The resignation, while accepted without one iota of regret, was unexpected, coming as it did in December. The guidance counselor had been on the losing end of a grievance, and his unhappiness with the outcome and with his job was palpable. So it was good for the school, good for kids, and good for me as principal that he resigned. But where to find a replacement mid-year?
Enter Mr. Mott, a recently retired counselor from a neighboring district. “Tell you what,” he said, “Let me be the interim counselor and you can post the job in the spring when you might actually get some good candidates.”
Hiring Mr. Mott was one of the best things I ever did. Kids respected him right from the beginning because of his huge size and his booming voice, but they quickly learned to like him and trust him. He knew what he was talking about and followed through on promises. He did things he didn’t have to, like going to basketball games or concerts or spaghetti dinners. He pulled kids in after school just to talk. “It’s a good way to get to know them,” he said. Going out of his way like that, he connected with quite a few kids, notably some of our more reluctant scholars.
I could have kept him on staff forever, but he reminded me in the spring that he had already retired, he was only an interim, and it was time for me to post the job. I did, and Mr. Mott retired a second time.
I ran into Mr. Mott in the grocery store the other day and we started talking about the big local news -- a couple of 17-year-olds who were arrested for murder last week. In pictures they looked bewildered and resigned to their fate rather than threatening, as if they barely understood how they had gotten to a place where they were shackled and wearing orange jump suits.
Every time something like this happens, responsible school people play the tape back in their heads. Is there something we could have or should have done? The boys resided in the city school district where Mr. Mott had been a counselor years ago, but they didn’t attend school. “You know,” Mr. Mott said, “ these boys, they didn’t just drop out last year. They’ve been dropping out for a long time, maybe even starting in elementary school. No connection at school, no support at home. I’ve seen it a million times. It still gets to me.“ He shook his head. “There are days that I’d give anything to be back at school working with kids like that,” he said. “I mean, what are we doing for them?”