If you want to know the inside story on any high school you need to talk to the person who’s got the deep intel, and trust me it’s not the principal or the counselors. The person who can give you a dossier on almost every single student in the school including their current home life situation is the attendance clerk.
Consider this position akin to being a CIA undercover operative. The clerk is a school fixture and like a number 2 pencil often taken for granted. They see, hear and notice things that no one else in the school is privy too. All this imbues the person with super spy skills.
They also talk to the parents a lot. I know that in the seven years I’ve had multiple children attending Blue Valley North that I’ve conversed with Rita, the attendance clerk, more than anyone else at the school combined. In fact, I can’t imagine my life without Rita. She’s so important to my family I’ve got her on speed dial. Rita is my high school touchstone and perhaps part therapist.
A couple of weeks ago, in a seven-day time frame, my 16-year old was diagnosed with a sinus infection, strep throat, had her foot x-rayed because I was sure it was broken, had some weird tooth thing going on (It turn turns out it was iron buildup from Flintstone vitamins. Go figure?) and got a mild concussion. During that time I also couldn’t find my car keys (Can you blame me? I was highly stressed.)
Sweet Rita was there for me through it all.
When I had to get my child out of school early for the dentist she didn’t even flinch when I mentioned I was sure my daughter had a rare tooth fungus that due to extreme googling I discovered was usually only seen deep in the Amazon jungle. By the time I called her about the foot and head injuries I was certain she was going to notify Child Protective Services and have them do a home visit.
And then on that Friday morning when I had to do a mea culpa about my kid being tardy due to the fact that I, the grown up, couldn’t find my car keys she was so kind and understanding it was like getting a hug over the phone. Rita gets me.
It’s not just the absences and tardies that Rita is privy to. She also knows all about your kid’s schedule. If my daughter has to leave school a smidge early she knows it’s for a dance competition. (Fun fact: Rita danced at Miller Marley back in the day and I have no doubt she still has killer moves.)
This woman could write a black ops paper on my family. A who, what, when and where along with a psychological profile. If high schools want to know more about what’s going on with their students they need to have their attendance clerks give daily briefings.
If Rita gave one for my family this past month it would have gone like this:
“I’m a little worried about the Kuehls and you might want to check Bella’s grades. The student has had a rough week of assorted illnesses, and I think the mom might have unnecessarily dragged her in for an x-ray. Not to mention there was a concussion and a tooth issue. Unrelated, but let’s keep an eye of this girl’s head and teeth. Also, I’m pretty sure this has created some stress issues at home. The mom called this morning about a tardy. She couldn’t find her car keys — again.”
If knowledge is power then every high school needs a Rita.
Reach Sherry Kuehl at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook at Snarky in the Suburbs, on Twitter at @snarkynsuburbs and snarkyinthesuburbs.com.