Saturday, January 22, 2011

Trust me, a nozzle is worse than a bag

I really really try to get along with those people in life that I am forced to associate with. I make more concessions than I might like, and I bite my tongue a lot, stuff like that. But my daughter's principal is one that I am actually willing to have a confrontation with. To protect his identity, I will henceforth refer to him as Principal Douchenozzle, Douchenozzle, or just DN. Let me start by just painting a picture here, so you know who I'm talking about. Remember Lumbergh from Office Space? This guy doesn't look like him, but he talks just like him. "Yeah, well, um, I think we just need to work together on this and then, you know, we can decide what would be best for Ryan, okay?" And he does that thing where he says "we" when he means "I", as though whatever he is saying is so obviously right that of course you would agree with it. "Well, I mean, we want for Ryan to of course excel at the curriculum and do what it takes to make that happen." What if I don't? What if I am actually calling to tell you that I think "what it takes" is extreme and I would rather she not do it? If I agreed with everything you do, I would not have called you in the first place, would I?

It started last year when Ryan didn't do an English assignment. It was a presentation thing and she put it off until she ran out of time and didn't get it done. I had seen it coming but you know what, the kid does this shit all the time and I decided it was about time I let her fall on her face and get the zero rather than nag her for the whole last weekend to do it all. Then I got a call from her, with her teacher standing close enough that I could hear her feeding the kid lines, telling me that she hadn't done it (which I knew) and that for every day she continued to not turn it in, she would receive a detention. I called the principal to argue this because hey, the assignment wasn't done on the day it was due so give the kid the grade she earned (a zero) and maybe she'll learn that actions, or the lack of them, earn consequences. What I got was a big spiel about how second chances are important (so is learning consequences, Douchenozzle) and how about I just have her do the thing late for some credit (because she had her chance and blew it) and do I actually want my daughter to get a zero (what I want is for her to get the grades she earns, which in this case is a zero). I ended up having her whip something up quick the next day but it soured me on the principal (and that English teacher), that they would rather give a kid a detention every single day than give her the grade she earned, even when the parent called to request the grade. (Remind me someday to do a post on why I get to sick of second chances.)

So then fast forward to a couple weeks ago. It was cold. Really cold, and it wasn't getting any warmer. The projected high for the day was five, with a low of -10. The bottom of the local TV channels was a ticker tape of school closings and delays, but not our town, never our town. I kept checking the school website, too, right up until I went to bed, and no closing or delay. While browsing around on the site, I found the district policy on adverse weather conditions and it said that even if school is open, if a parent feels the weather is too bad they can choose to keep their child home and the absence will be excused and homework will be accepted late. I told Tom that if I didn't get a text alert on my phone of a delay I was going to call her off. The next morning, I called her off. I left a voice mail at 6:00 a.m. saying it was too cold and I was keeping Ryan home. I got a call at 9:00 from good old Principal DN telling me that Ryan's absence was going to be unexcused since she wasn't sick. I told him the district website said it was okay to keep a kid home for weather and he asked where. Of course, I couldn't remember where I'd found it, and it wasn't in the 'absences' part of the handbook so he didn't believe me. Furthermore, he said that if that was the policy, he was going to have to see about changing it. When I got off the phone, nothing was resolved and I still couldn't find the paragraph I knew I'd read just the night before. So I called the district superintendent, explained my problem to her, and she found the passage for me and promised to call DN and tell him about it. I thanked her and emailed him the link myself, just for good measure. But a few hours later, after cooling down a little, I realized that was had really bothered me was that he didn't even know the policy, and he was the one charged with enforcing it. I had to go over his head to his boss to mount my own defense and find evidence. And on top of that, the asshole had just assumed he had the authority to make up rules as he went along. He didn't think a parent should be able to supersede the district's decision to stay open, so he was deeming it an unexcused absence. I really hadn't occurred to him that there could possibly be any rule out there stopping him form doing that. His power was, in his mind, absolute. So I fired off an email to the superintendent, and I CCed DN, thanking her for her help and reiterating who awful it was to have to go to such lengths to prove my case just to give my kid a chance to get credit for her homework, both what was due and what was assigned that day. And I also slipped in there how disappointed I was that even after being proved wrong, he still hadn't called to apologize, and I suggested he might benefit from some more training in school policies and in dealing with parents. When he called to apologize, I let it go to voicemail, so as not to dig myself a hole.

So, my most recent beef with DN is over the school dress code. I have read the thing 3 times just today and I know what it says and what the rules are, and nowhere does it mention pajama pants, lounge pants, or elastic waist cotton, flannel, or fleece pants. And yet, my daughter tells me that she can't wear several pairs of her pants to school because the principal says they violate the dress code. So I sent an email asking him to explain to me why she thinks this, since I have read the dress code and they don't violate anything. I can't wait to see what the answer is, or to hear how he justifies trying to outrank the district rules with his own personal and arbitrary preferences. And don't think I'm above using the phrase "what you personally think 12 year old girls look good in". For the record, Ryan has worn paint stained sweat pants to school and had no problem. The pants he objected to were Grandma Pants with pictures of dogs on them. Straight-leg fleece pants with an elastic waist and drawstring, just like the Hanes sweats she's been wearing since Christmas, but in a patterned double-sided fleece instead of black one-sided fleece.

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