Goodbye, George Washington High

George Washington High got a new principal when Sam Kostman was promoted to superintendent of Queens high schools.  Actually, there were several new principals in succession.  Because they weren’t around all that long, my recollection of them is somewhat blurred.  Suffice it to say they varied in ability.  One of them, a very charming young man, left the school each day promptly at two o’clock.  He had to be at the racetrack on time, where he followed the horses assiduously.  Needless to say, the school functioned rather well in his absence.

I was hoping that an appointment as an assistant principal would materialize for me, but none came my way, although I sent out many resumes.  I had all the proper credentials and felt myself well qualified to run any school in the city, but that never happened.  The closest I came was an appointment as an assistant principal to oversee the closing of Benjamin Franklin High School in Harlem, which was being “reorganized,” a process involving closing the school temporarily, and then reopening it either subdivided into a series of smaller schools (each with it own principal) or with a different curriculum.  In any case, it didn’t happen.  I was insufficiently discriminated against to be assigned to such a job in Harlem, and for once, the Board of Ed was probably right.

Among my other duties (I also wrote grant proposals and taught a couple of classes) was writing a PR piece for the school each week in the local newspaper, The Inwood News.  Writing a puff piece once a week about the academic disaster George Washington High School had become was somewhat of a challenge, especially if you were at all interested in writing the truth.  But each week I found some program I could honestly praise and write about.  Principal Eunice Laird felt I was writing with insufficient enthusiasm about the school she headed, and it is possible she was right.  I was no longer a happy camper, and decided that after seventeen years at George Washington, it was time to move on, and move on I did, this time to the High School for the Humanities, on West 18th street in Manhattan, where I was supposed to teach writing, but would spend my first semester teaching music (about which I knew next to nothing), reading and writing.

While living in Ridgewood, I had developed a routine which involved getting up at 5:30 AM, to give me time for my morning run and walking the dog (the dog was not a runner), before leaving for work.  Somehow I had trouble sleeping because I was worried about not waking up on time, and so obtained a prescription for Ambien, which worked just fine.  However, when I switched jobs to my new school and drove there in the morning, I would suddenly find myself instead in front of GW.  I don’t know how this happened, but I’m sure that it is possible to sleep and drive at the same time.



About AlexLevy

Dr. Alex Levy is a retired English teacher who survived World War II and the "Final Solution" by hiding in a Catholic orphanage for girls in Belgium for several years.
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