Tuesday, September 18, 2007

My school principal died the other day

I wish I could be sad, but I can't.
John Davis, the former Hockinson school superintendent who helped lead the successful 2000 bond drive to construct a high school and create a full-service school district, has died of cancer.

A memorial service will be in the Hockinson High School auditorium at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25.

Davis, 60, a Ridgefield resident, died Sunday.

Just last week, the Hockinson school board unveiled a plaque that honors his seven-year tenure, from 1994 to 2001, and his devotion to libraries. It was placed in the high school library, next to the large stone fireplace and comfy chairs that have become a student hangout.

Confined to a wheelchair, Davis attended Thursday's emotional tribute that drew a crowd of former colleagues and friends...

Davis spent 33 years in public education. Before his time in Kelso, he was assistant dean of the school of education at the University of Connecticut, principal of Goldendale Middle School and principal of Neah Bay Schools on the Makah Indian Reservation.

He was the principal at Goldendale Middle School the four years I was there (fifth through eighth grades), and the strongest emotion I can summon up is disappointment that I'll never have a chance to get him alone and repay his viciousness. I know, lots of kids think their principals are mean, but this guy really was abusive to me. I don't know what it was that made him dislike me so much, but I was a hyperactive, smart-mouthed kid and it wasn't hard for an authority figure to get tired of me to me. With most of them, though, it's not personal; with Davis, it was. Just for an example: when the school created a special program specifically for me and a couple of other kids, he actually changed the rules to make sure I couldn't get in. I'm not exaggerating that, either; the requirements had been laid down beforehand, and when my name came up, he added an extra one that he knew I couldn't meet, one the other kids hadn't had to meet. (Naturally, his own kids were among the first enrolled.) My mother risked her job (she was a school secretary) to go over his head. He never forgave me for that. If he disliked me before seventh grade, he purely hated me after.

By the end of my eighth-grade year, he was taking me into his office literally every day for a paddling, on any pretext he could find. I say "paddle," but it was really a baseball bat that had been shaved flat, and he had to take a batting stance in order to get the leverage to hit hard enough. I don't recall him ever missing a chance to punish me, even when he had to invent something. (Some of the things he invented were downright silly, but the served their purpose.)

No, I can't make myself mourn. The most I can do is hope that by the time he died, he was a better person than the John Davis I knew. And repent of my own hatred.

Update: It looks like maybe he was a better person than I remember him. Certainly there are people who loved him. His daughter started a blog here, and it's a really sweet one. I hope it was justified, I honestly do, and that the stuff he did to me was an aberration. And I'm editing this to make it a little less harsh.

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