Thursday, June 05, 2008

When is a Cupcake Not a Cupcake?

When it's an ice-cream cup?

Or perhaps a birthday cake, as first reported? Or merely a "birthday treat", as whatever-it-was is now being called?

Details are murky surrounding the suspension of Glenville Elementary School Principal Marc D'Amico. Apparently a parent tried to deliver "birthday treats" to his daugher's class, by prearrangement with the teacher, as is customary at the school. Principal D'Amico told him he could not do this, citing a "regulation" in the school's student handbook. The parent, taken aback, protested that there was no such regulation. And guess what? The parent was right.

Which did not deter Principal D'Amico from carrying out a little ex-post-facto charade to justify his unjustifiable behavior toward the parent. He cunningly went to his office computer and immediately typed a new regulation into the student handbook banning "birthday treats" from the classrooms at Glenville School. "There," he must have thought to himself, "I sure fixed that guy's wagon."

Oops. Principal D'Amico fixed his own wagon instead. Unaware that his little addition to the handbook was date- and time-stamped by the school's computer, he strutted around loudly proclaiming his own righteousness in the contretemps, and that he had just been doing his job in barring the parent from the classroom birthday celebration. His boss, the Deputy Superintendant of Schools, called to discuss the situation. Was there indeed a regulation in the handbook about "birthday treats"? Oh, yes, Principal D'Amico assured her. How long had it been there? Ages and ages, came the reply.

Well, that little lie has cost Principal D'Amico a month's pay. He was immediately suspended from his duties, and today it was announced that his suspension without pay will be continued until the end of June. Thereafter, he will be reinstated in his job at Glenville School, but will be on probation for the next twelve months.

Should Principal D'Amico's lie have cost him his job? Actually, he apparently lied several times regarding his unauthorized editorial addition to a public document. He has since apologized, but one wonders how sincerely he means it. Would he have owned up to his behavior if the computer had not tripped him up? The pattern of repeated falsehoods suggests, probably not.

Well, it appears that the unprincipled principal will keep his job, albeit with terms and conditions. He has blotted his copybook, and one suspects that further advancement will not be coming his way. In the old days, a severe schoolmarm might have made him wear a sign around his neck for a week or two - "I told a lie" - and made him sit in the corner during recess. Oh, and of course stay after school to clean the blackboard and erasers.

One bets that Principal D'Amico wishes he could have erased those tiny computer telltales that proved his word was meaningless and that he could not be trusted to speak the truth. But it's too late now. He has agreed to his punishment and the sanctions imposed by the administration. He has apologized again to the parent and his supervisors. And so he will keep his job.

We all make mistakes. Principal D'Amico has made a doozy. The question to be asked is whether a mistake is an honest one, or a dishonest one. Your scribe believes there is a large difference between the two, and is not certain whether he agrees with the school administration's leniency. He wishes he could consult with his own kindergarten teacher, the formidable Miss Work (who once washed out the scribal mouth with soap when he protested one of her decisions) on this matter. But she has long since gone to her reward in the great Classroom in the sky. In her absence your scribe turns to you, dear reader. How do you feel about the case of the unprincipled principal?


Blogger J Ryan said...

I felt annoyed at the inappriate judgement of the administrators to fire a principal over a trivial disagreement with a parent over cupcakes. I was also annoyed that our School System was made to look foolish and trivial through the media.There had to be more to the story, so I kept checking your blog, and in this instance you were "spot-on".
Presented as a dishonest mistake, and an attempted cover-up, the incident made sense.

June 07, 2008 8:48 AM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Thanks for your comment, J!

Like you, I didn't know what to make of this incident at first. As usual, the school administration circled the wagons and left us with little or no hard information. Thus I held off commenting on the issue until the facts had become clearer.

The facts are still not totally clear, and the statement issued by Betty Sternberg is poorly-written and ambiguous in places. Perhaps D'Amico's lawyer had a hand in the obfuscation, or perhaps it's just Unspeakable Betty's usual massacre of the English language. However, from what I can deduce, the unprincipled principal finally confessed only after he was confronted with hard evidence about his untruthfulness.

