The director of Parent Relations for an unspecified public school district in Texas writes about what it took to prevent disgruntled parents and hapless administrators from totally undermining the academic careers of the students in their care.
For more than 17 years, Arangio enjoyed the unenviable job of diffusing major and minor dust-ups between frustrated moms and dads bent on raising hell and intransigent school staffers seemingly intent on sweeping everything under the rug. Routinely getting it from both sides, Arangio nevertheless distinguished himself as a professional, fair, earnest arbiter who, more often than not, could be counted on to quell any unfortunate incident. Many times, this required seemingly Herculean efforts that might only be begrudgingly appreciated later, if ever. Still, Arangio was compelled to go the extra mile. “Our job as educators is to listen with the ‘third ear’ not just use stereotypical judgments and surface logic,” he says. “The real trick is how to create an atmosphere of mutual trust vis-à-vis students’ families, school administrators, and teachers.” However, complex issues complicated by race, religion and socioeconomic status consistently made the author’s prime directive a tall order. Arangio found classroom dynamics to be especially tense. In one case, damaging charges of racism erupted after the plight of one bright but disillusioned little girl was thoroughly misread by most of the adults in the room. Other thorny incidents involved botched cheerleading tryouts and obtuse security protocols, pushing the author’s umpiring skills to their limits. Through it all, Arangio’s guiding principle—to hold the children’s interests above whatever kerfuffle might have flared up—helped see him through. Conveyed with equal bits of wit and self-deprecation, Arangio’s account provides valuable insight into conflict resolution coupled with an impressive track record of success. As the author readily states, his philosophy may not be a panacea for what’s ailing the nation’s public school systems, but it’s hard to argue with an approach that has seemingly worked so well for so long.
A professional’s effective, apolitical memoir that looks at public school education from the inside out.