Headmaster’s Thoughts – January 2006

January’s thoughts are written in December (surprise!), and these are written on the last day of school in 2005, the day we have a skating party.

It has been an interesting day. It started at 3:00 a.m. when I tried to find out if there was to be a transit strike on which hung the issue of whether there would be a skating party. In fact, there was not a transit strike that affected the party, nor did I get back to sleep.

So we all took buses to the Rink in Montvale, New Jersey, and skated. The last person to board the buses was Carl, our school guard, and he was the one who made sure when the buses returned that every student was safely back in school. He is indeed everywhere. The first one on the block in the morning, he leaves at the end of the day after the last student from the last team has finally left. During the day he patrols throughout and kibitzes with members of the neighborhood.

How fortunate we were to have Carl join our community, and that is a small saga in itself. He came as part of a revolving team of guards from a security company with offices around the corner from the School. And he was so warm and wise that we had to scheme to get him to us on a permanent basis.

Carl became a member of our staff and has become one of those rare people in life that, after they are with you, you wonder how you ever got along without them. His ability to mix and engage with everyone is, I think, indicative of his incredible happy outlook. He is truly (and this is more rare than one might think) cheerful. What a blessing!

The other day, there were four of us on the steps of the school: Glen, the UPS driver who has delivered to us for a number of years; Amy Irving, the celebrated actress from, among many movies, “Crossing Delancey”; Carl; and myself. The conversation was free flowing and catholic (with a small “c”). I think that I was the one who had to leave, and I did so with regret. We have many community members, including other notables, who stop and talk to Carl on a regular basis. He handles everyone with the same respect and courtesy. He has every quality that one could want, and yet does not push his virtue upon you.

Carl is one reason that our block association members treat me almost as an equal. They may have qualms about having a school of active adolescents in their midst, but the payback is that they get the presence of Carl to watch over their otherwise quiet street. If there are people on the block who worry Carl, he goes over for a “gentle word,” and magically they are no longer around. What he says is probably less important than his demeanor and–yes, I should admit it–his size. He is what one could call a number one size man. But the charm and good humor is as, if not more, significant, and it is a combination that is as effective in clearing the block as a bell at the end of a study hall period.

Carl knows all of our students and teachers by name, although some of us have names that are not clear to those of us who hold them. I am “The General!” and get a salute. Quite a pleasant experience but slightly mystifying. I have never had the particular inclination to ask Carl why he calls me that. My wife is “The First Lady” and is addressed directly as such, or I am told that the “First Lady” has stepped out, or is waiting for me. I obviously get the reference (and arguably Jayme is the first lady of York), but Carl is the only one who uses this expression with authority and without a hint of anything but respect. He calls Chris Durnford “Mr. Durnford,” and yet most of the teachers he addresses by first name.

So, all of this is to say that if you come to pick up your child at school, you certainly already know Carl. In fact, everything I have written is well known to you. But if you are new, let me give you the fore knowledge that our school guard is a special person whose sagacity and humor make him truly an aristocrat in our midst. Yes, a school is a team effort, but sometimes at the beginning of the year, we should honor those who make our lives so much brighter.

Ronald P. Stewart, Headmaster
E-mail: rstewart@yorkprep.org