Confessions of an Urban Principal/Goodbye, Arthur
by Frank Murphy
Installment 7 of 8
The first thing this morning I scanned through the local papers. Both daily papers reported on the business of the School Reform Commission at yesterday’s meeting. Neither made any reference to the renewal of Temple’s school management contract. I gave John DiPaolo a call. He hadn’t yet heard any news on the matter.
After our brief conversation I was quickly distracted by the events around me. It was the last day for the staff. One by one, the teachers were turning in their completed records. Danielle, one of our eighth grade teachers, stopped by my office to say goodbye. She has decided that she needs to make a change and is taking a teaching position in another state. I am sorry to see her go. She is a good teacher who has served our children well. We talked for a while, then gave each other a hug. As she left, she handed me a sealed envelope. Shortly after her departure, I opened the letter. It was a lovely thank you note. One line in particular stood at out as I read her words: “I realize now that teachers must go through discomfort (a lot of times) in order to help their students to succeed.”
Her words reminded me that I am not the only one who struggles with this work. Many a time this year I have resisted the temptation to just simply give up when the going seemed to be too tough. But each time I faced this challenge, voices such as hers or Jordan’s or Hope’s have helped me to find the courage to keep on, even in the face of daunting circumstances.
In the afternoon I stopped by the Partnership Office to take care of some business. Their building is located along the business corridor of Cecil B. Moore Avenue. On my way out of the door, I ran into Arthur. He was coming from the direction of the subway station. He looked startled and a little embarrassed when he saw me. We engaged in a short and awkward conversation. I didn’t mention anything about his failure to return to school on either of the last two days. Instead, I asked him what he was up to on that day.
I’m just going to hang out in the neighborhood, you know. Nothing much.”
I suspected he was heading for his mother’s house. She was still prohibited by the Department of Human Services, from having unsupervised visits with him. Arthur apparently has decided that what his caseworker has to say doesn’t matter. He was going back to his mother’s home. This is where he wants to live.
We said goodbye then I watched Arthur for what seemed the longest while as he walked away down the avenue. I wanted to stop him and turn him around one last time. I didn’t. He was moving away quickly. He was almost out of sight before I turned towards my car. I had my chance to help him. It is over. Goodbye, Arthur.
Back in the school I walked through the end of the year litter that filled the hallways of Meade. Old assignments and castaway copybooks overflowed from trash bags. These last remains of another school year will soon be carted off to the trash dumpsters. Classroom bulletin boards are bare. Desks and chairs are stacked. The children have gone off for the summer. The staff has voiced their final goodbyes. And just like that the school year ended.