Chapter Five: January

31 Jan

Confessions of an Urban Principal/ The Sacrificial Lamb

by Frank Murphy

Installment (9 of 9)

John arrived later in the morning.   He was eager to go over the final version of our AYP action plan.   While we were reviewing this document, Pat Costello and Ellen Lube came to see me.  Earlier in the day Ellen had received a disappointing and puzzling message from the person who was working on the Professional Development School proposal.  In an e-mail the Temple representative wrote, “ We have decided not to work with Meade school. The Dean has received information from the school district’s Central Office administration that has influenced our decision. He was told that there might be changes at Meade next year.”

Pat asked John to provide an explanation. “Are they saying that they are going to change the principal?

I cannot remember John’s response to her question.  I was in shock after hearing this news.  Later when John and I were alone, I pressed him for an explanation.

“What exactly do they mean that they are waiting to see how events develop here?  Have you talked to the Dean, John?”

“I talked to him yesterday.  He doesn’t want to move ahead because he has been told that there will be a change of leadership here.  It is a pain, really.”

“You’re telling me that the Dean was told by someone downtown that I’m going to be removed as principal?”

“Not exactly in those words.  But… yes, it was very strongly inferred that you are going to be removed.”

My face flushed.   Anger gripped me.  He continued to talk but I didn’t hear him.  I sat quietly in my chair as I contemplated this latest turn of events. So it was my name that was up on the board.  I am the one who has been chosen to be the sacrificial lamb. This was not a professional move that I desired.

Just then Mr. Ong entered my office.  He had with him the graphs and tables that would be inserted into the report. I didn’t feel like talking to anyone right then and there.   I excused myself from this meeting.

“If you don’t mind, I can’t get my head into this right now.  I’m sure you will figure at what information you need to use”

“That’s okay, it’s perfectly understandable.”  John responded. I left the two of them to figure out which graphics to use in the final report.

At that moment, I could have cared less about a plan to make AYP. I was dumbfounded by this latest development. The Central Office staff knows little if anything about my North Philadelphia School and neighborhood.  They look solely at the numbers.

I didn’t think I could keep on with my work as the principal of Meade. I felt like running as fast and as far away from Meade as I could.

Somewhere in the midst of my confusing thoughts, I wondered about Arthur.  When he told the DHS worker that he didn’t want to go home to Cindy, did his bottom fall out?  At that moment, when everything had become too real to hard for him to handle, did he want to run away?

There is a lot of abuse in the world; bad things touch everyone sooner or later. Arthur was strong when he faced his fate. I thought I could do the same.

On this day, the seventh anniversary of my arrival at Meade, I did not expect that I would have to deal with the threat of being removed.  I decided that I would not go quietly. It was up to me now to assist the central office to develop a better understanding of my school.

Meade isn’t just a number.  I along with the staff have worked hard to attend to the best interests of our neighborhood.  I will not have all that we have done unraveled as a result of a misguided attempt to make an example of our school.

In the privacy of my own head, I offered a solitary toast to my staff and kids.

Happy Anniversary!

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