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Ennis Daily News

Of doorbells and door judging

The doorbell is a nice touch.

I pulled up to Ennis Junior High School on Tuesday intent on fulfilling a promise to Ross Jones, who you may know as the chief of Ennis Independent School District police.
He was hurrying out to Sam Houston Elementary for one in his series of presentations on the dangers of drugs, strangers and all of the other grown-up ills that have been invading the sanctuary of our children’s lives more and more.

But I wasn’t there to worry about solicitors or underage drinking, even though you probably were thinking that if you are one of my regular readers. I was there to judge a door-decorating contest organized for Red Ribbon Week, a week dedicated to healthy choices.
Well, ’suppose it was drugs and societal ills behind my visit, at least indirectly.

Being unaccustomed to visiting the junior high (my years in that educational category are better left out of mind, so maybe that has something to do with it), I parked on the completely wrong side of the building.

No worries. Working feet and strong legs are a blessing.

Having stood sentinel over the newspaper’s coverage of school happenings in recent months, I knew I would be dealing with “the Raptor.”

The new hardware that checks driver’s licenses in real time to see if school visitors have a sex offender history is a neat gadget to have on your side. It’s a little intimidating, even for the happily married and habitually mild-mannered.

I confess, my ID is still a Louisiana variety, months after Texas should have me in their system. The EDN keeps me busy. That worried me a little as I hiked to the front of the school.

“Can they check my ID? Will it set off some alarm as I stand here in a shirt and tie with a door ballot in my hand?”

What should have worried me was reading the signs. My head nearly went through the glass as I pulled unsuccessfully on the locked door while trying to walk.

The student and parent who were walking up behind me knew the answer.
“Ring the doorbell,” said Mr. Deadpan Teenager.

Right. Nice touch. My finger on the button produced a somewhat muffled kind of honking buzzer sound, and we were allowed into the temple of teenage learning and angst. The ID check was a breeze — the secretary was even kind enough to allow me to beg the use of a clipboard.

Underprepared journalist is a tag that should hang from my neck some days. Forget “Visitor” tags.

Strolling up and down the halls, I was having a little bit of difficulty finding doors that had been done up in Red Ribbon Week regalia to be judged against their peers for the possibility of winning a prize that Ross was never quite clear with me about.

It probably had something to do with the fact I was by the gym and the only other doors were bathrooms.

Eventually, my short legs found their way down the academic hallways, and I hit paydirt. I was flooded with a feeling I haven’t felt since middle school. The only way to describe it is “uncertainty.”

I must have looked official — like an evaluator with the TEA or some other such spooky specter — because I’d look into a classroom, see a teacher meet my gaze and immediately drop it, focused on their duty to their students. Their students were just as attentive to their work.

I stumbled across several great doors. Some of the best work, ironically, was on the doors of men’s classrooms. Eat your heart out, ladies.

One teacher stopped me in the hallway. She must have been on her planning period or must have recently let students out for lunch, because she was making her way back to her classroom when she saw me.

She questioned me.

“Can I help you?”

The gaze she leveled at me was heavy with judgment and consideration, as if my answer was going to decide the fate of my universe.

I’d made it past the Raptor, but this was something entirely different.

I pointed at my chest sticker that loudly proclaimed my intentions.
“Nope. Actually, I’m a door judge,” I said, rather rudely now that I think about it. There was a little smugness there, maybe. Probably taking out some post-middle school aggression on this sweet woman.

“Oh! Well I should close my door, then. I’m on the list. Judge away!”
Victory. I looked down the hallway at an unfortunate young man left languishing outside of his class for some misdeed too minor for a trip to “the office,” but significant enough to trigger the “get out of my classroom” reflex.

He grinned at me. Apparently, he appreciated my handling of the situation.

It was a neat trip. I should visit the schools more often — I’m sure some budding journalist is sitting in those classrooms somewhere wondering what they should be doing, and they probably need to meet with one of us practicing reporter-types to learn they’re better served staying the heck away from this addiction. I’ll just have to make sure to remember the doorbell and quit thinking about the Raptor, since I’ve been judged worthy, out-of-state ID and all.

I’ll leave you with this: C108 was my winner.

Nick Todaro is the editor of the Ennis Daily News. He can be reached at nick@ennisdailynews.com.

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Posted by on Oct 28 2009. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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