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Friday, July 20, 2012

Principals and Principles, II

The second middle school principal I worked for remained at Aurora Middle School only one year, 1967-1968.  Lino DeAnna was a young man from Bay Village on Cleveland's west side, and the Aurora job--if I remember--was his first as a principal.  As I said, he was young--and also very fit.  He had been a wrestler, and his son, Mike, was one of the great wrestlers in Ohio high school history.  The younger DeAnna went off to the University of Iowa, where he wrestled for the legendary Dan Gable--and where he was a four-time All American.

Mike DeAnna
I remember watching Mike wrestle in a high school match that was televised (late one night on the local PBS station).  He was so much better than his opponent that he seemed almost a separate species; he seemed merely to be playing with the guy, then, bored, promptly pinned him.  He lost some matches in college ... unimaginable.  He went on to a great coaching career, too, named coach of the year (regionally, nationally).

I might as well get my own wrestling career out in the open here.  Hiram High School had no wrestling team, but one year the Hiram College coach, Mike Koval, came over to the high school and convinced some of us to wrestle in a little high school tournament that the college was hosting.  He showed us some moves, got us some singlets, and off I went one Saturday morning to learn a lesson in humility.

I spent most of my time on my back--arching, bridging, trying to avoid the inevitable pin.  Coach Koval was barking instructions to me--moves I could make--but that kid had me so snarled up that I couldn't do much but be grateful my girlfriend was not there to witness my public demolition.  He pinned me.  I stood up.  He shook my hand.  Which hurt.

Back to Mr. DeAnna--whom I never called "Lino."  I was just 22 when I met him; my parents had taught me to use "Mr." and "Miss" and "Mrs." with teachers.  And so I called him Mr. DeAnna all year, even though he was not much older than I.  He occupied a tiny office on the school's second floor, and there he tried to keep track of the middle school swirl.  I don't have a lot of memories about him--just that I liked him, he worked hard, he cared--but I do remember that he (or the superintendent?) decided that we needed to teach health classes (had we not done it before?), and so that year I and my colleagues taught health twice a week.

Here's what I knew about health: It's better than sickness.  Oh, was it a scramble that year to figure out what to do during those periods.  I used every trick in that handbook all teachers have, the one titled What to Do When You Don't Know Squat about the Subject You're Teaching.  Lots of group reports and current events and filmstrips ... you know ...

But Mr. DeAnna supported me, let me do things I wanted to do.  Trusted me.  That year I did my second play in Aurora--another one I'd written with the kids during the year, Our War for Independence; or, 101 Ways to Be Revolting.  The highlight of the show came at the end: King George III has arrived in American to settle the Revolution, realizes he can't win, and capitulates.  But the way he capitulates!  At the very end he comes running out on the gym floor (no stage) dressed like a hippie, throwing flowers into the audience, and dancing around to the booming music of "Georgy Girl."  The crowd went nuts.  And our King George III, John Mlinek, began his life-long love affair with theater (he went on to play the title role in Hamlet at Kent State University) and remains a good friend.

But Mr. DeAnna resigned at the end of the year and headed back to Bay Village.  Before he left, he and I worked out the schedule for the next year (yes, I helped!), put it in a drawer for the New Guy, and headed off into our lives.  I never saw him again or talked with him again--not so far.

We had no yearbook that year, so I don't even have a picture of him.  But I just Googled him and discovered that he and some family members are in the realty business now over on the West Side--Ohio Family Realty.  His picture is on the site.  He still looks fit.  Still looks as if he could pin me in seconds.  (DeAnnas in realty)

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