Julia Territo, secretary at PORTA Central, describes her job as being “much more than a message taker. Some of our job requirements are technical and deadline oriented, such as state attendance reporting.” Given that average daily attendance figures have a direct effect on state aid the district receives, accurate record keeping and timely reporting is an absolute necessity at PORTA.
Jessica King, secretary at PORTA Junior High adds “Something that most people don't realize is that we take care of more than just the students and their paperwork. We take care of the staff and parents too! So at any given time, we are needed by at least one person (student, parent, staff member) for any and every thing school-related. We are thought to be the owners of all knowledge, and we do our best to be just that.” Robin Wheaton, secretary at PORTA Elementary agreed, saying, “I'm being pulled in many different directions, not just with one class of 20 students but with the entire Elementary student body. While I love all aspects of my job, I'm sometimes trying to focus on one thing in particular so I worry I may come across as scattered when asked a question!”
PORTA’s secretaries come from a variety of backgrounds and often had jobs in the district prior to taking on secretarial duties. Wheaton, for example, “began at PORTA as an individual aide. My desire to work in the district started as a need to be close to home to easily handle ‘mom duties.’” King, a past PORTA attendee “needed to transition from stay-at-home mom to a working mom of small children, I wanted to have a position that still allowed me to be close to them and on a similar schedule.” Territo points to having begun “as a volunteer and office sub.”
Being a secretary often means adapting to changes that, as King states, can make the “job easier and harder at the same time.” She says technology can make tasks “easier and less time-consuming, [while] others are complicated and come with more responsibility with the addition of new devices, programs, and even social media.” Territo reports, “The biggest change I notice is the emphasis on and need for safety. The district conducts safety drills so that the staff of each building is as prepared as possible for an emergency. The emphasis on safety is a sad development, but so necessary in this day and age.”
Being a secretary at PORTA often means being the recipient of student “gifts.” Wheaton identified one of her “favorite things as when the students bring me handmade artwork made just for me. My name has been spelled many different ways & I love each and every one!” At Central, Territo often receives “notes from the students thanking me for what I do. Often, their impression of my role is humorous but always sweet!”
At the heart of the job, school secretaries make a huge difference in their buildings. King expressed her delighted surprise to see “the impact I actually make on our students. We know that every adult in the building affects our students both positively and negatively, but I didn't think that the school secretary could mean so much to some of our kids.”
Picture: Robin Wheaton’s “gift”