It was never the plan, but I’ve now started working at my 10th school. Much has been written about how to begin the school year, and I’ll probably add my 2.5 cents on another day, but today, I want to write about how NOT to end the school year.

Now we had kind of a unique situation. We were on a year-round schedule. The students’ bus cards stopped working when the regular year ended (so did the counselors, but that was the topic for another entry). Summer jobs, travel, programs, internships, etc. all still work on the traditional school calendar. We offered, however feebly, some end-of-year trips.

We’d always add some attendance attrition, but this year, attendance just fell off of a cliff. Classes that were once 16 became 4. Teachers, admittedly including me, were taking time off. Some, again including me, were packing up their rooms.

In the past, though, we’d anticipated student attrition and adjusted accordingly. Students were grouped by subject, for example. We had the (yes!) data to say who was really close to finishing a class, so we’d just assign students to English or math (for example) for 3 straight periods in order to maximize their chances to pass the class. This would also allow us to consolidate teaching responsibilities. Need to plan for next year? Need to organize the laptops? Those teachers would have a break from student contact time. Need to work with a few students 1-1? Then do that. Some final details for the trip to DC? Go do that.

Not this year, no. First of all, each morning we played the game, “Where in the world is the Principal?” He essentially stopped communicating with us. There may have been a professional development meeting. There certainly was a lot of hiring to do. To this day, I’m not sure whether he went on one of the year-end trips. I simply had no idea where he was.

Since he was not present and our former practice of solving problems collaboratively had suffered death by a 1,008 cuts, we simply defaulted to running the same old schedule. 4 students. Then 6. Then 3. And so on.

And I didn’t need a gold watch or anything, but I did help found the bloody school. We had a last day of PD, and again, no Principal. No one to say, “Thanks” or “Good-bye.” No reflection on the year. Just a breakfast paid for by members of our Sunshine Committee (with donations from us) and goofy awards they’d created. Much appreciated, to be sure, but those of us who’d founded the school, we deserved more than that.

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