00- Female student faints down the hall; I dispatch for the school nurse. This poor girl has fainted 4 times the last 2 weeks. Parents have yet to get her checked out by a doctor.

9:00- CNP (Child Nutrition) Supervisor comes to my office and ask if we can do cafeteria staff evaluations today. Sure! "By the way, will you present the evaluations?" (This is code for some of the evaluations are bad and even though you had no part in the evaluation I want you to be the bad guy so they don't get mad at me). Give me about 10 minutes and we will begin.

9:10- My AP calls me over to a distraught parent; one of our students has been stealing stuff from houses. I explain that we really can't police what happens on Maple Drive. He tells me they suspect he stole a pistol from their garage. Well, that's a horse of a different color. I proceed directly to the student's classroom, check his locker, backpack, and pockets. NADA!

9:40- 30 minutes late for my meeting; on my way back I watch a brainiac jump into the top of a door facing. I escort the bleeding youth to the nurses station. We call the boy's Dad and explain what happened.

10:00- 50 minutes late for my meeting; FIGHT! FIGHT! Two boys got into a fight in P.E. (one of my 11 subs). I put one student in my office and the other goes to the nurse with two busted teeth (My poor nurse had the day from hell).

10:30- 1 hour 20 min. late for my meeting; AP finishes handling fight and I finally arrive at my meeting. We call in all 4 lunchroom ladies. 3 of the 4 cry during their evaluation. I wanted to tell them that I had nothing to do with the scoring, but I bit my tongue and played the game. After the final evaluation, I talked with the supervisor about her scoring of these evaluations. It's a wonder they all didn't quit. Needless to say I didn't eat today nor will I eat in the lunchroom for the remainder of the school year.

12:00- Secretary reminds me of our bird program at 1:00; frantically move to the gym to set up for the program.

12:30- Mom from hell wants to know if her child can be exempt from his exam because he broke his arm. My ruling- whatever the teachers want to do.

12:45- Tell unhappy mom that poor Sonny can use left hand to do his Algebra I exam. Nice try mom!

1:00- Herd 600 students into 90 degree gym for 45 minute bird show. Great idea at the time.

1:45- Dismiss 600 students back to their last two periods. Great idea at the time.

2:15- Wife calls and informs me that we are going out of town and that she is coming by after school to pick me up.

2:30- Remember that we have an awards program the day after Memorial Day and that we need to set up chairs today

2:55- Dismissed. Finish setting up chairs and return to my office.

3:10- Teacher comes into office and informs me that she is pretty sure that she is getting non-renewed and that rather than stress over Memorial Day, she wants to resign. She hands in her resignation and leaves.

3:15- Call wife and tell her that I have to drop something off (resignation letter) at Central Office.

3:40- Return to school and wife and I leave for Memorial Day Weekend! Hooray!