Monday, August 22, 2011

God Help Our High Schooler

This Thursday, Our Daughter will enter the halls of high school as a freshman.

All I can say is if our experience last week is any indication of the administrative quality her new school has to offer, she'd better start praying now and not stop until that diploma is firmly in hand.

It started out well. We arrived early at the school gymnasium and the doors opened spot on nine o'clock as we were told they would. After less than five minutes, we had her schedule and crossed the gym to pay $23 in school fees. That's when it all fell apart.

Because there were no available electrical outlets in the gym, it was announced that fee collection was being moved across the hall to the cafeteria. While the majority of parents and students milled around, confused and bouncing into each other like sardines, we scooted out to be first in line.

A table staffed by three people blocked the entrance to the cafeteria. They were not immediately helpful. After several minutes of declarations by them detailing their complete lack of understanding of their responsibilities, one of them left to receive instructions. Several instructional visits later, we were formed into three lines: one for locker assignments, one for bus schedules, and one for payment of fees.

Bus schedules was the big winner. Fortunately, we won't need the bus, so we headed up the locker assignment line.

"My daughter needs a locker," I told the nice lady with the spreadsheet in front of her. She wrote my daughter's name next to the first locker available, then stared blankly at me when I asked, "Are you taking cash or check for the lockers?"

Not only didn't they know whether the fee was $2, $3, or $5, they had no idea how they were handling payment. One more instructional visit later, we were informed we had to stand in the fee payment line, pay the $23 in school fees plus the $5 locker fee, then come back with our reciept. Only then would we receive Our Daughter's locker assignment and combination.

Fee payment went smoothly, although I couldn't help noticing a complete lack of electricity during the process. The person who collected my payment documented it in a carbon copy ledger and tore out my receipt. There was no credit card machine involved in the transaction, no phone, not even a solar-powered calculator.

Anyway, $28 later we were back at the locker assignment table being handed a combination that was supposed to open locker number two on the second floor of building number two. Two problems: (1) There is no locker number two on the second floor of building number two, and (2) the only people around to "help" the many lost and confused sardine parents were janitors.

I have nothing at all against janitors, but there are few things less helpful than uninformed people guessing solutions to problems they don't fully understand. I should know, since I am often one of those people. In hindsight, I really should have thanked the nice woman who tried to help me for offering the most ridiculous piece of advice I have received in years.

Her solution, you ask? Clearly, "2" was not the number of Our Daughter's locker, but rather it was the last digit of her assigned locker. We simply needed to check every locker ending with the number two and try the combination at each until we found the correct locker...

You at least have to give her credit for putting some thought to it.

To make an extraordinarily long story only ordinarily long, the combination didn't work even after we found the correct locker (on the ground floor), the school did not have student IDs ready to hand out at the media center as were told they would, and I ended up handing over our PTA payment to one of the teachers because the parent volunteers had abandoned the PTA table.

This evening we head back to the school to find Our Daughter's classrooms and meet her teachers. After the remarkable first impression the school made last week, I am a little scared to see how tonight goes. With any luck, her schedule might actually match up with those that the teachers received.

© 2011 Mark Feggeler

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