By Brenda Ortega
Never underestimate the importance of a great secretary.
I already knew that was true, but a recent interview with Joan Crampton – an office secretary at Greenfield Elementary in Birmingham Schools – confirmed it a thousand times over.
Few people know the full scope of Crampton’s job as the school’s gatekeeper, enrolling students, ordering supplies, handling the budget, operating as school nurse, coordinating substitutes, and working for the principal.
The list goes on and on. What makes her and so many secretaries so amazing is that despite her full plate of responsibilities, Crampton takes the time to individually know students, staff, and family members in the community to better take care of everyone.
A recent Q&A with Crampton ran in the October MEA Voice magazine, and her story – told in her own voice – is beautiful. However, she does so much that goes above and beyond – I couldn’t fit everything in the article.
I had to cut parts of the conversation for space considerations – things she had to say that were just as wonderful as everything else she talked about. Here is one example.
Q: What’s your least favorite part of the job?
A: Sometimes I can’t help everybody, when families in our community have issues or health problems. You know, I can listen to them, but I can’t make it better. I do what I can, though. We have a committee here that I head up. We do “cash for a cause,” and then because I know the families, I help identify those who really do need the help financially. At the holidays, like if there’s health concerns in their family, we are able to offer them Thanksgiving and Christmas gift cards for meals. In the past, we have created meal baskets. I even help volunteers who reach out to me (a local church in the area and another elementary school) that want to help those families too. So I create the list of people who need help, and then I kind of farm them out to other people in our community.
Also we do a veterans event that’s something near and dear to my heart because I come from a family with a strong military background. My father was in World War II. My uncles, my brother-in-law, and now my son was in Afghanistan (he’s back now). Around Memorial Day, we do a silent dismissal and an assembly. I’ve got this connection with the vets that I’ve communicated with, and they come in for it. As the children leave after this assembly, they leave in silence in recognition of what the veterans have done for us. All the children carry a little flag as they leave, and along the sidewalk they shake the veterans’ hands.
So I feel like my job here is to help people, but I’m also in the community trying to help those beyond. We have a community school organizer that’s really good about helping out with all of that too, but together, we work to create this sense about us. It goes beyond these walls, I think.