If you are a parent, you know the burden of responsibility you feel for your children. You must take care of them. You want to know where they are at all times. You want to make sure they are in the right place, at the right time. You want to know they are safe, and taken care of. As parents, we hold tightly to our children. We protect them from strangers. We take the details of their lives seriously.
Now I want you to imagine you have 2100+ children. This is the world of the Conway High School front office. These ladies are in charge of the comings and goings of every student at CHS. They are in charge of their information, their safety, their whereabouts, and sometimes…even, their lunch! This Day in the Life was one of my more predictable days…but also one of the busiest.
The front office at Conway High School is never short on action. When you walk in, you can just see and feel the gears working in there. It has the feel of a central “hub”- kind of like the control center for a major operation or the intersection of a major highway. Phones ringing, walkie-talkies squawking, various conversations taking place at the same time, school bells “ringing”, and intercoms chiming. These are the sounds of the Conway High School office.
“Good Morning, Conway High School.” Tina Bewley surely says this phrase in her sleep by now. The newest front office staff member, Bewley is a CHS grad herself. She was thrilled to “come home” by accepting the front office job this year. She takes pride in knowing the students and their parents. Her calm, pleasant demeanor puts people at ease as she speaks to them. She has to be a one-woman student handbook, e-school database, CPSD Staff Directory, and more at all times. But she does it all with grace. In a single moment, there can be a request from a teacher needing an administrator in their classroom, someone calling for a custodian in the hallway, a parent (or three!) calling to check their child in/out on the phone, a parent coming inside to check their child in/out, plus three or four students coming into the office for various reasons. Students have questions about transcripts (Go to the counseling center) or enrollment (See the Registrar) or need to see the Nurse (around the corner.) It is fast paced. It is non-stop. It is important work. Much grace is needed, and she has it.
Mrs. Bewley and the other fantastic ladies who work in the office at Conway High School are, quite literally, the gatekeepers, at CHS. They regulate who comes/goes as far as students checking in and out of school. This happens so much, it makes your head spin! Students check in late due to traffic, or oversleeping, or a doctor’s appointment. They check out for an appointment, a family event, or illness. Each instance must be verified, recorded and double checked by the office. Student attendance is a BIG DEAL. It impacts a student’s academic performance, and ultimately their graduation. It’s also a welfare issue. We need to know where students are at all times. If they are supposed to be in class, they need to be in class, under the school’s supervision. If they are supposed to be checked out, they should be checked out and under the parent’s supervision.
With school safety at the forefront of so many people’s minds, this “Day in the Life” was such a great reminder of the importance of vigilance to our security protocols and procedures at our Junior High and Senior High campuses. It can be challenging, and sometimes inconvenient, for parents, students, and staff, but no amount of extra time or effort is wasted in this area. These extra steps can quite literally save a life.
When dealing with these older students, the office, as an extension of the school district, is still responsible for them in a way that can seem counterintuitive to their age. For example, even though students can drive themselves on/off campus, they must still be checked in/out of school by a parent. (And it must be in person if it is during lunch hours.) Even though they are old enough to handle many affairs themselves, they have to be registered for school (We call it “Annual Required Forms”) each year by a parent or guardian. The students cannot sign these forms themselves. And the information on these forms cannot be changed by the student. This creates some really tough situations sometimes. I saw this several times during my “Day in the Life.” These students are old enough to speak for themselves. They often want to advocate for an updated custody situation, or a grandparent who wants to take them to an appointment, but their forms MUST be updated in order for this to happen. (Public Service Announcement here: Please update your students’ Annual Required Forms and put anyone (grandparents, etc.) who is authorized to check them out as an emergency contact on there. Thank you!)
On a lighter note, I found slight amusement in the quantity of items brought to the high school and left for students to pick up by a thoughtful parent. Things “accidentally left at home” included everything from their keys, money, a snack for after school practice, clothes, a coat, and even contact lenses. Sometimes even lunches! In elementary school, parents sometimes come and eat lunch with their kids, but apparently in high school, they just deliver it to the front office. So even though these are “big kids,” you are never too big to need your parents every now and then.
So, what’s the takeaway from my “Day in the Life” in the front office at Conway High School? Your high school students, even though they are more grown than our younger ones, are well taken care of. Parents- please help us care for them well by supporting the structure that is in place. Be kind to the sweet ladies who answer the phone, for they are the gatekeepers for our students, and school would not survive one day without them.