Eight hundred plus kids. Fire drills. Buses. Scheduling. Books. Staff. Maintenance. Sporting events. Dances/proms, graduations, budgets, nurses, 1,600 (plus) parents, teachers, counselors, discipline, cheerleaders, support programs, art, music, physical education, tests, evaluations, etc. These categories and probably 50 more all follow under the job description of school principal. High school and elementary school principals handle more duties and certainly, more precious commodities, than a Fortune 500 CEO, and yet five year’s of paychecks won’t equal one of theirs.

There are at least a dozen plus people here in Cumberland County who will never ever have to worry about me wanting their jobs: the director of schools and our 12 school principals. I can’t imagine the responsibilities, hassles, situations and obligations they have to deal with on a daily basis. I am not sure there is a paycheck large enough to entice me to do the momentous tasks these folks face every single day.

I was contemplating all of this after realizing student TCAPS (Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program) exams begin this week. The annual state mandated tests are not just difficult for the students: they put a lot of stress on teachers and school administrators as results are often used to measure overall effectiveness. TCAP tests begin here in Cumberland County for the elementary schools on Friday and are scheduled to last until next Wednesday. This year, for the first time, the tests will also be factored in to the students’ final semester grades.

I shudder to think how I would feel if I woke up every morning and knew I was charged with overseeing a school and all of its many day-to-day operations. For example, on any given academic day, a principal has to oversee his/her staff, make sure hundreds of children are taught, tested, fed, watered, exercised, etc., make sure the building is clean, sports programs are scheduled, awards and grades are distributed, teachers are evaluated, budgets are submitted, lesson plans are checked, sick children are taken care of, misbehaving children are disciplined, fire and tornado drills are executed. The list is endless.

Principals are often in their buildings before the sun comes up and still there when it goes down. A friend and I were talking the other day about all of the duties and obligations that fall to school principals, and we ascertained they probably aren’t even making minimum wage if you add up all the hours they are working, yet they are required to hold at least a master’s degree.

All of those responsibilities are enough for most of us, but then they also have to deal with folks who are not particularly happy with some of the choices they have made or how they have or haven’t handled a situation. I always remember my father-in-law’s best friend Chuck, who is a retired high school principal, telling us it wasn’t his 2,000 students that kept him awake at night, it was all those folks attached to the students that caused him the most grief!

Since a large part of my time is spent in schools, I am able to see first hand what our principals are doing, and it is mind boggling. I, for one, am glad we have them and would never, ever suffer from job envy!

As the school year winds down, allow me to salute our county’s principals for their efforts: Our high school principals are Janet Graham, Cumberland County High School; Scott Maddox, Stone Memorial High School; and Eddie Nunley, the Phoenix High School. Elementary school principals are Christy Thompson, Brown Elementary; Dr. Becky Farley, Crab Orchard Elementary; Robin Perry, Homesteads Elementary; Dr. Sharon Daniels, Martin Elementary; Pat Allen, Pineview Elementary; Mary Ann Kotus Huff, Pleasant Hill Elementary; Darryl Threet, South Cumberland Elementary; Suzzane Wilson, Stone Elementary; and last, but certainly not least, Kathy Allen at North Cumberland Elementary, who is retiring this year after years of dedicated service.

I know all of these principals will quickly tell you that they couldn’t do what they do without the help of their very able and capable assistant or vice principals, faculty and staff.

Let me wrap up by saying, if you are exhausted after reading about school principals, imagine what it is like to the director of schools. She is responsible for overseeing the principals at each school, transportation for the county, budgets, personnel, curriculum, etc. and of course, the most important task of all — will there be school on snow days?

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Stone Memorial High School has its annual prom this weekend and this means that local law enforcement and rescue workers, the Cumberland County Health Department and the TAD Center will conduct its second Mock DUI/Prom Promise for the 2012 prom season. CCHS was the site last Friday for the annual event. This Friday morning the scene will be set up on the Panther’s campus. This is a group effort designed to curtail drinking and driving on prom night.

Students will first hear from guest speakers in law enforcement, will then be taken outside to watch the Mock DUI and then will return to the auditorium and given the opportunity to sign a pledge promising not to drink and drive on prom night. All students who sign the pledge will earn a small prize and then be entered into the drawing for $75 from the TAD Center. Last week, CCHS Senior Dakota Rucker’s name was pulled from the hundreds of juniors and seniors who signed the pledge.

Mark your calendars for next Saturday’s annual Ms. Cam’s Dance Recital. It is slated for 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. at Stone Memorial High School. This is the studio’s 14th annual recital performance. “'Lights, Camera, Dance' will pay tribute to some of our favorite movies and their soundtracks,” said Dance Director/ Studio Owner Cameron Hill. Partial proceeds will be donated to the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. Tickets may be purchased in advance at the Studio on 56 South Main Street or at the door at either one of the Saturday, May 5 performances.

And finally, if you are looking for something to do this weekend, you may want to check out the Spring Flower and Garden Show slated Thursday through Saturday at the Community Complex. The Master Gardeners Show will open at noon on Thursday and run until 5 p.m., from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. There will be booths, exhibits and lectures throughout the three day event.