Another gem by an NYCATR veteran, Philip Nobile:
Last week I was two days and two hours tardy for my rotation at the College of Staten Island High School for International Studies (CSI). The two days related to a daughter’s medical situation, the two hours to faulty HopStop.com directions from Brooklyn.
The last time I found myself on this cognitively distant isle was when I ran the 1998 marathon. Otherwise, S.I. was the other side of Mars. I relied exclusively on the X17 bus to deliver me to CSI located just opposite the Marsh Avenue Mall in Eltingville. I waited at the Cortland St. stop in lower Manhattan. The half-hour ride was sure to deliver me before the 8:20 bell. But HopStop failed to mention that the express did not roll to S.I. in the early morning, which I did not deduce for far too long. As a result, I scrambled for the ferry, clueless how to proceed further. On board, I opened my laptop to scan CSI’s website for more precise directions: seven regular buses were listed. I randomly jumped on the one that dropped me off about a mile from the school, adding to my lateness. (The best bet from the ferry is the S61 to the last stop 45 minutes away.).
But not to worry. Observing protocol, I called in my absence on Monday and alerted the main office when I was stranded by the phantom X17. I thought I was covered by a Columbia Presbyterian Emergency Room pass and the misguided HopStop advice written in my notebook. Not a chance. Before I could explain my predicament, the payroll secretary said she would have to dock me. Naturally and politely, I objected. Thereupon, Principal Joseph Canale Esq. (catch the Esq.) emerged from his nearby office to back up the secretary.
“I’d like to tell you why I’m late this morning,” I said.
“No, it’s your responsibility to be on time,” he replied, “we start at 8:20.”
“You don’t want to hear why?” I said, not getting the hardboiled act. “I could have been in an accident.”
“You don’t look like you were struck by lightning,” he persisted, “The contract says … [blah blah blah].”
“I don’t appreciate your lack of empathy,” I said, glancing at the secretary, who was probably just following orders.
“Don’t talk to my staff like that,” he said, escalating the tension.
“I’m talking to you,” I said. “It’s your responsibility to listen to your teachers. But you won’t let me tell you why I was late.”
Mr. Canale is a lawyer. Prosecution seems to be his style. But in the end he chilled and let me speak. As for the hot potato of docking, we both let it go, resolution uncertain.
On the other hand, CSI is an academic jewel encased in an architectural showcase building opened in 2009. It’s the highest ranking high school on S.I. and 17th in the city. An A rating and 83 raw score placed it in the 95th percentile. The students are serendipitously diverse—55% white and the rest almost evenly divided among Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians. After a week in the rough and tumble of Bed-Sty’s F-rated Boys and Girls, CSI was a beatific surprise. The kids were charming, displaying none of the pathologies wounding hyper-segregated spots like B & G.
However, apart from a single euphoric 9th grade advisory, I did nothing worthy of my (please stand) professional status. Too many ATRs are condemned to menial make-work tasks. At CSI I monitored the boy’s locker room before and after gym, checked the cafeteria boy’s room for smoking, and sat in front of a pile of report cards for two hours with two other staffers on parents’ afternoon last Friday. What a waste! And in the current crisis, a crime! ATRs should occupy 52 Broadway and demand that Mulgrew emancipate us from a faulty agreement signed without consulting us pawns.
Mr. Canale treated me like dirt not because I was late, but because I was a late ATR, a lesser breed, a teacher to be used and abandoned after a week. Nevertheless, when I asked the payroll secretary to be relieved of Parents Night, he could have said no and put a letter in my file for disobeying orders. Yet he did not. I was allowed to skip the overtime. I left a parting note with the secretary on Friday saying that the docking was not a matter of money, but a matter of principle.