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Orientation nightcauses school daze

August 26, 2004|by TIM ROWLAND

After performing a few home-related chores, my friend Marshall and I will usually sit out on the back porch to "rest up" from all the strain.

Marshall is one of those neighbors who clueless homeowners such as myself find invaluable. You know the type, handy with everything and always willing to pitch in.

This week he was teaching me to mix concrete for some post holes, and when the wheel on my lawn mower broke, he grabbed a set of wrenches and fixed it. He is always doing maintenance chores for me that I can't handle myself, such as changing the oil in my rototiller and stuff. I know Marshall is not probably going to be around a whole lot longer, so I try to learn as much as I can from him.

I should mention in passing that Marshall is 10 years old. And he's not going to be around much longer because, as he reminded me Monday, it's time for schools to call young folk back off the streets for another year of assault with intent to teach.

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When he mentioned school, I shot upright in my seat because I remembered that Monday was orientation night at Williamsport High School, and it brought to mind an unpleasant conversation I'd had the week before with the Benjamin Spock in High Heels.

"All good fathers attend their child's orientation," she pronounced.

"Whew," I said, relieved. "For a second there I thought you wanted me to go, too."

But there must have been some misunderstanding of the definition of the word "good," since spot on 7 p.m. I found myself in the auditorium of Williamsport High pretending my darnedest to be interested.

In truth, it got off to an entertaining start as the principal introduced a four-wheeled robot built by high school kids the previous year named Kitty - the robot is named Kitty, not the principal - which sizzled around the stage in kind of a pleasingly frightful way with booms flailing and lights flashing.

It parked itself on the stage directly behind the podium with one of its "arms" raised ominously high over the head of whoever happened to be speaking at the moment. For the bulk of the program a blue laser light, seemingly aimed at the dome of the speaker, kept flashing on and off, and I kind of lost what the people were saying, so enthralled was I with the prospect that at some point Kitty would discern a comment that not even a robot could swallow and the boom would come crashing down on the melon of some athletic booster, or something.

But it never happened, so eventually I drifted back into cognizance of the spoken word. For example, I learned more about the Williamsport High School attendance policy than I ever wanted to know.

It's very simple, really. Each semester, a student is allowed six excused absences, multiplied by the number of days between the fall solstice and the second full moon divided by pi and subtracted from a base derivative of Gregorian calendar leap years, so long as the student has an excuse signed by three doctors and the Director of Homeland Security, notarized by the Bishop of Westminster and translated into original Latin and chanted during a special assembly of a rare order of pesto-making monks.

Of particular interest was a clause stating that absences of more than six per semester "must be signed by a doctor or a court." I wonder if Judge Wright knows about this. Like he's going to have to pen notes saying, "Please excuse Johnny from school yesterday, he was breaking and entering."

The high point was en entertaining and enlightening talk by the school disciplinarian, who explained that fighting, among other things, would get you kicked straight out of school. In my day, this would have had boys lining up to fight for a free pass home, but things are different now.

Then we had 20 minutes on the school dress code, which I can pretty much sum up in two words: "Wear clothes." Or, more accurately, "wear lots of clothes." The disciplinarian stated that one of the most uncomfortable parts of his job is having to measure girls' skirts to make sure they are long enough.

I struggled through the rest of the evening passably enough, and met some great teachers, whom I slipped a few bucks to make sure they will give out lots of homework, thus reducing the amount of time I will have to endure noise-generating computer games at home.

Of course they encouraged parents to "volunteer" and to "get involved" so, call me altruistic if you must, at the end of the evening I stopped off at the disciplinarian's office. "I hate to see a man suffer," I told him. "So if you need a volunteer to help you measure girls' skirts, I'm your boy."

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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