12 November 2016

You've Met Some of the Teachers, Now Meet Some of the School's Staff

In my previous two posts -- which you can easily find preceding this one -- I provided profiles of teachers that might seem familiar to you. That familiarity may stem from your own school days, or from your child's or perhaps from working at a public school yourself. I complete this series with a look at some of the school's staff.

The indispensable school secretary arrived an hour and a half before classes start and left two hours after the last one ended. Since state funds for educations started dissipating, clerical staff had been getting laid off one by one. Thus she did several jobs. She took phone calls for administrators, handled attendance, received school guests, handled the substitutes, typed agendas and sent reminders and sorted the mail and occasionally ministered injured students. She had yet to complain about all the work, she in fact thrived on it and did everything effortlessly with grace never losing her cool. No one could recall ever seeing her take a bathroom break or eating lunch. The indispensable school secretary always looked immaculate. She drove a luxury car that her husband, a building contractor bought for their 20th wedding anniversary. They have three children and administers great love and strict discipline in equal doses. She is African American and stresses to her children the importance of an education and staying away from bad influences. The indispensable school secretary revels in her leisure hours variously relaxing in front of the TV or being the life of a party. She also is a regular at her church, always with her kids, if not her husband, in tow. The indispensable school secretary loves baked ham.

The churlish custodian was not happy with his lot in life. His halcyon days were as a high schooler when he made all conference in basketball two years in a row and as a senior led the school to a league championship. But he’d screwed up in the classroom and no four year university would or could take him. So he went to a JC to achieve eligibility and polish his game. Problem was that he couldn’t abide time in the classroom and was kicked off the team for bad grades. He wandered for awhile, lost, committed a few strong arm robberies and was ultimately arrested, then convicted. After prison the churlish custodian moved from job to job before finally settling in as a high school custodian. The pay was better than he’d ever had and there was no demanding boss forever on his back. But he was not happy. This is not how he envisioned his life being but couldn't imagine a way out. Still he was a dutiful employee and respectful of the school faculty and staff. He was nice to everyone and they were nice to him. He spent his off hours watching sports, mostly basketball. He walked or bussed to his apartment which he shared with his girlfriend who herself was an unhappy waitress. The churlish custodian likes shrimp gumbo.

The melancholic principal did not particularly care for children, least of all the ones who were students at his school. Indeed, he considered them the worst part of his job. The next worse thing was parents. Third was faculty. Actually the school board and district administrators made his life hell but he dare not think of them as anything but benevolent overlords in whose service he was happy to be. Though he wasn’t. The melancholic principal was soft, pudgy and as white as oatmeal. He always wore a suit. He had two that were two small and two that were too big along the one that fit perfectly. His nails were always neatly trimmed as was his hair. He was immaculate and smelled of a powerful men’s cologne. He was not a particularly good principal except that he’d mastered the fine art of delegating work to others. In the same vein he knew how to shift responsibility and blame to underlings. The buck didn’t stop with him, his office was its transfer station. No one, it seemed, had strong feelings about the principal. Some teachers recognized him for the sad forlorn figure that he was. The melancholic principal drove an expensive sports car to his condo which he shared with a cat, Brutus.  His only passions were classical music, mystery books and movies and his many nieces and nephews who he fawned over. There had only been fleeting and forced romances in his life for he was asexual. The melancholic principal likes minestrone.

The tough but loquacious school safety officer variably spent his work time idly chatting with co-workers, breaking up fights and shooing unwelcome campus visitors and removing disruptive students from classrooms. His job could be stressful and borderline dangerous or like Sunday in the park. It was usually both throughout the course of a typical day. He was a very tall very strong African American with very long dreadlocks and he was developing a paunch, though not a very big one.  He’d served in the marines after high school then was a police officer until badly injuring his knee. The tough but loquacious school safety officer didn’t take crap from anyone, be it a thug, a student, an angry parent or an administrator. His aim was to keep the campus safe and do it his way and no one better mess with him. But he also loved nothing more than laughter filled bull sessions with fellow safety officers, students or friendly staff and teachers. He had an endless supply of stories to tell, from his school days, the marines, his short-lived police career or incidents at school. Anyone who took the time to know the tough but loquacious safety officer liked him. He drove a brand new truck. He lived in a small house -- with a big yard ideal for the many barbecues he hosted -- with his wife and two children.  He liked his job because he knew he was doing an important service and for the down time it afforded him to swap lies over the back fence, so to speak. The tough but loquacious student safety officer loves steak.

The astringent vice principal was the embodiment of the term “no nonsense.” He was dry and humorless and to all appearances a wretchedly unhappy man. He patrolled the school like an embittered MP, marching through the halls and parading through the courtyard, and stomping through PE facilities, and strutting through the cafeteria and patrolling the outer rim of the campus. Yet he always also seemed to be in his office too, reading the proverbial riot act to errant students or barking at parents on the phone or processing work orders or signing suspension forms or meeting with a teacher or other staff member. The astringent vice principal was built like a linebacker and was about as subtle. He’d spent several years as a classroom teacher (science) but had yearned to be free of the confines of a classroom and longed for the higher pay of an administrative position. He had no grand vision of education nor any notions any interest in pedagogy, he was dedicated solely to the tasks in front of them and doing them right. Every employee at the school respected him and none liked him. Students hated and feared him. He was conservative, dour and prone to controlled but frightening lividity, usually directed at students. Some parents complained about him but to no avail. The astringent vice principal was divorced, occasionally seeing his two sons, one in college the other in high school. He lived alone in a luxury apartment. It would have surprised many at the school to know that he had quite a few friends and would have surprised them even further to know that for female companionship he paid for high end prostitutes. The astringent vice principal loves spaghetti.

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