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The crash of chaos; how would Newton South react?

By Laura Haime and Daniel Fuchs
Published: May 2010

Imagine if the superintendent, the principal of South, and the two assistant principals were all involved in a fatal accident.

The faculty members were on their way to a conference with Newton North administrators to lessen tension between the schools. The car slipped on an icy road and struck a tree on the side of the road, leaving all of the passengers dead.

With the death of the most powerful figures of the school, who takes control? What happens now?

Fortunately, Superintendent James Marini, Principal Joel Stembridge, and the two assistant principals, Mary Scott and Purnima Vadhera, are all safe and sound and capable of doing their jobs. This type of scenario, however, is all too real for the people of Poland.

On April 10, all 96 people on board of the Polish Tupolev Tu-154M aircraft died when the plane crashed in northwest Russia. The passengers were on route to Russia to attend the Katyn Massacre of 1940memorial.

The President of Poland, the Chief of General Staff, the President of the National Bank, and the deputy foreign minister were among the deceased.

If such a situation occurred at Newton South, the result would end in chaos.

Without the assistant principals, the schedules for next year would be left unorganized. The assistant principals construct the schedules for both students and teachers, structuring classes to fit student teacher needs. These women spend hours, days, and even months making schedules that students often do not appreciate and complain about. Without schedules, however, the school itself would have no basis on which to function.

The assistant principals also organize MCAS scores, which determine a student’s ability to graduate, and they transcribe students’ GPAs to Naviance, an essential aspect of the college application process.

Furthermore, since the assistant principals coordinate the students’ transportation, such as bussing schedules and senior parking permits, the majority of the students would not be able to get to school.

The principal’s absence would also cause frenzy. The principal has endless responsibilities, and without him, the school would be left without direction. Since the principal is often referred to as “the bottom line, and approves proposed policies, nothing could be enacted without his presence.

The superintendent is the end-all-be-all in terms of the Newton Public Schools. He oversees the functions and operations of the entire system.  The vacancy of the position would both affect the budget distribution and it would abruptly haltthe progress of the school itself.

This catastrophe would also disturb the school in ways other than day-to-day functions. Without supervision or regulation, students and teachers alike could be tempted to rebel.

The Polish government took immediate steps to respond to the disaster. The country’s lower parliamentary chairman, Bronis-Baw Komorowski, istaking the role of President until a new election in several months.

Candidates for the election have not been formally announced, though Komorowski, as well as the former President’s brother, have expressed interest in running.

An investigation of the crash site has also gone underway, during which two black boxes were recovered, revealing that the pilot tried to land the plane in incredibly difficult weather conditions despite warnings from air traffic controllers.

But how would South reorganize its administration?

Initially, there would be an intervention from the School Committee, which would likely appoint an interim superintendent. Unlike Marini, the current interim superintendent, who is qualified and was carefully chosen for the job, the new temporary superintendent would have to be chosen in a hurry, preventing the School Committee from making an appropriate decision. The interim superintendent would serve until a new superintendent could be chosen, just as Dr. David Fleishman was, but this process takes months.

The school currently has a system that deals with the principal’s absence. For example, since the principal is visiting the Jingshan School in China at the moment, the Assistant Principal Scott, is acting as the surrogate principal. If the assistant principal is inaccessible for whatever reason, one of the housemasters takes over. Each housemaster is assigned a term in which they would act as principal, should an unusual situation arise. Thus, the housemasters would take turns acting as principal until the School Committee chose a new principal.

This process would take several months and likely cause a great deal of stress for students, parents, and faculty alike. Schedules would have to be reworked, grades resubmitted and transportation organized.

For Poland, this tragedy paralyzed its country and its people. The response, however, has been surprisingly efficient, and it seems that in the coming months Poland will eventually recover politically, though the people may forever bear the grief of the lost lives.

Thankfully, South does not have to worry about rushing to appoint a new administration. Such a loss, however, would cripple the school for months.

The administration plays an essential role in our education that we as students often take for granted, and it is clear that without them, our entire system would fall to pieces.

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