Confessions of an Urban Principal / “I can’t believe he lied to me.”
by Frank Murphy
Installment 5 of 8
Shortly after 8:00 a.m. this morning, I received a call from Reverend Bill Moore. He had just finished speaking by phone with Mr. Vallas.
“Paul told me that Meade is going to stay with the Temple Partnership. He is going to meet with your parents,” he said.
“That sounds like good news,” I responded.
“Paul wants me to set up a meeting at my church for this Saturday at 10:00 a.m.”
“That’s pretty short notice, Bill. Does he want to meet with a small committee of parents?”
Reverend Moore didn’t think that a small group meeting would send the right message. “I think we should get a crowd. I don’t want him to think Meade is a paper tiger.”
I had my doubts.
“Two days to organize a Saturday meeting is going to be tough work.”
We didn’t talk for long. The two of us were in a hurry to get the day started. I should have felt cheered by this news, but I didn’t. I don’t trust Vallas. He might be stringing us along until he seals the deal to create the CAR region. The SRC is scheduled to meet this afternoon. The CAR region is on the agenda.
Around 3:45, I received a call from The Daily News’ education reporter. He sought my reaction to the SRC’s decision to establish the CAR region. He said, “Your school is one of the eleven schools that will be included in the CAR.” I was taken aback by his call. A few minutes after I finished speaking to him, a reporter from The Inquirer called with the same news.
Reverend Moore had left town on a business trip to Harrisburg. I left a message for him on his cell phone voicemail. A few minutes later he called. I told him of the reporters’ calls. He too was stunned.
“He lied to me. The man lied to me.”
He was talking while he drove. The cell reception was poor. Our conversation was garbled. The two of us agreed to talk the next day. We ended our conversation. Five minutes later he called me back. He repeated what he had said earlier.
“I can’t believe he lied to me.”
For the last two days, staff members and parents have been making phone calls to recruit participants for Saturday. A flyer reminding parents to attend on Saturday was sent home with the children at the end of the day on Friday. I drafted a meeting agenda for Reverend Moore and Hope. They will act as the meeting facilitators. I talked to both of them several times during the day on Thursday as we went over the details. To each of them I expressed my worry that we might not be able to turn out a large crowd. Bill Moore didn’t seem to be concerned about this possibility. He said, “We have to have a good turnout to make our point. And we will.” I knew he was right, but I still I worried. Producing a crowd at 10:00 a.m. on a Saturday will be a challenge.
Several parents have come into the office to check on whether the school is going to close. Both daily newspapers have published articles about the formation of the CAR region. In these accounts, the possibility that CAR schools might eventually be closed was stated. This information is causing confusion and resentment among our parents. Perhaps this news will spur people to come out on Saturday.
Just before lunch periods started, Ms. Sample let me know that Damian would be returning to school tomorrow. He is the first grade boy who hears voices in his head.
“They released him from the partial treatment program. His mother just called to let us know. The program will provide him with an aide in school,” she said.
“Are you going to tell his teacher?” I asked.
“You’re the principal, you tell her. I’m going over to the Regional Office to drop off these reports. Here is a copy of the agenda for Saturday. Look it over.”
I put the draft she had typed on top of my desk. When she left, I slipped out the back door to my office. I wandered out to the schoolyard to see the children. It was a nice break.
When Ms Sample returned from the Regional Office, she handed me an envelope. In it is was a copy of a letter from the disciplinary officer who is handling Saundra’s case. He had scheduled a second hearing for Saundra at the district’s law offices. It was set for the twelfth of May. Saundra will remain at Meade, until then. I was not happy.
After reading the letter, I said to Ms Sample, “I don’t get it, the parent signed a waiver. She agreed to a transfer to a disciplinary school for her daughter.”
“When the hearing officer gave me the letter, he told me that Saundra said she didn’t hit you. I guess the mother has changed her mind about the transfer.”
“Really.” I replied.
“She brought a witness to the hearing.” Mrs. Sample continued.
“She has a witness who said she didn’t hit me?! Where did she get a witness?”
“She brought one of the older girls who attacked you. I think it was the one who had the knife. The girl said that she was the one who attacked you, not Saundra.”
I asked Ms Sample to get the disciplinary hearing officer on the phone. When I talked to him, I made clear my displeasure that Saundra would be staying in my school for another month. He attempted to put me off by saying, “…my hands are tied. We can only place students in an interim placement in weapon or drug cases.” This response only served to make me angrier than I already was. I wasn’t interested in hearing excuses.
“This girl, along with two high school girls, jumps me in the schoolyard in front of my children. All three of them assaulted me. One of them pulled a knife. You allow the girl who came at me with a weapon to testify as a character witness at the hearing for Saundra. Now you plan on leaving Saundra in my school for at least another month. You have to be kidding. The older girls have been back on our school property several times since this incident. They have even come into the main office. Where does my safety, the safety of my staff and my children fit into this case?”
I was furious. His response indicated that felt my fury.
“I’ll tell you what. Just for you. I will place her in an interim placement starting tomorrow. I’ll send the paperwork over to you right away.”
Finally, I had an appropriate response. I should have thrown a temper tantrum earlier.
I finished the day on Friday by making some final calls to line up participants for the meeting on Saturday. After I was finished talking, I yet again experienced doubts. Why am I so set on holding onto a school that can be so frightfully disturbing and chaotic at times? Why? In response to my question I tell myself that what I do at Meade is important work. Someone has to take a stand for our children. This is a rough ride. I am trying as best as I can to keep my grip.