Chapter Three: November

17 Nov

Confessions of an Urban Principal

by Frank Murphy

Installment (6 of 9)

Arthur’s mother, Cindy, came into the main office Friday afternoon.  She wanted to get a copy of his birth certificate. We had been looking for her during the last couple of weeks. Cindy can be very hard to locate. She had to sign Arthur’s NORAP, which was the official form used to acknowledge the parents’ consent for their child to be placed in a special education placement. Arthur’s testing had been completed for many weeks.  The psychologist recommended that he receive resource room services.  The counselor, Ms. Edwards, had sent several letters to Cindy requesting that she come in to sign the document.  Cindy hadn’t responded.  The NORAP was in my office.  Ms. Edwards had given it to me so that I could get one of the School-Community Liaisons to take it around to her house.  When Cindy showed up at the school counter, Mr. Nottingham came right to me to get the form.

Cindy was guarded when the counselor asked her to sign the NORAP.  Ms. Edwards had a cold, and when she stepped back from Cindy so that she could blow her nose, Cindy reacted instantly.

“Yes, I’ve been drinking but I don’t smell that bad.”

Ms. Edwards did not respond to Cindy’s comment. She started to explain what the NORAP was.  She remained calm. She said in low-key voice, “This will authorize us to change Arthur’s educational placement”.

Cindy exploded.  “Ain’t no one taking my child away from me.  No one…I’m not stupid.  I have a nurse’s degree.”  She went on like this for several minutes.  Ms Sample and Ms. Martin worked at calming her down.  Ms Sample explained to Cindy that we weren’t trying to take Arthur away from her. Cindy started to relax.  She looked at Ms. Martin and said, “Should I sign this?”  Ms. Martin assured her that it was okay. Cindy pointed at Ms Martin and Ms Sample.  “You I trust, but I don’t trust her,” she said, pointing at the counselor.  Cindy signed the NORAP.  The counselor left the office.  A calmer Cindy started a conversation with Ms Sample and Ms. Martin.

“Arthur is going to get a job this summer.  I need to go see the counselor about it.  How do I find her?”

Ms Sample told her that the counselor was the woman she was just talking to about the NORAP.

“That was the counselor?  I better apologize to her.”  Ms Sample and Ms. Martin agreed with her that an apology would be a good idea.  Cindy left the office, looking for the counselor.

The week ended well for Arthur.  He wasn’t arrested; he wasn’t being transferred to a disciplinary school.  He was finally officially on Peggy Saegar’s caseload.  Arthur is on his way to high school.

These were the thoughts on my mind as I headed over to regional office.  I had a 3:30 appointment with the regional superintendent and John DiPaolo. They were going to review with me my performance appraisal for the 2003-2004 school year.

This conference lasted for a half hour. Both of them acknowledged that I have been a strong leader of Meade School over the last seven years. The superintendent did most of the talking. The main point on his agenda was to state that it was expected that Meade would make AYP this year.  “Your school is at the Corrective Action II level. You must make AYP.  Downtown will not look favorably on another year where you don’t make the expected progress towards improving your school’s test scores.   If you don’t make AYP there will be changes at your school.  As you know, change always starts at the top.”

I wanted to say to him, do you or the people downtown have any real understanding about the challenges a school like Meade really faces?  Do you or the policy makers in Washington have any clue as to what it will take to get all of the Arthurs of the world to “proficient”?  Do you have any idea as to how many Arthurs there are in a place like Meade? I was silent.  I kept my thoughts to myself.

The regional superintendent  wanted to talk AYP numbers.  I joined him in this conversation.  It was more comfortable than provoking a confrontation.  It was safer.


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