It's one of the banes of an educator's job -- paperwork. The minutes and hours that could be spent reviewing class material, or mentoring students, or answering pupils' questions -- you know, actually educating -- gets eaten up by paperwork. Grading. Test development. School correspondence. Fill out this. Initial that. Make sure the parents sign the other thing.
And, of course, there are the discipline referrals, or DRs for short. Every time a pupil acts up against school rules, it must be noted on a DR form when the offender is sent to the principal's office.
DRs can add up at many schools, but at Augusta's Murphey Middle School recently, it was jaw-dropping. A two-year school board investigation found that, during the 2005-06 school year, some 2,000 discipline incidents were left unreported.
The main reason given was miserable record-keeping -- that Assistant Principal Douglas Jackson didn't have time to process the growing mountain of paperwork, and that he had not been trained how to electronically report them.
We realize the extent that school administrators live, eat and breathe their work -- but it's astonishing that Jackson couldn't carve out even a little bit of time to find someone who could train him to process even some of those reports electronically. Shouldn't a principal exhibit personal responsibility?
And how does misbehavior get to such an unmanageable level at a school? The answer could lie in part with the fact that schools with discipline problems have trouble retaining teachers; newer educators burn out and bolt for less troubled campuses.
Newer teachers also tend to face the biggest challenges with doling out proper discipline. They might become frustrated sooner when their classroom strategies aren't effective in keeping pupils in line, so they might simply send a repeatedly rowdy kid to the office with a disciplinary referral.
If those kids aren't being changed through punishment -- and if they start to not care about punishment -- it only makes it that much harder to instill discipline schoolwide. It's a spiral that too many schools find themselves caught in.
As a result of Murphey Middle's discipline problems -- and not reporting them accurately -- it gave a false impression that discipline was improving at Murphey during 2005-06. Sadly, that makes the school look even worse today, as it's in the process of trying to turn itself around in terms of academics and attitude.
That can't be stressed enough -- that the numbers and circumstances mentioned above, for all purposes, should be considered history.
What needs to be concentrated on now is sticking to the plan crafted at the beginning of this school year, as Murphey Middle embarked on its first year as a charter school.
That designation gives the school more latitude in how it delivers education, behavior enforcement and a sense of pride in becoming a better pupil and a better person.
This is only year one for Murphey the charter school under new Principal Veronica Bolton. That was then. This is now. Let's see if -- and hope that -- Murphey improves.