Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My Favorite Civil Servant

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Have you ever met someone at their profession and just knew that God planted them there? Once upon a time there was this principal at this middle school where students and parents alike knew that we had a gift from God.
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I met her when my eldest was beat up on his way to school and again in school. This kid, this Mark, followed Ed for three years, taunting him, badgering him, and getting other kids to physically assault him. At the time, Ed was a scrawny little kid. Being that I didn't have a car and the school district didn't provide buses, I had little control outside of walking him to school each day, and that didn't last long. Ed still had to deal with the other kids teasing him about why his Mom walked him to school. Most of these kids were spouting off because they were at Mark's mercy as well. Mark was two years older and only attended the same school as Ed one year in every three. Every time Ed stood up for himself, Mark insisted he had to defend himself. Never mind that Mark caused the problem to begin with.
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I went to school time and again, and I talked to Mr. H., the principal at the intermediate school Eddie attended. I begged Mr. H. to please help me. First he promised to talk to Mark, which did nothing. Later when I begged, Mr. H. said he didn't want to contact Mark's parents because there would be an argument with them and he didn't want to argue. The abuse continued and even the police were called. They could do nothing because the boys were under age.
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Finally Ed moved to the next building. He was in 6th grade and Mark was in 8th. Ed and Mark both had a mile and a half walk to and from school. By this time the older kids figured out who Mark was and refused to help him bully the younger kids. Ed was on his own and Mark blamed Ed for Mark losing friends. One day on the way to school Mark hassled Ed. No biggy. Ed stood up for himself and nothing happened. Then between classes the pair came across each other as their lockers were in close proximity. That's when Mark thought no one was looking. He caught Eddie by surprise. He grabbed my son by the ears, yanked his head down and raised his knee. He got Ed right in the mouth. My son sported the biggest, fat lip I ever saw in my life.
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Mary saw it all. She grabbed Mark and set him down in the office while the ass't principal drove Ed home. Mark wasn't allowed to leave the office that day and everyday since, until a parent picked him up. He wasn't allowed in school either until a parent dropped him off at the office. That was September. By June a very dis functioning class pulled themselves together and became the best friends ever.
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Needless to say, I have adored Mary ever since. When Jon entered middle school, I was so happy to know Mary had his back as well.
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My boys moved onto high school. Jon was a freshman and Ed a junior when I came across Mary next. She had gone on to earn her doctorate by then. Our elementary school district was headed by this woman; this monster. I don't know what her problem was, but as soon as Mary had that degree under her belt, this woman turned nasty. The Superintendent showed up at the middle school one day, accompanied by the police. Mary was dismissed, escorted out and locked out. Then Mr. H. was installed in Mary's place. That afternoon the kids from Mary's school made up signs and hit the streets, protesting Mary's dismissal.
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I came into this when it hit the paper. I was assigned to cover school board meetings and privately called meetings. I wasn't the only parent who owed her a lot. There were so many of us protesting we made news in Chicago. Mary talked to Chicago reporters the day after to ask everyone to put aside their anger allow the children to return to school. In deference to her appeal, that's exactly what happened. We continued to fight her dismissal. We attended meetings where the Superintendent claimed that Mary did something so very unethical that her dismissal was the only safe avenue there was to correct a situation most of knew nothing about. Then there was an open hearing where the incident was discussed. It was a situation where Mary went the extra mile to bring a gang banger back to school, even meeting with the boy's parents and the kids he hung with. We couldn't figure out where the error was. We were horrified that someone felt strongly enough to fire her for what amounted to caring. These charges were so trumped up it had me wondering at least, how this superintendent could look at herself in the mirror and not be disgusted. The school board backed the Superintendent up completely. Unfortunately after months and months of battling this, the dismissal stood. Mary quickly found another job as a principal elsewhere.
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Since that time the Superintendent retired. Yeah. We voted the school board out and replaced it with those who led the fight to get Mary reinstalled. I hate to admit this, but there are still people who live in this town who backed the old Superintendent that I will not speak to. I doubt that I'm alone in this. We also hired a new superintendent. I'll call him Dr. K. He is a very effective and very genial gentleman. It took a few years before he found an opening, but when he did he brought Mary back. She started at Becki's old middle school, which was not the same school as where Ed and Jon went. Mary told me she was asked back to help out for 3 days. And that turned into four months. I was so happy to see her when I went to Becki's school to pick up a food drive that year. I'm in and out of there often because of our Angel program. When I didn't see her after that, I wondered again what happened to her.
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Bill and I were invited to a dinner meeting of the local chapter of this large public service organization which is part of almost every school in this area. (Builders Club or Key Club?) We walked in and found our places, and Mary sat across from me. I was so happy to see her. We couldn't talk that day at Becky's old school, so we took time last night. I am very happy to say that she is again principal in our school district, although this time for kindergarten. "It's not the same," she told me. "I really like the older children, but I am learning my way around." I was very happy to tell her how pleased we were that she is back in our district and working with our kids. Even if I no longer have children in our school, I know my neighbors' kids are that much better off because they have Mary for a principal. She told me that a lot of the parents she meets daily are her former students from her days as principal at the middle school, and that makes her happy.
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So last night was a great night. Not only was I able to catch up on someone I think the world of, but we received a check for our pantry, and a free meal besides.
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3 comments:

Chris said...

What a great story. Mary sounds like an amazing person and I bet that every life she touches is the better for it. Excellent post.

kbear's heart 2 said...

Wow! what a great reunion. happy you could reconnect. a great beginning for the holidays!~kbear

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