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All administrative professionals get their special day on April 22, but I want to dedicate this column to our school secretaries and clerks without whom our schools would be in chaos. Our elementary school secretaries often provide the only full-time office assistance for the principal, teachers, parents, and all those kids.

The school secretary is really an office manager. She’s the one who answers the phone (many thanks to all the schools that still have a real person doing this), greets all the visitors to the campus, opens and sorts the mail, and answers parent questions. She’s often the first one to hear complaints and calm the angry complainants. When children throw up or fall on the playground, feel sad, or need a time out, it is usually the school secretary who sees them first. She decides whether to summon the custodian, the principal, call a parent, or an ambulance.

I used to say that the school secretary was the image of the school to the public — the voice, the smiling face, the purveyor of ice for scraped knees, the snacks for the kid who has none, the pencils, paper or other supplies suddenly wanted in the classroom, and guardian of the quiet place for students who need it.

Somehow our miraculous multi-tasking secretaries manage to be available for all of these needs and still register new students, schedule meetings, type reports, agendas, minutes, and newsletters, collect and report the daily attendance, make announcements and keep everyone informed about a busy school calendar. And they do all this without showing frustration, frowning, or cussing out loud, for a salary that would be unheard of in the business world. If this job existed in the business world, it would be a management position overseeing a crew of folks to actually do the ice-cube making, typing, copy making and phone answering.

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I want to send a special “thank” you to Susie Marrinan, who has filled the principal’s secretary position at Browns Valley Elementary School for the last 20 years. One of the kindest people you could ever know, Susie has kept the office afloat through changes in procedures, staff, and families, continuing to be as helpful as she can to every person who enters her realm, regardless of how many other balls she has in the air. The best secretary ever. Susie is retiring in June and I know she will be missed by the whole Browns Valley family.

So do something nice for your school office personnel on April 22. A simple “thank you” is a great start. A card or message created by the kids is even better. School staff treasure their interactions with children and know the importance of giving them the best school experience possible. That’s what keeps everyone who works in a school going from day to day and year to year. Bless you all!

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Lenore Hirsch is a retired school principal living in Napa. Send questions to lenorehirsch@att.net. Please include your child’s age or grade.

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