Cover

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Front Matter

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Contents

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

This book is the result of more than two years of support and assistance from family, friends, colleagues, sources, and readers of the Indianapolis Star. To everyone who played a part—and there are so many . . .

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Prologue

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pp. xi-xv

The third week of the 2009/2010 school year was coming to a merciful end. It had been a week full of problems, headaches, and disasters. But that’s pretty much how every week is at Manual High School. . . .

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1. Why Are You Here?

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pp. 1-9

It was August 12, 2009, the first day of the school year, and I was already late. My plan was to walk through the front doors of Manual High School by 7:00 am so that I could be there thirty minutes before the . . .

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2. I Never Would Have Thought He Would be a Dandelion

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pp. 10-14

Sgt. John Barrow and I were walking down a hallway midway through third period of the school year’s first Friday when he got a call about a group of students who had been caught in the upstairs gym. The seven boys . . .

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3. Can You Believe This?

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pp. 15-23

The yelling spilled out of Dean Terry Hoover’s office on a mid- August morning. A battle-tested veteran of tough schools, Hoover had been Manual’s dean for seven years, her most recent stint in a three-decade . . .

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4. We do a Good Job with the Kids Who Show Up

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pp. 24-31

At Manual many of the students don’t show up often enough to get left behind. I’d been at the school for less than a week but had already discovered that its most vexing problem was also the most . . .

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5, I Hate this School

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pp. 32-39

I parked my car in front of Manual at about noon and walked toward the front door one day early in the school year. In recent days I had filled several notebooks as I wandered the school in search of column . . .

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6. Go to Cclass, Zach

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pp. 40-51

It feels a bit strange to bump into someone the day after you’ve put them on the front page of the newspaper. You never know what the reaction is going to be. Are they happy? Are they ticked off? Did you write . . .

Illustrations

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pp. 53-67

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7. We’re Not Going to be Average Here

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pp. 68-79

The thirty-one-year-old father of a Manual freshman walked into Dean Hoover’s office one morning. He moved fast and angrily and wore camouflage pants, a tan workman’s jacket, and a black cap. He came into . . .

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8. Where's the School Spirit?

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pp. 80-86

The missing pieces of Manual were everywhere. The school didn’t have a student council, I learned one day. Or a newspaper. Or a yearbook. Or so many of the things that scream high school and that are just . . .

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9. I Don't like Being Called Stupid

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pp. 87-99

As fall approached, I realized that my initial idea of spending perhaps the first quarter of the school year at Manual was not nearly ambitious enough. There were far too many columns to be written, far too many . . .

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10. You Have to Crawl First

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pp. 100-112

Every Sunday my latest column on Manual would run on the front page of the newspaper. That was an unusually high-profile location for columns. For four years most of my work had appeared on pages deeper . . .

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11. We're Dropping Out

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pp. 113-123

Two boys stood in the main office on a Thursday afternoon, talking quietly to each other as their mom sat in a chair a few feet away. They were an example of the dropout epidemic that is devastating many . . .

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12. I Get Hit all the Time

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pp. 124-130

Dean Hoover was having one of those days. A day when her office was a nonstop burst of activity, filled with troublemaking students, perplexed parents, and enough drama to fill a few soap opera scripts. . . .

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13. We Just Couldn't Get Anything Started

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pp. 131-136

The leaves were falling, and the Indiana weather was turning colder as early November arrived. Manual had settled into its routines, both good and bad, and teachers and students were already looking forward . . .

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14. What's Gonna Happen, Mr. Grismore?

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pp. 137-143

Iwalked out of Spencer Lloyd’s class on the Friday before Thanksgiving after watching his choir prepare for its upcoming holiday concert—the Christmas Extravaganza, he called it—which was less than four . . .

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15. Could You Image If We Filled the House?

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pp. 144-149

By the time late fall arrived, I had fallen quite hard for Manual. I barely tolerated the idea of spending time on any column that wasn’t related to the school. Often I would breeze into my office at the . . .

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16. It Feels Like I'm a Somebody

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pp. 150-160

The choir was roaring by early December. From the start of each class until the end, it was a wall of music. The students were filled with more confidence than ever before, and they spent each class eager . . .

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17. I Used To Be Bad

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pp. 161-168

Students and teachers returned from the two-week holiday break and quickly got to work on the second half of the year. Police resumed patrolling the halls, and administrators continued to prepare for . . .

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18. I Knew I Didn't Want That

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pp. 169-174

Thirty-five years before I walked into Manual High School I began my own inglorious education career at Kuny Elementary. The one-story brick building sat in the middle of Gary, Indiana, a once-mighty . . .

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19. There's Nobody that Can't Do Something

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pp. 175-185

Linda Thatcher’s classroom was tucked away near the back of the first floor of the school, along a lesser-used hallway, and noise rarely spilled past the closed door. So it was easy to miss the magic inside. . . .

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20. It Never Stops Around Here

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pp. 185-192

Michael Robinson let out a sigh and stared at the smart-aleck freshman standing before him. It was only 8:15 am, but Robinson already knew this was going to be one of those days that seem to last . . .

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21. I Like to Solve Problems

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pp. 193-200

Among the hundreds of students who passed through Manual every day, some were impossible to miss. Students such as Jammyra, who seemed like the student body’s elder stateswoman. Or Jeff, the calculus . . .

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22. I'm the Kid Who Doesn't Exist

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pp. 201-210

The halls were flooded between periods one morning in early March as I raced up a set of stairs from one classroom to the next, juggling the dozen or so column ideas that were bouncing around in my head. The end . . .

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23. Trouble Follows Me

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pp. 211-217

Six weeks before Brent Jones arrived at Manual, another Brent left the school in handcuffs. Brent Walls had been caught dealing drugs in a gym locker room, and school police had found a loaded handgun in his . . .

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24. I'm Willing to Run These Schools

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pp. 218-226

Manual seemed to be in a leaderless rut by April. Principal Grismore was out of the school often and was frequently distracted by his new duties at district headquarters when he actually was in the high . . .

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25. Now I know Why I'm Tall

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pp. 227-235

Icontinued to talk to Brent Jones as often as I could as the spring progressed and the end of the school year drew closer. His story had to be written. But for some reason I found myself struggling to write a column about . . .

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26. Wow, This is Amazing!

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pp. 236-242

Students walked through the front doors early one morning late in the school year, filling the hallways with noisy conversation. They laughed and argued and shouted on their way to the start of the day. But even . . .

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27. We've Acted Like This Is Okay

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pp. 243-247

The final weeks of the school year raced by quickly. I spent my days trying to file a few final columns I’d been meaning to write while continuing to deal with the avalanche of a response that my column on Brent . . .

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28. You Are Survivors

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pp. 248-255

Graduation week was a big one for the seniors at Manual. But for Brent Jones it was life-changing. Like the rest of his classmates, his last day of school was the day before the May 19 commencement ceremony. Like . . .

Epilogue

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pp. 256-261

About the Author

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pp. 262-262