Also still unclear is what the "birthday treats" were. Cake? Cupcakes? Ice-cream cups? Ice-cream cupcakes? I've seen all four mentioned in the media. What is the actual truth here? Enquiring minds want to know. :-)

June 07, 2008 9:47 AM  
Blogger AnonymousBob said...

As I understood it from the previous article, the school had a long-standing informal "unpublished" policy of not allowing parents themselves to bring treats to class. Or not? That part is still unclear to me. Betty Sternberg is not exactly the clearest communicator in the world.

Regardless, if the policy had existed (without being printed), the Principal was foolish to try to sneak it into the book. He should have just said "it's an informal policy we've had for many years now, and since there seems to be confusion over the matter, I'm adding it to the student handbook so we can head off future problems", and that would have been the end of that (assuming sanity on everyone's part, which in this case is entirely dubious an assumption). The attempted deception was juvenile, which is a worrisome trait in someone charged with overseeing other people's children, and yet somewhat forgivable at the same time given how quickly the situation devolved at the hands of the parent in question.

And in regard to the parent in question, he just sounds like an idiot. If I was a parent with a child in that school, I'd be asking why *his* kid is so much more important than mine that the class should be disrupted with a birthday party for his kid? I wouldn't ever think of disrupting a class like that--it's not a social club--the children are there to learn. Birthday parties are for at home, with the whole family and whichever of the child's friends want to attend. And did the parent bring enough food for everyone in class? And what about for the children who can't (or are not allowed) to eat sugary food--did he make healthy alternatives so they wouldn't feel even more left out? And what about the kids whose birthdays are during the summer non-school months? Should they be made to feel left out of the spotlight entirely? These are some of the questions not being answered here. Good questions, in my opinion, because if I was a parent with a child in that class I'd be tempted to pound some sense into the other parent who started this, and I would think that would be just one more reason why the school might want to have the policy to begin with.

June 07, 2008 11:16 AM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

As I understood it from the previous article, the school had a long-standing informal "unpublished" policy of not allowing parents themselves to bring treats to class. Or not?

Well, as stated above, the facts are murky, to say the least. However, I understand that in this instance prior arrangements had been made with the teacher, as had been the case on previous occasions, to bring the treats in after lunch. Prior to this incident there was no offical policy one way or the other - maybe the decision was left to the individual teachers?

Perhaps the one good thing to come out of all this foolishness is that a new system-wide policy on birthday treats will soon be adopted. True, such clarity would be a first in the unspeakable Betty Sternberg's tempest-tossed tenure, but maybe if the Board of Ed can sort out some of the smaller issues there is a slim chance that maybe they can then sort out some of the bigger ones. But your scribe is not holding his breath....

June 07, 2008 3:16 PM  
Blogger Malicious Intent said...

Principal D'Amico is a bad bad man!
He falls under one of the only two categories of people I have.
Asshole. He certainly is not a Non-Asshole because his actions were deliberate and just mean.

I say his punishment should be to duct tape him to the flag pole and have each student of the school take a wack at throwing a gooey icing covered birthday 'treat' at him.

Aim low kids.

June 10, 2008 9:31 AM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Ah, M.I., trust you to come up with a plan for poetic justice!

Next thing we know the Board of Ed will have to come up with a working definition of "birthday treats" in order to protect the unprincipled principal's private parts.

June 10, 2008 11:24 AM  
Blogger Barrie said...

Makes you wonder what else he has lied/is currently lying/will lie about. (Just trying to cover all the tenses!) Sorry, but he's untrustworthy.

In other administrative areas, is he a good principal? What do the teachers think of him?

June 14, 2008 4:31 PM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Hi, Barrie!

I agree that the guy isn't trustworthy. But up until now I gather he's been pretty popular with the kids and parents, so that may have been what saved him his job.

He claims he has "learned his lesson," but one wonders what exactly he thinks that means. Is the lesson "Don't lie", or is it "Don't get caught"?

One thing is for sure: no one in town will ever look at him in quite the same way again.

June 15, 2008 2:15 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home