Write up the weekly bulletin, handle student registration and insurance and keep track of the school’s attendance are some tasks that most school secretaries do. But the Assistant Principal at Johnnie Cochran Middle School CeCe Grant takes care of that and more. She’s a graduate of the school that was formerly called Mt. Vernon Jr. High until it’s name changed in 2006, following the death of the famous Los Angeles celebrity lawyer it’s now named after.
When Los Angeles had its record-breaking heatwave earlier this week, Grant, who’s worked at the school for more than 30 years, stayed busy on her walkie talkie making sure teachers knew they had an option to move their class to another if the room lost electricity.
“Cochran base to Cochran 12,” she radioed in. “Are you alright in your class dear? We got another one you guys can go to,” she told a teacher.
When she’s not handling global warming and room displacement issues, Grant spends her time organizing the number of students to be placed in Gifted classes. There has to be exactly 25 students in a class with 1 teacher for the sixth and seventh grades, and the ratio is 22:1 for the eighth grade, all in line with the Quality Education Investment Act.
“If we go over that amount, we don’t get money for the program. Everything has a price tag,” she said.
The challenge comes when there are more gifted students than gifted classes, and Grant has to change a general education to a gifted class by filling it with some gifted students and others who are labeled as “high achievers.”
One of the school counselors, Mr. Bravo, came in Grant’s office to tell her about a parent, who was upset that her daughter was not listed as gifted this year when she had been previously and all her siblings had been as well. Grant says some parents put too much pressure on their kids to be gifted when they should just let them be.
“I was in a couple of honors classes back when I was in school, and I tell you, some of the kids that were in more honors classes than me are outside pushing carts,” she said.
Grant shares her duties with one other assistant principal when previously, she split them among four, when the school was had more kids, which required more staff. Now, she does more work for the same pay, as the school begins to increase in enrollment.
As she jotted down some dates in the school’s master calendar, two eighth-graders from Mr. Hubbard’s Social Studies were brought to her office- one was late because he made a stop at the water fountain, and the other was being disrespectful. Both said they didn’t do anything wrong. One of the two boys’ best friend was across the hall in the Dean’s office for threatening to kill Mr. Hubbard.
With their heads faced down, awaiting their fate, Grant offers them a cough drop.
“Just because I’m mad at you doesn’t mean I can’t give you a piece of candy,” she said.
Students often end up in her office after they’ve been referred by a teacher or supervisor and a counselor. Grant knows just how deal with misbehaving students since she was a counselor there after she taught English for more than a decade. She holds a Master’s degree in education from Pepperdine University and has the personnel services credential, allowing her to offer counseling while being an administrator.
She told the boys they should never have to see the assistant principal until she is calling their name at the graduation ceremony.
“You’re the assistant principal?” said one of the boys, Nelson Randall, in shock.
“Well, who did you think I was?” Grant asked.
“I just thought you were Ms. Grant,” he replied.
“These children just know who I am, and don’t even know what I do,” she said while laughing.
One parent thought she was an undercover cop because she directs school traffic each day on Bronson Avenue.
When the end-of-school bell rang, Randall got to go home while the other boy got a phone call home. Grant’s day was seemingly over, and she could finally finish her lunch, a bag of chips and a Pepsi.
One woman from the attendance office asked Grant to mark down a date for the Parent Community Council meeting on the school’s master schedule, which was a problem because her culmination committee meeting was at the same time.
Then one of the deans and the and the other assistant principal step in Grant’s office to discuss changes that need to be made to the announcement for Monday’s “Million Father March,” to include that all mothers and caregivers can attend the event as well.
And right as Grant grabs her purse to head out the door, the special education coordinator comes in to give her an after-school tutoring sign-up sheet.
“The school day technically never ends for an assistant principal,” she said.