Ray, where are you, now that we need you?

Posted on August 22, 2008. Filed under: Good ol' days |

Today, I learned of the death of my public high school’s “Dean of Boys”, Ray Stasco.  It marks the passing of an era in America, in several ways. Members of “Generation Y” might not be able to conceive of the role Stasco played when I was in school. Our innovative principal was a former football coach, Billy Parker. Mr. Parker had such a successful record with motivational techniques that the county school board allowed him great leeway in his management of our school, which had been in existence only two years at the time of my matriculation. There was no public-school racial integration in those days, so racial conflict was not an issue on campus. Guns also were not a problem. What there was, however, was an entity called “juvenile delinquent”, JD for short. Our school had more of these ne’er-do-wells than any other, at a time when students were assigned to the school in their own neighborhood. They had no desire to be in school in the first place; since the state allowed students to drop out voluntarily after completing the eighth grade, or reaching the age of sixteen, none of them expected to be there. So, why were they there? Almost without exception, it was a condition of their probation arrangement.

Mr. Parker, who was intent on providing the best public education available, realized that the educational needs of his mainstream students must not be compromised by the presence of the JD’s, as well as having the progressive notion that the JD’s themselves should be educated. With this in mind, he hired Ray Stasco, a qualified teacher, and more importantly, a would-be lineman for the Chicago Bears. As far as I know, Mr. Stasco had no academic assignments during my three years at the school. He certainly taught no classes. He was the “Dean of Boys”, and part of his job was to display a prominent physical presence on the campus, an open-air, wheel-spoke design of buildings, with lots of “hidey-places”. On many occasions, I was witness to the generic event of a surly, arrogant “JD”, slouch-walking into Stasco’s office, having been referred to the Dean of Boys by a classroom teacher. Shortly thereafter, a different young man would emerge, crying and no longer slouching purely by choice. He had become an acquaintance of the “board of education”; the Billy Parker philosophy was that before you could teach such an individual, you must first get his attention. We had almost no “crime” on campus, and the school had the highest academic ranking in the county.

In 1964, I was a member of the “National Honor Society”, and vice-president of the senior class, comprised of about seven hundred students. A particularly intolerant (from my point of view) geometry teacher felt it was necessary to “refer” me to the Dean, as I had been designated a “class disturbance”. Mr. Stasco, in my case, had an option plan. I could serve three days of “yard duty” (essentially, suspension combined with enforced groundskeeping chores), or I could receive three “swats” from the board of education. As one dedicated to academics, I chose the latter, not wishing to miss class. Just recently, my ass has begun to recover.

I suspect there is a significant skill component in the proper application of the BoE. It must be applied just so, achieving a maximum amount of discomfort in the recipient (the educational aspect), while not quite crossing the threshold of actual physical disability (which would interfere with class attendance, thus lowering the net educational effect). Observing Mr. Stasco’s technique, at least part of the secret of achieving the index of effectiveness must have involved the Dean’s feet coming off the ground at the precise moment the ‘educational aspect’ was applied. Hence, the athletic background necessary for the position of Dean.

Those “baby boomer” times almost cannot be compared with the correlative experiences of Generation Y. When my high school was opened in 1959, a progressive idea was proposed: the students would choose the name and the mascot. Votes tallied, the winner was “Valhalla Vikings”. “Oohhh,” thought the school board, “maybe not. Too insulting to Christians. Let’s go with the safer choice of a Confederate war hero: Nathan Bedford Forrest. We can borrow ‘Mr. Reb’ from Ole Miss as the mascot, and use the Stars ‘n Bars flag. Shouldn’t offend anyone.” Somehow, it slipped through the background check that ol’ Nathan, while indeed “fustest with the mostest men”, was also the post-war founder of the Ku Klux Klan, a social organization which some elements of society find offensive. First you’ve got to  please the Christians, then you’ve got to please the liberals. What’s a school board gonna do? 

Dr. Stasco went on to become an outstanding academic public educator. He left my school many years ago. Forrest High School no longer employs the “board of education” technique. It currently has a Florida School Accountability Grading Scale rating of “F” (the scale is A-F, not A-Z, as you might hope). I’m not saying the two facts are causally related. I’m just sayin’.




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2 Responses to “Ray, where are you, now that we need you?”

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Thanks for the walk down memory lane. Rember
the A&W and Penny Burgers? The Big Ape came to
our Rebel Yells. Good Ole Days indeed.

No growth without constraint. Constraints are seen as…..?

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    The director of the Sexual Medicine Center leaves penile implants behind, and launches a quest for knowledge about Artificial Intelligence, extended life, and the issues inside the health-care industry.


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