Confessions of an Urban Principal/ Waiting For Arthur
by Frank Murphy
Installment (8 of 9)
I arrived at school earlier than usual today. By seven-thirty I was pacing back and forth in the hallway outside of the main office. I was looking for the boy. Will he come back?
At eight-thirty, the children started walking up the main stairway steps. They were heading to their classrooms. I planted myself in the middle of the first floor landing. From this vantage point, I could see everyone who entered the school. There wasn’t any sign of Arthur as the morning influx of students flowed around me. Where is he?
Mrs. Martin called me back to the office. A parent was waiting to see me. Her son was returning from his suspension. She was there in order to reinstate him. I met with her then several other parents. An hour passed before I was free to return to the search. I was frustrated. People were distracting me from my main mission of the day. People wanted to see me. Always, people want to see me. Well I wanted to see Arthur.
I made a call to his classroom teacher, Ms. Odum.
“Did Arthur come in today?”
“Yes, he’s here. Do you want me to send him down?”
“Would you please?”
He is here! Yes, I cheered to myself.
He was smiling when he arrived in the office. I said,” How did it go?”
“It was all right.”
He handed me a slip of paper on which was written his social worker’s phone number. The contact information for the foster care person, to whom he had been assigned, was also included. He hadn’t been placed in an emergency shelter. The caseworker had found a home for him. I was pleased.
He was dressed in the same clothes that he was wearing on Friday. We talked for a little while. Afterwards I couldn’t recall much of what he had said. It didn’t matter. I was just glad to see him.
Mr. Nottingham came into my office just as Arthur was about to leave. He said, “Hey buddy, what’s up?”
Arthur replied, “You have to tell me some more of those stories.”
As soon as I had a chance to be alone, I made a call to the person who was caring for Arthur. She sounded like an older woman. I introduced myself as Arthur’s principal. We had a pleasant conversation. She shared with me her first impression of Arthur.
“He is a very nice boy. He settled right into my house. I washed the clothes that he had on. But I don’t like that he doesn’t have any others.”
I told her that we were working on getting more clothes for him. We talked for a while longer. When I hung up the phone, I felt much better. She seemed like a nice lady.
Later on his teacher came to see me. She told me that she had brought with her a bagful of clothes for Arthur. They were outfits that her son had out grown. She didn’t want Arthur to know that they had come from her.
It seemed like everything was going well for him. Much better than I could have ever imagined last Friday. When his teacher left my thoughts wandered back to the principal meeting that had enraged me last week.
The opening speaker at this event detailed the regional superintendent’s expectations regarding how school teams were to review student assessment data. Each of the following presenters also made references to this topic. The information they presented was superficial in nature.
One after another they said, “Data doesn’t lie.” I cringed each time I heard this statement. I thought to myself that data analysis is a sophisticated and complicated endeavor. It isn’t a matter of “lies” or “truth.”
I have little confidence in the Central Office staffs’ ability to intelligently analyze student achievement data. Deputy Slide’s visit to our school had confirmed for me how little these folks know.
The Acting Regional Superintendent was the final speaker. He concluded his remarks with the following statement.
“After all of the money that has been spent on Title I over the years, there shouldn’t be any low scoring schools in this region. But there are. People in this district want to know why schools with low-test scores aren’t doing any better. Something has to be done.
This is why the district is organizing a new region for next year. It will be called the Corrective Action Region (CAR). You don’t want to be in this group. Schools that are put in this region will most likely have a change of school leadership. There are a couple of schools in our region that are being considered for placement in this new region. Names are already up on the board. If your test scores aren’t going up, you need to get serious. You need to do something. The data doesn’t lie.”