New principal learning right along with students

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 14, 2003

The day started at 5 a.m. as Karen Tutor, worried she would oversleep, woke for her first day of school as principal of McLaurin Elementary School.

She arrived at school at about 6:45 a.m., making sure she was there before 7 for the first day of school, awaiting a 7:45 school start time.

She entered a room now almost finished, complete with nameplate on the desk and family pictures sitting around the room.

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As students began to show up by the busload, she ushered in many students, there to see the tears and looks of terror from the second graders’ first day at the elementary school.

For many students, the school day did not begin until around 7:50, five minutes late. And some students did not even arrive until eight o’clock.

That’s one of the things Tutor wants to change.

&uot;They missed 15 minutes of instruction,&uot; Tutor said. &uot;Every minute is important.&uot;

Tutor met with parents about new rules for student pickup after school, changing old procedures out of safety concerns.

After a few talks with parents, Tutor roamed the halls of the school for a couple of hours, making sure everything was running smoothly. By lunch, it had been a &uot;smooth morning,&uot; she said.

As she pulled out her trusty schedule, complete with where everyone in the building is at a given time, Tutor headed to lunch with the fourth graders. She folded it up and placed it back in her pants’ pocket, making sure not to lose it.

&uot;I don’t know how lunch works,&uot; Tutor admitted. But Lorenzo Stampley, assistant principal, was in the cafeteria to not only guide teachers and students but Tutor as well.

While talking over pizza and a ham and cheese po-boy, Tutor and Stampley devised a new plan to ensure all children were getting to the buses and pickup areas, without passing by the front entrance.

After lunch there was a little down time before heading off to Ms. Simpson’s second grade class to read to them.

Tutor introduced herself to the room of second graders and in turn they introduced themselves to her. Also sharing a tidbit about themselves, everyone told his or her favorite color or colors if they had two favorites.

Then, she read one of her favorite books to the class, &uot;A Bad Case of Stripes&uot; by David Shannon about a girl who looked in the mirror before her first day of school only to find she was striped.

With the vivid illustrations and colors that jumped off the page, Tutor kept the class interested not only by reading the story but asking them questions.

At the end of the story, Tutor told the class to think about what they were most worried about for their first day of school because Camilla, in the story, was worried about pleasing all her friends instead of herself. When she did finally please herself instead of her friends, the condition ceased.

Tutor started by telling the students her biggest concern of the day was oversleeping.

Math, reading and people picking on them were some of the students concerns, but Tutor reassured them.

&uot;We’ll teach you everything you need to know,&uot; she said.

Then after some more walking the halls and time spent waiting for the end of school, Tutor met her match, her biggest obstacle of the day &045;&045; dismissal.

While her rerouting worked just fine, it was the mass exodus of children in every direction she was still concerned about after the buses pulled out.

She reached the bus loading zone, engulfed by the crowd around her, looking left, looking right to see the chaos around her as children ran in every direction to find their bus.

Some were confused, some did not get on the bus, but at the end of the day, only one child did not have a ride &045;&045; a problem that was solved in the end.

What bus is she on? Where does she live? Where is that child? All questions circling throughout the school grounds during bus loading time until &045;&045; 3:09 &045;&045; and the buses were off.

Down time and debriefing with Stampley finally began as all children were gone home.

The mother duck had taken all 700 of her ducklings from beginning to end and so the worrying could subside until the next day.

&uot;A day done,&uot; she said to a teacher walking down the hall.

And what did she think by the end of the day?

&uot;It’s been a productive day,&uot; Tutor said. &uot;It was great.&uot;

But there are still things she will address in the coming days, after seeing her weeks of planning come to fruition into a day at school.

&uot;I still think there is a better way to do this,&uot; she said of the tumultuous dismissal process.

So her biggest worry, oversleeping, should be out of the way.

&uot;I’m tired,&uot; Tutor admitted at the end of the day. &uot;But I’m thinking it won’t be a problem tonight (to fall asleep).&uot;

The watching stages will continue Friday, but Tutor is ready to observe, planning to make her way into classrooms to watch every day.

Tardiness is one area she wants parents and students to know must change.

&uot;We’re in the business of having school at McLaurin,&uot; Tutor said, and she wants everyone to know and understand that.