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!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Justifiable Homicide

For the 9 years I spent in the classroom, I used to document all of the times I let some turd push my buttons. When I moved into administration, I felt confident that the position would shield me from direct stupidity. Boy was I naive'. As both a teacher and as a administrator, I was pretty much text book, meaning I handled discipline issues in a fair and predictable manner. All the while resisting the urge to behave in a manner more indicative of a human and less like a dutiful educator. With this in mind I have built two theories which I believe would instantly improve our schools.

Theory I- One free Bitch Slap a Year

In an average school year your typical high school/middle school teacher will fall victim to hand gestures, dirty looks, pranks, lies to parents, and the annual good cussing (female teachers are usually called bitches and male teachers are usually called dicks). Take in mind this is just your average year. Special years usually involve graffiti to personal property or the good ole rolled yard. I firmly believe that every teacher should receive one free bitch slap a year. Imagine one freebie to reign them in, just one smack to fix the idiot whose parents allow them to act like heathens at school. Better yet, why don't we allow for one free bitch slap that can be used on any student or their parents. Forget NCLB! Theory 1 would work.

Theory II-Justifiable Homicide

In lieu of theory 1, I can only come up with one possible solution. Start documenting all the instances of student/parent disrespect, rudeness, and downright evildom so that your defense attorney has a case for justifiable homicide.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Una-Bomber Part II

You know it is going to be a great day when you don't even get your bag out of the car.

"Mr. Principal! Hurry!"

I said, "Calm down and tell me what is going on"

"It's Ned, he is in Mr. Smith's classroom."

As I made my way up to the classroom, several visions passed through my mind of what I was about to see. I must confess that given the proclivities of Mr. Ned I prepared myself for anything.

When I entered the room I saw Ned sitting on top of the teacher's desk. He was sitting Indian style and had his eyes clothes with arms stretched to the side. If this wasn't strange enough, Ned had his shirt off and had a bloody nose with blood all over his torso.

I asked Ned "What in the hell is going on?"

He responded, "I got in a fight"

Normally, I might have replied, "No Shit," but I must confess that with Ned in his current predicament, it could have been some type of pagan ceremony.

When we finally got him cleaned up and properly clothed, Ned had a complete melt down. He referred to himself as the Holy Trinity and said he did not recognize my authority to suspend him for fighting. One principal, one special ed. coordinator, one school resource officer, one mother, and one straight jacket later Ned was taken to an undisclosed location. I checked job postings that evening and contemplated whether or not public school administration was really my cup of tea.

About a week later, I called to check on Ned. The nurse informed me that he might be out of school a little longer.

Her words, "Ned is still actively psychotic."

I wonder how one becomes inactively psychotic? I mean once you are found to be off the reservation, isn't that it? What am I supposed to do with this information.? So, I spent the rest of the day searching for jobs. Luckily, I found one. I love our country, but some people just don't belong in public schools. Ned definitely belongs in this category.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

News Flash- Kids Lie

I offered my assistant principal a bet to begin the year. It was our standard bet (Snickers bar and a coke). We wagered on how long in the school year it would be until we had a parent utter these infamous words, "My child does not lie to me." We started school in mid-August and I placed the over/under in September. My foolish colleague chose the over.

I sure do love a good Snickers bar.

I would like to introduce you to the Clampetts (Remember the TV show The Beverly Hillbillies). Jethro, bless his heart, is your classic under-achiever. He is the first student I have come across for whom it was mathematically impossible to pass with 16 weeks to go in school. Dear old dad, Jed suffered from parent goggle syndrome and what I believe is strong evidence of Alzheimer's.

Here is my case:


Jed stormed in my office demanding that I explain why Jethro got kicked off the school bus.

I said "Well sir, you see you can't threaten to beat up the bus driver."

Jed proceeded to tell me how Jethro was innocent and that he has never lied to dear old dad. I told him that normally I would just take his word for it, but golly gee I got it on video. He did the classic 180 as he watched the video. I felt a little bit like the guy on cheaters who reveals the infidelity. After they left I told my assistant that it was nice to bring another parent out of la la land.


Jed stormed into my office and demanded to know why Jethro was assigned in-school suspension. I informed him that while the word bitch might mean female dog, we don't allow that term in school.

"Well Jethro didn't say that."

