From finances to friendships, administrative assistants advance school behind scenes


Photo by Advik Sood

School administrative assistant Miriam Rutherford answers a call from a parent, a task she repeats frequently every day. If a parent is ever unable to speak English fluently, Rutherford relies on her linguistic prowess to help navigate her way throughout the call, assuring that the parent’s message is received properly by the school.

Advik Sood, Staff Writer

To pretzel enthusiasts, April 26 marks the 20th anniversary of National Pretzel Day, a time to revel in the existence of the salty, triple-looped snack that children loathe finding in their candy stashes on Halloween. But for the school’s main office administrators, April 26 will celebrate another event: Administrative Professionals Day, a day that will officially recognize the contributions the administrative assistants make toward the school every year. 

“I think people may not often realize the work we put in behind the scenes,” administrative assistant Miriam Rutherford said. “What we do might not be seen by as many people, but we are still responsible for tasks that help in making sure that the school is able to run smoothly.” 

Rutherford, who has been at the school for the past six years, is responsible for answering calls and taking messages from other callers, most of which are parents of students. However, Rutherford will sometimes come across individuals on the other end of the line who are unable to fluently speak English, requiring her to shift gears and communicate in the caller’s native language so that effective correspondence can be ensured between the parent and the school. 

“Those who are non-English speakers usually communicate in Spanish instead, which I happen to be fluent in,” Rutherford said. “It’s so crucial that someone is able to help these parents, because just like other parents, they have important messages they need to get to the school, 

Along with other members of the office staff, Rutherford also assists in setting up teacher appreciation events. For instance, the office staff will often buy snacks, drinks and meals from local stores and keep them in a room in the office that teachers can access throughout the day. 

“Just like us, teachers do a lot for the school too, and we want to celebrate them for that,” Rutherford said. 

With her job, Rutherford recognizes the need to be multi-faceted. Administrative assistants such as herself, she says, need to be able to take on different roles at once as they never know what problems may arise at a given time.  

“When a student walks into the office, I’m the first person they see, the first impression they get, so I have to stop what I’m doing and focus my attention on them so that they feel welcomed.” Rutherford said. “I’ve had students come in who have missed the bus and need to contact their family members, students who have lost their car keys and even students who come in simply because they need a break. Whatever it is, I do my best to treat everyone with kindness.”

Across the hall from Rutherford stands the office of finance technician Sunny Crosby. Though Crosby may not be answering calls in multiple languages, she is responsible for translating a different dialect: the language of money. 

“Everything in the school that is related to finances will, at some point in time, come across my desk,” Crosby said. “My main job then is to look over the expenditures other staff members wish to make and see if it is reasonable to accept them. Then, I send my recommendation to the principal to look over.”

Every year, the school is given an annual budget, so Crosby must ensure that necessities are being bought while still making sure that funds are evenly distributed throughout the year so that the budget is not exceeded. 

“Toward the end of the school year our funds have decreased because of all the purchases we’ve made earlier, so that’s when I get a bit more wary on what we can spend money on,” Crosby said. 

This year, Crosby has made purchases for new textbooks and writing supplies for classrooms. She’s also approved requests for buying materials for school clubs and organizations, such as the drama department.

“What I enjoy about my job is the collaboration that comes with it,” Crosby said. “Going to work with the same people every day and getting to work with them is very rewarding to me.”

Crosby works especially closely with Principal Dr. Amy Goodloe, who joined the school this February. Though the emergence of the new principal was seen as a fresh beginning for the school by many, to administrative assistant Susan McCallister, it also meant having to build a new relationship. 

“I act like the principal’s right-hand man, and complete tasks they may be unable to if they have their hands full,” McCallister said. “I had worked with Dr. Poole for so long and had a good connection with him, so a new principal meant needing to start that all over.” 

Nonetheless, McCallister has been able to carry on from the past and work alongside the new principal, a feat she attributes to her flexibility in the workplace. 

“We make a good team,” McCallister said. “Dr. Goodloe also has a lot of love for the school and staff, so we’re able to work together well even though it’s only been a few months. Being a flexible person has only aided me during this different time.” 

To honor the work of administrative assistants such as Rutherford, Crosby and McCallister, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Charles Sawyer launched the observance of Administrators Professionals Day in 1952, an event that has been celebrated each year since. 

“I love the work I’m able to do,” Rutherford said. “But what really drives me is being able to see the smiles on students’ faces every morning. I’m fortunate for that.  Having the chance to watch them grow from children to young adults throughout their years here is a precious gift, one that I will always keep close to me.”