Wednesday, September 10, 2014

TOMMIE SAYLOR: First days bring a pair of surprises

“No man is more important than The Team. No coach is more important than The Team. The Team, The Team, The Team, and if we think that way, all of us, everything that you do, you take into consideration what effect does it have on my Team? Because you can go into professional football, you can go anywhere you want to play after you leave here. You will never play for a Team again. You’ll play for a contract. You’ll play for this. You’ll play for that. You’ll play for everything except The Team, and think what a great thing it is to be a part of something that is, The Team.

"We’re gonna win it. We’re gonna win the championship again because we’re gonna play as team, better than anybody else in this conference, we’re gonna play together as a team.  We’re gonna believe in each other, we’re not gonna criticize each other, we’re not gonna talk about each other, we’re gonna encourage each other. And when we play as a team, when the old season is over, you and I know, it’s gonna be Michigan again, Michigan.” 
-- the late Bo Schembechler

By Tommie Saylor
Kennedy High School Principal

This week, two things caught my attention:

Wednesday: Even with the best-laid plans, it seems inevitable that something goes overlooked.  Wednesday, the first day of school for students, we had everything well planned out, and for the most part, we got the school year off to a good start.  Everything except one thing, one small thing that went overlooked until the last possible second …

We never told the students their bus assignments.

I assumed that their bus assignments would be printed on their schedules and that transportation mailed out bus assignments this summer.  Transportation sent bus assignments to the school assuming that we would include them in our summer mailing but we had to send our summer mailing over to the PRC in the middle of June before the secretaries left for the summer.  By the time the bus schedule reached the school, the summer mailing had already been given over to the PRC. To make a long story short, they did not get in the summer mailing and thus did not go out to our students.

So, here I am, 10:15 a.m. on the first day of school, a half day of school that ends at 10:30 am, just learning the above information and coming to the realization that our students somehow made it to school, but do not know which bus to take home.

I have all of 15 minutes to figure out a solution.  So, we make copies of the bus schedule complete with pick-up, drop off, information and times, and figure we can stand outside of the building this first day of school and try our best to get this information to our students before the busses drive off. Then something truly amazing happened.

Ms. Nelson, obviously seeing the “deer in the headlights” look on my face, came up with a simple but highly effective solution. 

Ms. Nelson stormed into my office, asked for a copy of the bus schedule, produced several more copies on the office photocopier, ran out into the hall distributing these copies to every teacher in the building so that they could spend the last few minutes of this first day of school informing their students as to which bus they needed to take to get home. But, it did not stop here.

When the dismissal bell sounded, most of the staff went outside with several copies of the bus schedule, assisting students in finding the right bus.

Calls went out over the radio.

“Where is bus 126?”

“Has anyone seen bus 41?”

Without as much as a second delay, the replies came.

“126 is the last bus in line.”

 “41 is up front.”

Ms. Osborne jumping up and down, waving her hands trying to get the attention of students in her excitement of finding the right bus…

Mr. Greenburg walking up and down the sidewalk calling out “bus schedules, get your bus schedules” as if an old-fashioned newspaper boy barking out to make a sale …

All in all, I was overwhelmed with the level of support and willingness the Kennedy staff had with making sure their students found their ride home.  Not a single negative word was heard.  Instead, I saw nothing but teachers helping their students find their way as if it was something we had planned all along.

Thank you Ms. Nelson, Ms. Osborne, Mr. Greenburg and all the others who took it upon themselves to unselfishly lend their assistance. You have no idea how proud you made me. This is a beautiful example of what we mean when we talk about ONE TEAM, ONE MISSION!

Thursday: On the morning of the second day of school, I had the pleasure of calling a young lady newly graduated from college who applied and interviewed for the open science position vacated by Dr. Thomas. 

This young lady was well prepared for her interview and impressed the interview committee instantly, demonstrating professionalism, intelligence, and a strong willingness to do whatever is necessary for the betterment of students. 

When I called, I introduced myself, engaged in some small talk, and explained that the interview committee had a hard choice to make but we did come to a conclusion.  Yes, I did drag it out a bit. I have a tendency to relish in the suspense at the expense of the candidate.  But, eventually I did get to it and I informed this young lady, Ms. Amanda Wood, that we would like to offer her the job.

Her response was so precious it was something to the effect of “YES, YES, YES, I can’t believe it, YES, YES, YES, oh my god YES.”

As I was explaining to her the next step, I could hear the tears of joy coming from the other end of the phone. It was then that I was absolutely, positively certain we made the right choice.  Anyone who is that excited, that overwhelmed with joy for being given the opportunity to teach is a person I want teaching at Kennedy.

Remember those days? The days when all you wanted to do was teach, to stand in front of kids and see their eyes light up when they finally “get it.” Let’s see if the rest of us can bring back some of that excitement in our own classrooms this year.

What starts here, changes the world. Making Kennedy the school of choice. Excellence by design.

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