Saturday, April 2, 2011

It Takes a Village.....Part Deux

After this experience my husband and I talked at length about our main points of contention, which were primarily the time, place, and tone of the conversation and that is what we wanted conveyed to the principal. She was very responsive. She, of course, tried (albeit not very hard) to defend the secretary, but also acknowledged that the time and place were not appropriate and the tone was questionable as well. As far as the medical records go she said the only time the school generally requests documentation is when there is a long term absence (she defined long term as 30 to 40 absences which we are NO WHERE close to) due to a medical reason OR if multiple absences are affecting student performance. She acknowledged neither was the case in our situation so she seemed a bit dumbfounded as to why we were asked for this type of documentation.

The "funny" thing about educators is they (we) are always trying to explain how our system works to people outside of the education system. I understand why they (we) do that; it's because there are a lot more complexities to the inner workings, funding, budgets than people realize or politicians want to admit and acknowledge. However, I always find it funny when educators try to explain these inner workings to other educators, as is the case with me and my husband....not that she necessarily knew that.

Not truly pertinent to the story but a little funny was when she started to explain the role of the attendance clerk (which the receptionist doubles as...essentially pulling calls off the attendance hotline and recording the absences in the computer). My husband stopped her (politely) and just said, "My wife and I have both worked in many school districts as teachers so we are well aware the role of the attendance clerk. However, at no school we have ever been employed has the attendance clerk confronted a parent in the front office in front of other parents. Are you saying that here in (School District name redacted) School District the role of the attendance clerk is to confront parents publicly?" The principal reluctantly acknowledged that no, that was not the appropriate way to handle it.

She also began to explain the budgetary importance of attendance. Schools receive money based on how many students attend on any given day. When students are absent the school loses money. So, she began explaining that. My husband's counter to that was that in the state of Arizona school attendance isn't mandatory until a child is six years old. Our daughter is five. She is not required to be in school at all. Further, Kindergarten isn't mandatory in the state of Arizona. Again, she is not required to attend any school, so any money they receive from her attendance is gravy and should be viewed as such (according to my husband in his point to her). The principal had to reluctantly acknowledge this as fact as well.

Overall, we made sure to state that as a whole we were very pleased with the school. We wanted her to know we were happy with our daughter's teacher, the school culture and "feel", and that our daughter loved coming to school as well. So, while there were a couple of "moments" of differing opinions, she did understand where we were coming from and was responsive to those concerns. And having worked in schools and seen different principals interact with parents, this isn't always a given. There are principals who have very contentious relationships with parents and who don't validate or address their concerns. That really only breeds resentment and distrust. I can honestly say that despite little things here and there that irk me, the principal has always been responsive and does promptly address parental concerns while simultaneously defending her employees (as much as she reasonably can). Having been on both sides of that I know it is a balancing act. However, having worked for a principal who routinely threw teachers under the bus, myself included, in disputes with parents it was refreshing to see that while she understood our point, she also tried to make us understand the receptionists point as well, even though in the end we still didn't agree with it at all.


Nancy said...

I don't think the receptionist/attendance clerk had ANY point to make!
I hope you and your husband feel you got your point across. Will there be any discipline for the receptionist?

Here In Franklin said...

Oh, that made me mad just reading it. Just proves that you shouldn't pick a fight without knowing your adversary.