No desk is an island

Nov. 10, 2014, 4 p.m. | By Eleanor Linafelt | 9 years, 5 months ago

The Main Office staff handles the logistics of the largest school in Montgomery County

One step into the Main Office and the sounds of phones ringing, keyboards clacking, students asking questions, parents needing guidance and feet walking hurriedly can be heard. These are all expected: they're the typical sounds of an efficient office on a busy work day. There's something that runs deeper in the office, however; something that can't be immediately noticed during a quick visit to turn in SSL forms or sign into attendance. It's something that serves as the backbone of the office staff as they handle the complicated, demanding and sometimes overwhelming job of addressing the needs of the staff and students in a school as large as Blair. It's an unfaltering support system.

The Main Office is often filled with students, teachers, parents and visitors.  Photo courtesy of Miles Royce.

Secretary Robin Platky describes some days in the Main Office as "a perfect storm." This storm that Platky refers to is a result of the vast amount of work of coordinating substitutes, helping out students and assisting parents, among other tasks, that goes into successfully running a school with 2,900 students and hundreds of staff members. "Just [due to] our sheer size alone, I think people at a smaller school would be shocked at what goes on here," affirms Platky. Secretary Eileen Heiss's most demanding task right now is transferring all of the student emergency information into the computer system. "At the beginning of the school year we're very busy inputting the student emergency sheets, and with 3,000 students that's a huge project," she explains.

Platky echoes the claim that this year has been quite busy. "We do have some quiet moments, but this year we haven't had a lot of quiet moments," she says with a dry laugh. The way these not-so-quiet moments are handled is through a complex yet efficient support system. In the Main Office, absolutely no one is an island. When one person is out or needs help during the demands of a busy day in the office, someone else is always happy to step in. "We have some different jobs but everything overlaps," Platky stresses. "Even though this chair is responsible for subs and the sub payroll, when I come in in the morning I'm still signing in subs in too," she says as she gestures to Heiss's desk. For Heiss, it's this unyielding presence and reliability of her coworkers that she values most about her job. "All the staff members support us," she says. "That's the best thing I think."

The staff members in the Main Office work side-by-side and often have their roles overlap. Photo courtesy of Miles Royce.

This kind of support and outreach is fostered in the Main Office through relationships beyond just those between coworkers. It's important to Platky that everyone—whether it be a parent, teacher, student, substitute or visitor--feels welcome when they arrive at Blair. She teaches this to the office aides at the very beginning of their time helping out in the Main Office. Senior Brittney Ceus, who is working as an office aide for the first semester, says that making sure parents are welcomed and assisted is one of the primary skills that she has learned from working in the office. "You have to greet parents and you have to make sure you know what you're talking about," she says. Platky agrees, explaining that her main goal is to ensure that parents receive the information and guidance they need from the Main Office. She elaborates, saying that it's equally vital that they feel as if they are addressed in a friendly manner. "We're the first face that people see when they come to Blair and it needs to be as warm and welcoming as possible because we want it to be a good experience when they come," she says with a smile.

Though there is often a thunderstorm of work and activity in the Main Office, there never ceases to be a warm smile and helpful face awaiting any visitor. It doesn't come from having an easy job but rather from the constant knowledge that all the staff members in the office are always there to support each other.

Tags: Eileen Heiss Main Office Robin Platky

Eleanor Linafelt. Hi there! I'm Eleanor, one of the Editors-in-Chief for SCO this year. I love reading books, playing cello and electric bass, and surfing and swimming at the beach. I am also an Emily Dickinson fanatic. More »

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