So, in my high school, we had that principal named Muriel Price. He was like our Ed Koch (former mayor of New York who was famous for driving his limo around the city, leaning out the window, and asking random citizens, "How am I doing?"). Goofy, friendly, and I think some of the kids thought of him like a joke. He didn't take his job very seriously, and I couldn't really say anything negative about the guy. He got promoted in my sophomore year to Area II District Supervisor. His replacement was a woman named Elizabeth Lodal.
Now, before I begin, Ms. Lodal didn't do a damn thing to me personally (that I was aware of). My beef with her was her clueless leadership. She drove out teachers who cared, kept teachers who didn't, and I got to hear all sorts of things about her from the teaching staff whom I worked with; I was a student assistant for several teachers, office assistant, and generally hung out with many other teachers after school who found me easy to confide in which is why I still won't name names. If you were a teacher, either you liked her because you felt she brought law and order, or you hated her because you saw her as a shallow charlatan who got the job for reasons that eluded them. One major sticking point with a few teachers and many students was her former job was a kindergarten teacher, and while I can't seem to confirm this anywhere, I can state that my memories of her were pretty much like one you'd expect from a kindergarten teacher if they were suddenly put in charge of a high school.
There was the time some kids cut down the McLean High School sign at the Davidson Road entrance. That happened so much, they never put up a good sign for a long time. Well, she paid a lot of money to have a nice sign put there with some trees. And... they got cut down. Trees and all. She came over the PA system the next morning, and actually burst into tears over the incident. I was in English class when this happened, and i remember all the students looking at one another as if to say, "Is this REALLY happening?"
Nobody attended pep rallies. Well, maybe a handful of people did, and god bless them for trying. But this wouldn't do for Ms. Lodal. Oh no! So she made them mandatory! It was like right out of a bad Nickelodeon sitcom. She couldn't force kids to stay after school, so she'd hold them in the middle of the day, interrupting class for 3 long hours in a crowded Gym. In my senior year, a few mild riots broke out. There was that one day when people just got up and left, and I'll never forget the pathetic handful of teachers trying to keep us from leaving. Like 5 against a few thousand, grabbing students' clothing in vain. "No no, young man, you come back-- HEY! You too, you get back to those bleachers and cheer-- and where do YOU think you're going?"
Because "some parent complained," our mascot, the Highlander, was replaced with a Scottish terrier mascot, which looked like a big furry hippo suit. This was almost a decade before Braveheart came out, you understand. "A man in a dress might confuse the students," some morally righteous busybody said. Not that I liked the mascot, but how much treat does a small yappy dog have? "GO GET THEM SCOTTY! PEE ON THEIR LEGS! DIG UP THEIR FLOWER GARDEN! YEEEAAAAHHHH!!!"... nnno.
Some of you know my best friend in high school was a girl named Kate. Kate was a modern gal who did not want to wear a dress to graduation night. She wanted to wear jeans, and thought it was very sexist that the dress code insisted she wear a white dress; something she did not won, and had no intention of owning. Her guidance counselor never seemed supportive of her. Mine was great, but hers always seemed to think that if Kate just wore contacts, and put on a little makeup, she'd be more attractive to boys and not "stir up trouble."
"So you're saying I need to get laid to shut up? Did your husband tell you that?" I think was her reply. Her mother certainly didn't approve of their attitude, and supported her daughter, which didn't help matters. So she got labeled "one of those" (something I got as well), and by our senior year, we pretty much could slip around the school anywhere. One day, Kate confronted Ms. Lodal at an art show our school had. Obviously, I am paraphrasing, but the confrontation went sort of like this:
Kate: Why do I have to wear a dress?
Lodal: Oh, I think you'd look adorable if you wore a dress!
Kate: [aghast] That's SEXIST!
Lodal: Come now... I know, deep down, you wish you could look pretty like the popular girls.
Kate: [angry] Wow! No, I don't!
Me: The school dress code has not required a girl to wear a dress since it was repealed in the late 1960s.
Lodal: [never ending smile] Well, aren't you well read?
Kate: You can't force me to wear a dress! How could you tell anyway, the cheap gown I was forced to buy goes past my feet!
Lodal: We'll be inspecting under that gown, young lady. If you're not wearing a white dress, then no graduation for you!
Me: I think that forcing her to wear a garment that exposes her legs and underpants to the elements is rather suspiciously sexist. Who will be doing the inspecting?
Lodal: The police.
Kate: The police?
Lodal: The police will be there. I am sure once you wear a dress, you'll feel pretty.
Then she left, convinced that La-la Land would erase any memory of the confrontation. Kate was livid for DAYS over this. I was particularly pissed off that knowing the student handbook labeled me as "well read" with a negative tone. Now it's 20 years later, and I would have told Kate, "Wear pants. If they lift up your skirt, hit their hands with a Chinese fan and scream, 'MASHER!'"
Oh, and while this will surprise nooooobody, the police did not inspect under anybody's gowns. I might have worn a dress (ooh! A hoop skirt with lots of crinoline!) and had her wear jeans, and say we got confused. Thank God I didn't have the ire then as I do know, or I think McLean might have been burned to the ground.
The best part was in my senior year, I wrote a letter detailing her lack of leadership, sexist comments, and other things I thought were wrong with her in 3 typed pages of momentary disgust and fury. I forgot about this letter. In 1990, three years later, I got a call from the county clerk's office. Apparently there was a hearing that was being sponsored by several parents, former teachers, and a few students. They had my letter on file and wanted me to testify. I was unable to show up to the hearings, but I did make a taped statement with a court official in my apartment. Now, sadly, they didn't ask me so much about my letter as things like, "Did you ever witness racist behavior? Did she ever ask you to lie about something in exchange for better grades? Did she ever ask you how many minority students were present in your classrooms, and were you ever asked to make false statement regarding test scores, behavior, or number of minorities in your school, classes, or test centers?" It seemed that she was on trial for falsifying records, making misleading statements, and just general leadership issues. Nothing really to do with what I had written about, and considering the questions, my complaints seemed petty. She was in serious trouble... or not. The trial was inconclusive, and she later retired with a quiet hoorah. They named the damn school library after her.
So, THAT was my beef with ol' glassy eyes. The fact that anyarm dated her son once, and then was forever associated with him in Ms. Lodal's eyes didn't help much. In 1994 so, she tried to have "Lodal-palooza" to prevent kids from going to popular rock concerts at the time by having her own. According to anyarm, "Nobody attended. She couldn't even get the school's rock bands to perform, so she had to hire one." This is how clueless she was.
Then she came out of retirement to be principal at TJ Tech, a magnet high school that opened in our area. And then I just found out, she was forced to retire, although she denies it, because she made public comments that Asian stundets are prone to cheating. Suddenly, the questions in that trial made sense. I thought it was just because she was doing a bad job, but they might have had some rap on her for minority bashing.
I'd say this was a fitting end, but they stuffed her in some job where she serves as a delegate on the Education Commission of the States, where she'll probably go on doing what she does... without much clue.
Thanks to Joe Tran, McLean High School graduate of 1988, who is looking for other MHS and TJ grads from that year. Contact me at my punkwalrus account on yahoo if you'd like to get in touch with him.