Of course, I sarcastically thought. I called Jethro in and asked him why he told his dad he didn't say the ugly word. Jethro's response, "I didn't want to get in trouble." As he left, I looked at the AP and said "Deja Vu!"


Jethro got in a fight. Same basic storyline.

Jethro lies to Jed.

Jed believes him.

Jed shows his ass.

We calm Jed down and tell him the truth.

Jed does 180.

Leaves the school fine.


Second verse same as the first


Jethro pushes someone in the back and dares them to fight. I tell him to call his Dad, and that I will see him next year. Jed is irate. Tells me that I have picked on poor Jethro all year, and that he is innocent.

To which I said, "Sir, I am sorry that Jethro has you fooled. You have been up here on 5 occassions and all 5 he has lied to you about what has happened. On every single occassion, it has been proven that he has lied. Kids lie, I am sorry. We all want to believe our kids, but they lie."

I looked at the AP as they walked off and said, "I bet you a Snickers bar and a coke by September of next year Jed has forgotten that Jethro is a liar."

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Facebook and MySpace Suck--A Rant

I often wonder if parents today actually realize what their kids are doing on the internet. You can buy all the web control software you want, but if you allow your children to get on facebook and myspace you obviously don't like privacy.

The last two years, I have spent a lot of student conferences trying to prevent fights due to what someone supposedly said on myspace or facebook. I just love when dear ole mom and dad show up wanting me to police the internet.


I have also attended legal seminars, which outline the scope of a schools authority to discipline based on these websites.

Which brings me to this one:

Luckily, I formerly worked with a mother who has access to her daughter's facebook account. I am sad to say that we were almost voyueristic in watching pictures go up of weekend festivities. I mean you see them walk the halls, but do you really know them?

Wow! There is the captain of the basketball team doing a keg stand. (No wonder we suck)

That cheerleader sure is a good funneler.

Look at Miss Prim an proper puking on an ant bed. Her parents must be so proud.

It makes me want to scream 2 things: 1. Do your parents know about this? (yes, most of the time) and 2. Why did you let someone take your picture? (stupidity)

One day I called in a very popular cheerleader to my office. I told her that we needed to discuss something on her facebook page.

She retorted, "I don't think that is any of your business."

I asked, "Do your parents know about those pictures?"

"Sure they do. Now that I am 18 they let me do what I want. I don't think you have any right to control what pictures I put up on my facebook. "

(Parenting tip of the day and note to self: Cut them loose at 18; got to remember that one)

I said, "Look! I don't care what you do on the weekend, but when the picture has the school and its logo in the background. I can get involved. You have until tomorrow morning to take my school off facebook or you are suspended. Have a nice day!"

Maybe facebook and myspace don't suck. Parents do!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Hit and Run (Petey Part II)

If you missed the introduction to Petey you might want to CLICK HERE for Part I to get a feel for what we are dealing with. I think I compared him to Beetle Juice from the Howard Stern show, but you can also make a strong case for Earnest T. Bass.

News spread quickly that Friday night how Petey had fell victim to a hit and run. The students were extremely upset. I mean Petey was a perennial nuisance, sexual harasser, and destroyer of any order in the school but he didn't deserve this. In talking to some of his friends, the word was spreading that two students in a maroon Ford Explorer had rammed Petey into a fence. This story was verified by the police who took Petey's statement at the hospital where he was treated and released with a small bump to the head.

We were all thankful for Petey's fortunate escape and eager to catch the students responsible. Petey's mama called and demanded justice. I gave her my word that I would try my best. 2 reasons I would be trying my best: #1 - a need to know and #2 - fear of her "peoples" might come out.

I remember talking with one of the police officers about possible suspects. I surmised that it was probably a boyfriend of one of Petey's many cop-a-feel episodes, so I pulled the file (not quite as long as War and Peace but close). I then called in every male who associates with any girl who was a victim of Petey's wandering hands. Nothing! Zilch! Nada! Strikeout!

Undeterred and vigilant in my quest for justice, I combed the parking lot for a Maroon explorer. I found 4 which fit the description, and we ran tags to locate possible culprits. The 2nd student I called in for questioning admitted to giving Petey a ride home that Friday. Bingo! Hooray! Paydirt! I picked up the phone and called the police. Gotcha!

