North High a 'reflection of the outside'

October 05, 2003|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

Editor's note: This is one in a series of occasional stories examining "Lifescapes" - scenes from everyday life that help define the character of where we live.

Here come the buses.

Principal Robert T. "Bo" Myers knows it's almost 8:30 a.m. - clocks are plentiful at North Hagerstown High School - so he grabs his trench coat, his brown-tinted sunglasses and an umbrella and he heads for the front doors.

Classes don't start for another 15 minutes or so, but Myers already has been busy in his office for nearly two hours.

He studied videotapes of yesterday's hallway activity, looking for a girl accused of mischief. He chatted by phone - he prefers speaker phone - with assistant principals from two other schools who wanted his take on some problems.


A mother called to say she's too busy to be at a detention hearing. Another mother called to break bad news: Her foster child was arrested for assault.

Myers checked e-mails. He scanned a teacher attendance log to see if enough substitutes had been contacted.

He and other North High administrators spent their daily 7:30 a.m. meeting discussing appointments, discipline problems and supervisory duties, such as who will watch over the afternoon junior varsity football game.

Then, they talked about the broad education issue of the day: suspensions in Boston. Myers said he gleaned the topic from "Education Week," a trade publication.

The article inspired a question: When data is desegregated, who's to say if blacks and Hispanics are punished disproportionately?

By now, though, Boston is old news; Myers' focus is on the front driveway.

He stands at the curb under a black and white umbrella and stares ahead. The first bus rolls up under a light rain. Myers - a rugged ex-Marine with almost 30 years in education - waves to the driver.

Bus doors opens. Students pour out.

"Joel! Big wrestling tournament!" Myers calls out.

"He had a match with Vince McMahon," Myers explains with a slight smile as the boy walks by.

"What's up?" he greets another boy. "What is up?" They bump fists.

"Casey! Did you get in trouble last night?"

Students with mental disabilities are part of the crowd. Several greet their principal with affection, rather than the quick "hello" or nod other students give.

"Anna! Come give me a hug!"

Myers, 54, surveys students as they trudge past. Or they hurry past, a moving mass of sweatshirts, blue jeans, open button-down shirts, football jerseys, rhinestone pants, pierced noses, headphones, backpacks and pocketbooks.

They arrive by the hundreds this drizzly Wednesday morning. Before long, North High will be about 1,230 students strong, if everyone shows.

"Morning, Amanda," Myers says crisply, his shaded eyes always flitting quickly back to the buses.

"Keith. Is that situation the other day OK?" Keith removes his headphones and acknowledges that, yes, it's OK.

"Summer Rain! How you doing, girl?"

"C'mere, young man. How'd you get squared away?" Myers calls to a boy who served detention. "Good. You look like you're smiling."

A boy walking past pulls a pick out of his afro just as Myers reaches for it.

Bus detail may be the most important block of preparation time in Myers' day. He says he watches to see who's lugging unpleasantness from home.

"I just look at their faces," Myers says. "I can tell whether it's good or bad."

Day and night maintenance

Sam Shoemaker's maintenance crew kicks off every day at North High, good or bad.

Shoemaker, who heads the staff, got to work today at 6:10 a.m. Right away, he noticed a malfunction causing the outside pole lights to go on and off at the wrong time.

As Shoemaker settles into his round of outdoor security checks, and custodian Chuck Reger scoops up bundles of newspapers to distribute to classrooms, and Richie Haywood patrols the hallways and classrooms, Kent Kesecker is ready to check out.

Kesecker is the night crew. His shift is 10:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. He locks himself in the building and calls the police if anything is suspicious.

"We got a smoker in the bathroom in the north wing," Kesecker mentions before he leaves. "It's definite. I found ashes."

A single smoker may not sound like much, and it used to happen periodically, Shoemaker says, but Myers, in his second year at North High, has cracked down hard.

Shoemaker guesses that there are about 80 outside doors into the school's hallways and classrooms. The maintenance staff checks them all.

On any given day, duties might include plowing snow, delivering copy machine paper, replacing light bulbs or cleaning spills.

"We're doing everything from looking through garbage cans for a retainer to jumping a car," Shoemaker says.

Wearing a red North High cap and a dark down vest over a red plaid shirt, Shoemaker walks the grounds, grabbing and tugging on outside door handles.

He stops and opens a garage where a tractor and a mower are kept. The staff would mow today if it weren't raining.

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