Education Opinion


By Roslyn Johnson Smith, Ph.D. — March 24, 2008 3 min read
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I’m a procrastinator. I put off tasks that are tedious, unpleasant, or difficult until the last minute. I am rarely early for meetings, assignments, or church. I think that I’ve always been a little late, even for parties, weddings and fun activities. Whether it’s a doctor’s appointment, a beauty salon engagement, or a luncheon time with a friend, I will probably arrive a bit tardy. During my years as a teacher, I was on time because I rode with a friend. I was grateful when she picked me up at my front door, but I was hardly ever standing outside waiting for her.

As a principal, I was never one of those who tried to be the first person in the building each morning. I usually arrived a few minutes before the bell rang to start the day. That was because I had to conduct the morning meeting. We started the assembly with a song instead of a bell. Everyone was supposed to be in place when the song ended, including me. Many times, as I drove to school, I’d hear the song playing while I was still a block away. I knew that I had to park my car, run across the playground, dash up the ramp and be in my place at the top where everyone could see me before the final “Good morning to you” finished playing. It was the only time I remember people enjoying my lateness. The mad dash delighted the students who hoped I would not make it. The rule was that everyone stopped walking and froze in place when the music stopped. Sometimes I was at the bottom of the ramp; sometimes I was on the outside of the closed gate with the other tardy people. A few times, I handed my bags and purse to one of the parent visitors and sprinted up the ramp in my high heels, just to entertain the students, who were chanting at me “You’re not going to make it!”

But, I’m older and a little more experienced. Plus, I’m retired. How hard can it be to do things on time? Well, I still find myself late too often. Today, I plan to complete a grant application that is long overdue. Last week, I received an email from someone at the state department office who wanted to know if our school was still interested in applying for some federal funding. The $200,000 grant will reimburse us for start-up costs. It is a special fund for new charter schools. Unfortunately, you have to spend $200,000 first and then request reimbursements. It’s not upfront money that you automatically get when you open the school. Also, it’s not competitive money that you lose, if someone else gets to it first. I did not feel any real urgency until now.

We are entering the fourth quarter of the year. Now is the time to begin requesting reimbursements so that we can close out the books by June 30th. We’ve spent $200,000 in January and February that I believe is reimbursable. Unfortunately, since our plan has not been approved, I’ll need to wait to find out. The plan asks a lot of questions that need to be answered in detail. But, a lot of the answers are already written in our approved charter school application. I need to check a few things with my friend, Paulette, who did this application last year. It is going to be finished today—I promise. The completed application only needs the budget pages and it will be done.

When we get the reimbursement, it will be just the cushion we’ll need to pay our teachers their end-of-year bonuses and the pay-for-performance plan money. Ironically, the pay-for-performance money comes from another grant that has already been submitted. However, it is another case of our having to pay the teachers first and then request reimbursements. Most schools operate with a large line of credit, if they don’t have a management organization to fund the upfront costs.

Nothing is going to stop me from finishing this grant today. I will get it completed as soon as “The Young and the Restless” goes off.

The opinions expressed in Starting Over: A Post-Katrina Education are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.