Friday, February 21, 2014

Knowing your "school roots"

In my Inbox recently from the admin office:

Dear Mr. Moore,
I am trying to help on a project someone is working on. Could you tell me when Conesville ES was built?
J. W.

     That's an easy one. I knew that answer without even thinking about it.  I walk past it everyday on the way into my office. It's emblazoned on a stone 40 feet straight up. Nearby is a giant stone eagle. I have "dibs" on it, if and when it ever comes down.  I have often wondered who the craftsman was that had the honor of placing it there.  1936.
    I can tell you a lot more about this old school, too. $83,876 to build it. Mr. J.H. Proper was the principal when it opened it's doors for the first time. Before this building was built, there were a couple of smaller buildings that had already come and gone.  We used to be known as the Vikings, not the Bears. The school colors where yellow and blue, not black and gold. Graduating classes sometimes totaled 12, not 212.
     I know this because the first Saturday in June is still reserved for the homecoming classes that have come and gone. I get the honor of introducing new graduates each year.
   I have been enthralled as I listen to stories of returning class members from generations ago.  Classes from the '40s, 50s, 60s! Every story shared has a common theme. They talk about the people. The teachers. The classmates. The principal. Who did what. Who didn't. They don't talk about the bricks, or the lockers, or the floors. They talk about the experiences that set the stage for who they were to become later in life. Their pictures look down on us everyday from Kinnear Hall, which was named after a revered school secretary who probably doctored more children than the local hospital.

     I am fortunate to be the leader of a building that has a rich tradition of educational leaders. E.U. Marquand was the first principal in 1894, and also the village physician. Alexander McDonald 1898-1900. James Smailes, 1905-1908, who left to also become a doctor. Nathaniel McClure, 1910-1916.   H.W. Pigman who also became the county superintendent. J. Fred Lautenschlager, 1920-1931, left to become the county superintendent. Mr. Ward, 1959. I think I may have his paddle on the shelf behind my desk. It hasn't touched a kid in years.  Mr. Woodie. Mr. Duda. Mr. Widder. Ms. Martinez. Mrs. Hawthorne. Me.
    When I look at those who have come before me, see what they have accomplished for this district and it's students, I am humbled.  I wonder if when they are looking down on me, are they nodding their heads in quiet approval, shaking their heads in dismay, or maybe smiling and laughing at circumstances only building principals can relate to? What advice would they quietly whisper in my ear? What warnings would they shout if they could?

"Be fair"    "Slow down"       "Protect them"    "Love them"     "Teach them again"          "Come a little earlier"       "Stay a little later"      "People first, paper later"  
"Read more books"   "Be a leader"  
"You messed that up. Don't dwell on it. Move on"            
"Don't let the drama turn into trauma"    

I don't know what my successors will ultimately have to say, or even remember about our work and the things we have accomplished, but I think I have a pretty good idea of what really counts.  I greet 325 of them at the door everyday. 
The door that is guarded from above by a giant eagle.