No recess for the principal Education: Eastern Technical High School Principal Robert J. Kemmery is almost as busy during the summer, preparing for the next school year, as he is when classes are in session.


School is never closed for principals -- even during the summer. Just ask Robert J. Kemmery.

Last week, the affable Eastern Technical High School principal cut short a trip to Pennsylvania when one of his teachers suddenly quit. By Wednesday, he was back at the Essex school setting up interviews for the physical education/health position.

He's not alone. Throughout the metropolitan area, principals have been carrying on the work of their schools for the past two months while others have been basking in the sun or taking longer, sometimes exotic vacations.

"The real big challenge is to make sure when school begins for students Aug. 26, everything is ready," says Kemmery, who oversees 1,400 pupils and 125 staff members -- not to mention serving 2,000 parents.

Students in Anne Arundel, Carroll and Howard counties also return to classrooms Aug. 26. Harford students get a reprieve until Sept. 3, while Baltimore City students go back Sept. 4.

Kemmery says the pace slows a bit during summer break, his 50-hour summertime workweek being far shorter than the 70-plus hours he puts in during the school year.

"It's a major undertaking to run this school," Kemmery says. "There's no easing into the school year. We're off and running here."

On Monday, he arrived by 7 a.m. for a typical day of work, starting with coffee and electronic-mail messages before taking one of two daily tours of the school to check on facilities. He greeted custodians, teachers, coaches and a few students who were in school on the cool, cloudy morning.

"I'm here to work," said an enthusiastic Laura A. Hohman, Eastern's new business department chairwoman. "Most of my time is spent finding where the rooms are."

The approximately 80 classrooms on two floors can be confusing to newcomers. They also are filled with an amazing assortment of tools of the trades -- mannequins in the allied health suite, vehicles waiting for repairs in the auto shop, hair dryers in the cosmetology department and a variety of computers.

On the upper level, desks -- without the chewing gum that custodians have scraped off over the summer -- are piled into hallways. Floors are washed and waxed.

With two weeks until school starts, chief custodian Len Kraft and his staff of nine face a busy schedule. "Summer is our busiest time," he says. "We clean the whole school from top to bottom. Somehow we pull it all together."

On the lower floor, Dave Scrivener, chairman of the technology department, sorted through boxes of just-arrived equipment.

Kemmery's dress is more casual during the summer. He trades in a conservative blue suit and white dress shirt for a black polo-style shirt and khaki pants.

As he continued his morning check, locking and unlocking doors, Kemmery explained the goals of Eastern Technical with the pride of a parent. He even calls the students "my adopted children."

"We see our school as a key factor in the economic revitalization of eastern Baltimore County," says the 46-year-old principal. "The mission of the school is to raise the quality of life for the people, and one way to do it is through education."

When he became principal six years ago, he wanted to guide the school -- where slightly less than 50 percent of the students' parents have completed high school -- into the 21st century.

He has formed partnerships with more than 15 businesses and instituted new curriculums, such as a law-related careers program for those interested in criminal justice.

"A lot of students can earn credit for college before they even leave here," Kemmery says. "I want my kids to have advantages before they even get there. It instills in them they can make it."

He also spends much of his time in July and August writing proposals for money to support his programs. "We go after grants like junkyard dogs," he says with a laugh. "Summer gives us time to do these things."

Before he returned to his beige cinder-block office decorated with photos of his family -- his wife, Cathy Kemmery, who is a county teacher, and their college-age son and daughter -- and plaques he has received from state and local officials, he visited the new distance-learning center in the back of the school, which is under construction.

As testimony to the school's success, Scott Reynolds, a 1992 Eastern graduate and now a carpenter's helper with Hayes Construction Co., was working on the project that will link Eastern with other schools and institutions.

"My mom wanted me to go to Calvert Hall. I wanted to come here. I wanted to be a carpenter," says the 21-year-old worker, sawing lumber for a wooden ramp. "The teachers are real informative. It's a good school."

It's just what Kemmery likes to hear from former students. But now he has many matters to attend to before the next crop of students arrives at his door.

His afternoon involved having conferences with his assistant principals, answering telephone messages piled up on his desk, working on acquiring a bus for the school, and looking into staff development.

"This is relaxed," he says. "Things will really be popping when you put 1,500 people under one roof."

Pub Date: 8/14/96

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