The innocent-looking boy kept looking at me like I was crazy. I can remember with shame putting my finger in his face and saying, "Why did you do it?"

"Do what," he asked.

"Hit Petey"

He started to laugh and replied, "I didn't hit him. He flagged my friend and me down and asked for a ride. I kept asking him where to go, but he kept stalling. When I slowed down in the Rec. Center parking lot, he tried to steal my bookbag and jumped out of the car. He ran into a telephone pole. I got out, grabbed my backpack and left him there. "

After I confirmed the story with the friend, apologized to the student, dispatched the police, called Petey's mom, and removed the egg from my face I sat in my office and had a huge laugh. Petey got me, he got us all. Earnest T strikes again!

Monday, May 5, 2008

NED A.K.A The Unabomber (Part I)

Why is it that some of the biggest disciplinary problems in schools are extremely intelligent. Ned (sorry about the name choice) was a classic example of someone far smarter than I will ever be. In addition to his stirling IQ Ned was also a loony bird. To say that Ned "ain't right" is an understatement. In fact Ned was so crazy, that I secretly called him the Unabomber.

I first met the Unabomber, when a disgruntled bus driver barged into my office waving a videotape. I started to ask, "Is that the Paris Hilton sex tape?" but decided that might be insensitive. He informed me that Ned had shot him the bird and that he had video evidence of the Class I felony. I assured the bus driver that I would rain down with vengeance on Mr. Ned and proceeded to call him to the office.

Ned entered with a laugh and a chuckle followed by, "Well! Well! The walls of oppression have raised to suppress my constitutional rights!" (I told you he had a few screws loose). When I told Ned, that he couldn't go around shooting bus drivers the bird he took a rather unconventional approach.

Ned raised his bird finger and began to explain how the middle finger had received a bad reputation. Then he raised his other middle finger and explained that the interpretation of his two fingers could mean the number two, or the number eleven, and if you turn them forward they mean love. Ned informed me that in some Haitian cultures the middle finger means peace. Ned had the gift of spin and the longer he talked the more plausible his rationale was.

Personally, I think he just wanted to shoot me the bird and bait me into getting angry. I just smiled and said, "Well Ned on Bus 95-5 the bird gets you a peaceful week off the bus." Ned shook my hand and went on his way. I think I confused him with my response, but I vowed from that day forward to always be calm and cordial in dealing with Ned. I just hope he remembers my kindness when the final bolt becomes unhinged.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Get a Room (Please!)

I can remember watching Happy Days and listening to Richie Cunningham sing about finding his thrill on Blueberry Hill. Of course we all know that the reference is to high school students driving to a discreet location and making out. Fast forward to today's sex charged (crazed, more like it) adolescents.

One of my menial tasks when I was an assistant principal was to walk the parking lot during basketball games. The purpose of this insane Barney Fife like behavior is to try and catch youngsters smoking or drinking. I am ashamed to say that you almost hope to catch someone, so that this meaningless walk actually serves a purpose. Unfortunately 9 times out of 10 you basically burn 10 calories and return to the game.

Ah, but there is always that one time.

One night as I was counting the number of ford trucks in the parking lot, I happened upon a black pontiac. I was walking behind the car, and I gave it the once over. I did a double take, and then I noticed something strange. A FOOT! That's right, a foot and not on the floor, but up in the air. Well, my initial urge was to yell CITIZEN's ARREST but I composed my self quickly and approached the driver's side window.

I knocked on the window and opened the door. The young lady in the passenger seat thankfully lowered her foot. Johnny-on-the-spot had his undies around his ankles and was fumbling to pull them up. I turned around and told them to kindly get dressed and step out of the vehicle. It took about a minute or two, but the love birds eventually emerged from the vehicle. I told the cheerleader (yes, it was one of our cheerleaders) she probably needed to call her mom. She just couldn't understand why I wasn't going to let her cheer?

Two phone calls, two mothers, and two doughnuts out of the parking lot left me all alone again.

As I entered the gym, I just couldn't resist singing a bar or two of "I found my thrill, on Blueberry Hill."

A teacher heard me and laughed, she said "Happy Days, right?"

I said, "Yep, and I wish this town had a Blueberry Hill instead of a parking lot!"

She looked all puzzled and asked, "What do you mean?"

I said, "Nothing! just thinking out loud. Hey, what's the score."