Headmaster’s Thoughts – May 2011

More notes to Diary:

  • Make sure tuxedo is ready for the Prom.
  • Make sure you take a hat to the invitational track meet in case it is sunny.
  • Make sure you are at both performances of the school musical Grease.
  • Make sure you take an individual photograph of each senior for the slide show at Graduation.
  • Write a note to David Hyde-Pierce, who very graciously asked that his honorarium for speaking at graduation be used for the school’s Performing Arts Department. A genuinely kind act; would he understand the word “mensch”?
  • See every teacher for at least half an hour to discuss the year.
  • Make sure the restaurant is reserved for the Senior Athletes’ dinner.
  • Get in the last two fire drills.
  • Order food for the 12th Grade Scholars’ lunch at our house.

The end of the year is the time when everything seems to be happening at school. Trips, plays, sports events, meetings, dramas, epiphanies–the last month of the academic year seems crammed.

I actually like it. I moan to Jayme that I am over-worked and that the days seem endless, but she has heard that before and is smart enough to know that I thrive on all of the action. Somehow, a lot of things come together in the last month. The seniors have been wonderfully placed in college and are suddenly sentimental about a school they finally realize they will leave. Students who have struggled in the earlier part of the school year magically get into their stride and make great progress in the final months. Every day brings ten more unsolicited emails from teachers who want to teach at York. Papers are due. Departments meet about new curricula ideas. The China trip gets more attention. A community service club hosts bake sales for some worthy charity each week (last week, students raised $2,200 for the Campaign against Human Trafficking).

Just as the new school year seems to start with enormous energy, so does the school year end. Somehow, as the day’s light lengthens, so does the school day. Baseball teams return later, drama rehearsals take place on weekends, the Swim Club comes back late on Friday afternoons, teachers stay later with students who realize that final exams are not too far away.

More notes to Diary:

  • Make sure the contractors are on schedule for the gym expansion.
  • Check that the boxes on the roof are well planted with flowers for the bees.
  • Decide which computers to replace.
  • Order blue books for exams.
  • Change fading light bulbs.
  • Make a place in the lobby to display the Boat Building Club’s hand-made boat.
  • Get list of faculty who will teach in the summer school program.
  • Decide which rooms need repainting and which carpets replacing.
  • Order a new flag (they only last a year).

The summer is the time to ensure that the building is kept in perfect shape. I think we take great pride in keeping the building spotless, but this means that much attention needs to be focused on the infrastructure as well as the external aesthetics of the school. Because this year we are constructing additional space, the custodial staff will need to time their renewal program more carefully. The contractors have taken an office in the building. So far, the meetings have been very cordial. Let us hope that spirit continues.

More notes to Diary:

  • Ensure the non-teaching staff is recognized for their work at the end-of-year assembly.
  • Coordinate summer schedules so that the phones are always covered by staff during the summer (I intensely dislike automated phone answering systems).
  • Order silver frames for faculty and staff who are getting married or having children.
  • Check that the ice cream store will be ready when we “surprise” the seniors with a trip there.
  • Continue working on next year’s course schedule.
  • Replace batteries in defibrillation units and emergency lights and check expiration dates on fire extinguishers.
  • Pray for good weather so that the Spring Sports teams can get in their scheduled games.
  • Remind flooring company that this year the gym floor will be re-varnished and painted late after the construction is completed.
  • Smile!

In May, as one hurries around from appointment to appointment, one has to remember that for most students it is just another day. They expect (rightfully) that we appear in control of the school whether we feel in control or not. For the administration, events build until the day of graduation, but that date is relatively insignificant for the rest of the students. All they know is that they get out early on that day. For each student, whatever happens on any particular day at any particular time is the most important event in the world at that moment. If they cannot print their term paper, or their friend misses them for lunch, or they lose their bus pass, nothing trumps those “catastrophes” until the next one comes along.

More notes to Diary:

  • Meet with trustees of Scholarship Foundation.
  • Coordinate plantings on block by student volunteers with the 68th Street Block Association.
  • Meet Rabbi from next door and Christian Science Church leaders.
  • Send a representative to the 20th Precinct community council.
  • Smile at the mothers who nearly run you over with their baby carriages. One day they may send their children to your school.

The good weather brings out neighbors on the block to get together. Carl, our avuncular school guard, is the de facto mayor of the street. Everyone talks or waves to him, and he cheerfully waves back. I well remember the morning when he was talking earnestly in front of the school with Amy Irving, the actress; Glenn, our UPS delivery man; and the local scooter policeman whose name I don’t know. It was an “only in New York” moment.

More notes to Diary:

  • Stop writing notes to Diary.
  • You are going to be here all summer, so relax.
  • The construction will be fine.
  • Take two aspirin.
  • Go to bed and don’t stay up worrying.

Ronald P. Stewart, Headmaster

E-mail: rstewart@yorkprep.org

“Headmaster’s Thoughts” for previous months are archived in the section More News. You may access additional months by clicking Headmaster’s Thoughts Archives on the same page.