An Unsung Hero of the Lower School: My Mom

By Chandler Pettus

Whether I need a last-minute parent signature, or extra money for track team dinner, or want to talk, my mom, Clara Pettus, is always available. Friends often ask if I like that my mom works at Collegiate, something I share with other former Match writers such as Patrick Kirchmier (‘17), Olivia Jacobs (‘17), and Frances Melvin (‘18). I always respond with a resounding “Yes.” I decided to ask her the same question and learn a little more about what she does as Assistant to the Head of the Lower School. Having only been at Collegiate since 8th grade, I do not know much about life as a young Cougar and how things run in the Lower School; however, my mom certainly does.

Administrative Assistant to the Lower School Clara Pettus.
Photo courtesy of Walsworth Yearbooks.

Clara Pettus, one of the faces of Collegiate’s Lower School, is described by her peers as an unsung hero. Although she sits at the front desk in Hunter Hall greeting students, parents, and visitors, Pettus also successfully manages elements of Lower School life that go unnoticed. Before the school day begins, A morning for Pettus consist of calling in substitutes and organizing their payroll when teachers have last-minute conflicts or illnesses. I often find myself dialing phone numbers from a list of potential substitute teachers in the car with my mom on the way to school.

A word that comes to mind when describing Pettus’ position and her obligations as the Lower School’s administrative assistant is “preparation.” One of her tasks involves preparing for a variety of scenarios for the students, as well as other members of the faculty. For example, Pettus’ responsibilities include preparing for faculty meetings, staff trainings, and school-wide assemblies and performances. She processes event set-ups by coordinating the necessary venue, acquiring the crucial equipment, and scheduling to ensure that it is adequate for everybody. Another matter that seeks Pettus’ preparation is student transportation. In addition to ordering buses during scheduling of field trips, she also plays a large and important role in the coordination of carpool. I had the pleasure of observing a typical afternoon dismissal at the Lower School last week, and it requires a great deal of prior organization.

Like the Middle and Upper School dismissals, the Lower School has a coordinated form of dismissal. However, there are a few extra details in the Lower School. Pettus describes the intricate process explaining that “there are three different carpools, labeled as green, gold, and orange, that meet in various locations to prevent traffic congestion.” At the beginning of the school year, Pettus helps in making sure every parent or guardian with a child in grades K-4 has either a green or gold carpool ticket that divides traffic patterns toward opposite sides of the school. All parents of JK, or junior kindergarten, students received an orange ticket as to remain separate from the older students.

In addition to being a planner of school events and routines, Pettus’ position also shows her administrative side. Because of the Lower School student body’s younger ages, there is even more regulation and supervision.

The Lower School. Photo credit: Jimmy Dickinson.

For example, just like in the Middle and Upper Schools, the Lower School always makes sure that all students are accounted for. During lunch, teachers and members of the faculty are on duty supervising each grade-specific lunch period. Some students are even required to sit with their class for more efficient accountability. Another example of vital student supervision is during evacuation drills. Unlike the Upper School’s policy of finding your advisory during a drill, Lower School students must leave the building and remain with the class and teacher they are currently with. Whether they are in homeroom, music, or P.E., students must exit with no talking at all.

Pettus stresses how important the safety of the students is to her. Part of her job, along with Lower School Administrative Assistant Mary Damon, entails the monitoring of the front doors. Throughout the entirety of the school, all visitors must be signed in and must wear a visitor’s pass. In the Lower School, after students proceed to class in the mornings, the doors in each building are locked until the end of the day.

My mom is also positively influential in the Upper School, especially within the Torch yearbook staff. It is useful to have someone who can easily match names with faces in the Lower School. Being stationed at the front desk, Pettus has the chance to converse with students, teachers, and parents on a daily basis. Millie Fox (‘19) says that “Mrs. Pettus is always super helpful in Torch. In creating our spreads, she helps us by identifying all things Lower School, like students, teachers, and campus life in general.”

Although I don’t see her around campus that much, I am glad to have a mom who works at my school. I believe it has improved both of our relationships with the other students and teachers at Collegiate.

Featured image courtesy of Brandy Brubaker.

About the author

Chandler Pettus is a junior at Collegiate.