A group of alumni from one of our flagship high schools was organizing their 50th class reunion celebration—a pretty big deal. This class of more than 500 seniors had spread across the country and around the world, and therefore the 17 member local organizing committee wanted to take every opportunity to disseminate the reunion information, to include a web-page, mailings, and also an information bulletin at the high school. The reasoning behind having information at the high school was that, with members around the world knowing the 50th was upcoming, if anyone called the school for information about the reunion, a contact phone number, the web page and other pertinent information could be passed along by the school staff—as a courtesy to the alumni celebrating their 50th.
Two separate members of the organizing committee went to this high school to drop off the information, but met with immediate, sustained resistance and opposition at the receptionist’s office. “We don’t have time to fool with this stuff” one of the receptionists said to one of the committee members, an elderly female. “We don’t do this” was another response from the front
office staff to the second alumni rep.
The head of the organizing committee, appalled upon hearing this and in an effort to move the issue into the view of administration, sent a personal letter to the principal via-snail mail requesting assistance in the matter. Two weeks passed, with no response from the principal, so this gentleman called to speak with the principal. “He is not available, but he did receive your letter.” “I’m sorry he has not called or responded,” the female administrative employee continued, “but I know he got it because I placed it on his desk”.
More than a year has passed and no phone call or letter was ever sent from this principal or anybody from this school to the gentleman who organized the reunion—a fact that, once that part of the story was related to me, elicited an immediate personal apology from me for on behalf of this school, this principal, and our district. And I did apologize profusely--- because nothing is weaker and more rudely off-putting than a failure to reply to a personal letter from someone trying to organize a special event like a 50th class reunion.
Needless to say, this alumni group received zero consideration and assistance from their school, their Alma matter; yet their reunion was still a smashing success! Upon clearing up the bills and paying for the event, the ledger showed a positive balance of just a bit more than $12,000.00 after all expenses were paid. And here’s where the story gets interesting…..
As had been the custom with this particular alumni group, leftover proceeds from reunions and events were always voted on by the members of the organizing committee-- and typically these monies would go to benefit their school in some way.
Because of the rude manner in which this group was treated leading up to their 50th reunion, the organizer made a motion that was approved unanimously, 17-0, to not give the money to the school but rather to Pensacola State College for the establishment of a perpetual scholarship fund (that may even be eligible for matching grant funds from the state). While it won’t pay a big yearly scholarship—over time this fund will grow and eventually it will pay a student between $300-500.00 annually. And this scholarship fund would have gone in the school’s name, if only SOMEBODY had stepped up and shown this group even a modicum of deference. If only someone would have been friendly. If only the principal had responded to the letter like a professional. If only somebody looked up from their script. If only someone stepped out of their box.
But it didn’t happen.
This frustrates me because the opportunity for positive goodwill has been blown-up. When I worked in the restaurant business during college, and when I subsequently owned my own restaurant, it was often related that if one served a guest a great meal, they would tell approximately 5-10 of their friends about it—However, if one fell short of delivering great service and food, the same guest would tell the story to twice as many people!
In applying the restaurant anecdote/analogy to our flagship high school’s handling of this 50th reunion—It appears as though we have served the guests the wrong entrée, served it cold, spilled Merlot on their white clothes, argued with them over the dry-cleaner’s bill, and charged them full price for the meal despite this!—(all while not even offering a complimentary cheesecake or after dinner coffee!)
In the real-life, non-taxpayer subsidized world of organizations that actually have to provide great customer service, perform, and earn a profit—a restaurant like the one above goes belly-up rapidly.
So, what does this say about our flagship high school’s recent performance?