An alarm goes off blaringly. The clock reads 6:30 a.m. A hand reaches over and smacks it off abruptly. Connie Campana is ready to begin her day, continuing the legacy that she began 24 years ago as the school’s attendance lady.
Born and raised in South Arlington, Campana is a true native to the area. She commutes to school with her granddaughter, who is a sophomore, each morning. They usually arrive around 7:30 a.m., giving Campana plenty of time to settle into her throne behind the attendance desk and brace herself for surges of students coming and going.
Mornings in the office are hectic until about 9:30 a.m. Excuses of all sorts pour in on hand-written notes, sometimes looking suspiciously as though they were scribbled five minutes prior in the parking lot. While Campana has heard all sorts of reasons for being late, a memory that sticks out in particular is the occasion of a mother calling in and stating that her son could not come to school because he had “morning sickness.”
“And I was like, ‘maybe you should think about rephrasing things when you say them because we all know what the term morning sickness means,’” said Campana, laughing.
While hopefully there are no pregnant males at school, the amount of students coming in late is not certainly not contracting any time soon.
”I might have 5 or 6 kids, and then there’s nobody, and then all of a sudden I have 5 or 6 more come in. Afternoons are getting busy because of my 18 year old seniors who can sign themselves out for quote ‘appointments’,” said Campana.
She is happily awaiting Senior Experience, as she estimates that once seniors are gone, roughly 85 percent of her workload will be cut. Currently, the majority of signing-out begins most afternoons around 1 p.m., when the lethargy kicks in and some just cannot bring themselves to carry on any longer.
Campana works incredibly hard to ensure that everything runs smoothly. It is a county policy that any student who arrives and/or departs after 8:19 a.m. must sign in or out.
“I have to answer the phones, I have to log all the calls and then I have to excuse the student on the computer. There’s a little note section and I have to put down whether I got a note or if I talked to a parent and what the reason was. The county always has to have a reason. And then I do the clinic sheet, I’ll do field trips, I’ll do the AP testing and SOL testing; they give me lists and I have to excuse all those, or like the Patriot Athletic Council (PAC) meetings, I have to excuse those kids too,” said Campana.
After a long day of attending to students, there is nothing Campana enjoys more than putting on some comfortable clothes, cooking dinner, and when 8 p.m. hits, going upstairs to decompress and watch a little mindless TV. If it is it the weekend, black and white movies from the ‘50s or ‘60s are her entertainment of choice–she often watches old thrillers on the Lifetime Movie Network.
“I like somebody chasing somebody. And I really do believe in ghosts, so I like the paranormal movies too,” Campana said.
Paranormal Activity has never been shot in an attendance office, but there’s a first time for everything. When pressed for more information, she explained that she has never physically seen a ghost, but she has definitely felt a presence before.
“I have felt something weird in my daughter’s house. They think it’s only me, but I’m not so sure about that. I believe that there are things out there, that sometimes people just don’t cross over. Now, on the other hand, I’m not really sure about aliens–that one is still out there on the fence. I’d probably have to see one, or a spaceship, or know someone that is credible enough that can say that they got ‘beamed up’ like in Star Trek,” Campana said.
Hopefully Campana does not get “beamed up” anytime soon, because the school greatly needs her expertise. She states the most important skills needed to work in an attendance office include people skills, a good memory and the ability to multitask.
“I’ve been here for 24 years and this job has really helped me in my personal life. I can do maybe three or four things here at one time. It’s also very important to have people skills, especially because there are a lot of people out there who work with the public that maybe shouldn’t be in that type of business,” Campana said.
When asked if she had any life advice, Campana provided some incredible words of wisdom.
“Just be true to yourself, be in what you want to be in, and go the right way. Don’t alienate people, and definitely don’t tick anybody off because you never know when they might be your superior. Don’t let anybody change your values. Especially a boy… not worth it. They’re a dime a dozen out there on the street, dude, so either they learn how to treat you right, or you can go, cause it’s not worth it,” Campana said.