Helpful hints, position essays, and useless blather from the Assistant Principal of a high school in Southern California. Posts here do not necessarily reflect the positions or views of the school or district with which he is employed.
From the Desk of
Name: Q6 From: Southern California, United States About me:
Not only did we screw up, we screwed up on live, national television.
I'm sure most schools have some sort of cross-town rivalry. Our school has had one since it was built, and we played the annual "Battle of the Bay" this week. Not only did we play, but we played in a small stadium (in years past we've managed to play this at the larger college stadium) with six cameras from Fox Sports Network rolling live. "Game of the Week," indeed.
The highlights? Packed stands by kickoff (any other game, it's the middle of the second quarter). Angry tirades in the parking lot. Parents tailgating before the game (alcohol and all). 7th graders throwing nachos on people over the back of the bleachers. Fights breaking out between wanna-be tough guys. People hopping over the fence. People crawling under the fence. Seniors who were not only drinking out of red SOLO cups, but smelling like they were drinking out of red SOLO cups.
And, of course, the chanting.
When the first half ended, the opposition had to walk right past our stands. Our students (and, of course, many of their parents) joined in with the sing-song chant of "F**k you, (school name withheld)" over and over again. (When I watched the replay of the game over the weekend, I could hear this chanting as the commentator interviewed the opposing school's coach.)
In the end, we lost the game. Fitting, I thought, since there was so much going on that night--the fights, the drinking, the cameras--that the game seemed to be incidental anyway. Moreover, I don't think our crowd deserved the win (although I now understand why Superbowl-winning fans burn their own communities to the ground). We didn't really bust anybody, but made sure that everyone made it out alive. At this game, each year, I have a simple philosophy--no autopsy, no problem. I can only control so much, especially when the parents control nothing at all.
Next week I'll be asked what can be done to prevent this in the years to come. I think we should play the game at an undisclosed football field in Palmdale and webcast it back here. Let this be the problem of the local sports bars.
We've adopted a new practice this year: instead of allowing the students to use their own padlocks on their lockers, we're requiring them to purchase them from us. The thinking behind this has very little to do with being an ASB fundraiser and has more to do with locker repair. When students use their own locks and they malfunction, or the kid forgets the combination, or loses the key, or something weirder*, we've had to go in with bolt cutters and snap the locks off. This treatment is actually very harsh on the lockers themselves, and we've broken several latches as a result. The locks we now require them to use--we call them "school locks"--have a key access in the back so that we can get in when we need to. The bolt cutters are now gathering dust somewhere, and the lockers no longer wince when we try to open them.
Now other schools use this "school lock" procedure, too, and and they use it very successfully. My objection had very little to do with locker damage, but liability. See, other schools who use this method usually have some way of securing the campus from people in the off hours. Our campus is open 24/7, so people could show up in the middle of the night and do what they want to; which is why some people started using the $20, 2" brass lock rather than the $3 cheeseball combination lock. My point is this: If we force the students to use an inferior lock to the one they would choose to use, and things get stolen, don't we carry some of the liability? I brought this argument up last year, and I brought it up again over the summer.
For a district that made me shut down my Q&A blog due to liability concerns, they don't seem to care much about it when it comes to this. Liability is funny like that, I guess.
* The locks that most students use when they have a choice are the black-faced dial combination locks that cost less than five bucks. The ones we use aren't any different, except for the key access. These locks can actually be broken open quite easily; I once saw a kid get one open in under ten seconds with a skateboard (by bringing it down on the lock with a rather quiet "crack") and the lock wasn't even damaged. It still worked. So some kids would show up and do this to two locks, then switch them on the lockers. The complaint "someone else's lock is on my locker" doesn't sound unusual at all to me anymore.
The events leading up to the opening of school had their moments.
After two years of a nothing-but-test-scores approach to this place, the Principal suddenly switched gears on us and decided that we needed to access the student culture, we needed to re-connect with each other, and we needed to bring the fun back to this place. Several are cheering, several aren't buying it, and others have become so accustomed to keeping their heads down I'm sure they didn't notice. This is a great departure from her previous approach to this school's management, and I (like others) can only hope that the follow-through is as good as the pitch. (It also feels a bit like whiplash, since the district-level management changes over the last two years have resulted in greater legal protection, higher rates of documentation, and an arm-wrestling match with the teachers union worthy of Olympic-event news coverage.)
We got through teacher hiring and student registration okay, though I had some difficulty with one Special Ed position. I interviewed several people, then hired a guy; he took a job somewhere else two weeks AFTER accepting our position. I went back to the drawing board and hired another person; another school in our district stole her away. After going through every application remaining--and getting shut down for a variety of reasons (I'm more interested in elementary, I've already found a job, I've got too many offers in front of me already, I'm leaving town to become a nun)--I finally took a page out of their playbook and stole a guy from another high school in our district. Fight fire with fire, blah-blah-blah. The principal over there wanted to hire a new coach anyway, and this gave him an excuse.
Day One for students seemed to go rather well. It was like any other where-do-I-go, what-do-I-do kind of day, especially for the seventh graders. I'm sure it won't be this routine for long.