Principal's Responsiveness Gets Low Marks

August 18, 1991|By Ruth Boehmer

In response to your article regarding the removal of principal Barbara San Gabino ("Parents petition for removal of Odenton principal," July 28, 1991), I would like to share my experience of a principal's failure to respond and discipline.

Twice I notified my son's schoolof a need for more supervision while students were in the library and at lockers, as the boys were becoming aggressive. I felt the schoolresponded to my concerns.

Several weeks later, my son came home from school and told me he was beaten by five students. He said he was knocked from his chair and repeatedly kicked and punched. He showed me bruises on his waist and shoulders and marks on his neck, back and chest.

My son missed six days of school, which is more than he has missed for any illness. He was under a doctor's care for several weeks, received medicine forpain and was given ultrasound treatment for possible internal injuries.

To his credit, my son is probably the only 10-year-old to request a conference with his principal. During this entire time, the principal did not call my home.

I appreciate the situation that the principals are sometimes left with, but when there are 15 or more witnesses, one may obtain a clearer picture of what occurred.

It was adifficult time for our family. My son's physical and mental needs, another death in the family and my bout with pneumonia was enough to keep me busy.

I requested a meeting of the students and parents of the children involved; the principal refused. I asked the principal to give my phone number to the parents of the children involved, and he said he would.

But three weeks after the incident, I hadn't received any phone calls, so I began making calls. I was able to reach three of the five parents, none of whom had been contacted by the principal. The first was very receptive and appreciated my call.

This parent had been told by her child that her neighbor's child was involved, and gave her my number. We had a lengthy conversation that was enlightening and an almost reaching out to one another.

It was a week later when I reached the third parent. Her child had already told her, and she had disciplined him. She was expecting a call from the principal.

All three parents told me that they would let the principal know of their unhappiness at not being notified about their child's misbehavior.

An unlisted phone number and a disconnected phone prevented me from reaching the other two parents. I feel badly for these two children. What kind of message did they receive? I feel badly for these parents. I feel they were denied the right to discipline orcorrect this behavior.

Many parents have expressed concern about teacher priorities, the need to encourage children and consider theiremotional needs, and the need to improve communication with both students and parents.

Principals should attempt to keep disruptions to a minimum and get on with the business of education. I appreciate school Superintendent Larry L. Lorton's response in the Odenton case when he stated that the principal had not performed well in an area, but more importantly, that it was a failure of "what a parent has a right to expect."

A parent's rights are certainly denied when they are not notified of a disruption in which their child was felt to playa major role.

I applaud Odenton parents for their ability to communicate their concerns. I hope their CAC grows stronger. I feel at this point that their concerns have been addressed.

However, I feel Odenton ought to keep its principal. As I tell the kids, it takes a big person to admit they are wrong, but it takes an even bigger personto forgive. Principal San Gabino is right when she says we never getit all right, but I feel she'll make the attempt.

Principals, with self-esteem becoming the umpteenth job for schools in the '90s, I appreciate your efforts in this area. I say, pick up those phones.

Editor's note: The author is the vice president of the South Shore Elementary School PTA and a member of the South Shore Elementary Citizens Advisory Committee.

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