At 7 a.m. sharp every morning, freshman Maeve McKinney and her dad walk through the doors of East. They are welcomed with a warm hello and wave from the new security guard at the entrance of the school.
The McKinney’s, also joined by Maeve’s friend, freshman Gwenith Yoemans, get to work immediately, studying and working on projects at the round table next to Principal McKinney’s desk.
“It’s pretty normal, I just tag along with my dad but once I get into the school,” McKinney said, “He’s my principal and I’m a student of East.”
Principal McKinney starts preparations for the day just forty minutes before the first bell rings. He anticipates the arrival of 1,800 teenagers, huffing out hot coffee breath and offering up large smiles as they walk into school.
This is the start to a normal day for this father-daughter team. Instead of parting ways in the early morning before work and school, they stay together for the whole day at the same place — East.
After each bell rings and students scramble out of their classrooms, Maeve and her father pass each other in the hall, glimpsing and giving a casual head nod to one another and occasionally offering a quiet “hi”. They see each other at assemblies, in the same classrooms, in the lunchroom, the main office and pretty much anywhere around the school.
“It’s such a unique thing, really,” McKinney said. “You don’t usually get to spend the day with your kid at their school, and I’m so thankful for that.”
Whenever Maeve does get the chance to see her dad, she stealthily observes him and his body language and facial expressions to get some insight of how his day was going for the sake of the rest of her family. She can easily sense if he had maybe spilt his coffee or dealt with a stressful issue earlier in the day.
“I’ll usually send my family a quick text to tell them what kind of a mood my dad is in, that way they know if they should mess with him or not when we get home,” Maeve said.
The two believe that they hold the most fun situation, sharing something that other families don’t get to share with each other: the privilege to spend more time together throughout Maeve’s four years in high school.
“You wouldn’t think so, but it’s actually kind of fun to get to see my dad at school everyday,” Maeve said.
During lunch, Meave often gathers a group of her friends to feast in the office conference room, instead of the lunchroom where the rest of the student body eats. McKinney and her friends gossip over their sack lunches, and are often joined by their principal.
“Nothing is awkward with Maeve and her friends,” Principal McKinney said. “I have known them since they were little, coaching their sports teams and driving them to practices.”
The only issue faced with having this rare privilege is Maeve being treated different at school by people who know she is the principal’s daughter. Maeve doesn’t worry much about this, and only focuses on the fact that her teachers and other faculty know her better than they would have without her being Principal McKinney’s daughter.
“I definitely think I get the same treatment as other students, but here people actually know how to pronounce my name, which is nice,” Maeve said.
The experience that Maeve and Principal McKinney share is a unique one, and although it changes Maeve’s high school experience, it allows them to cherish the time they have together. This, in turn, brings them progressively closer in their relationship.
In a few years, another daughter of McKinney’s will be coming through the doors of East with him at 7 a.m. every morning. She will hear her dad’s voice during the announcements and quietly acknowledge him in the halls with a slight but somewhat awkward wave.
In four short years, Maeve will leave East and won’t be able to give her dad that daily head nod in the hallway anymore, or sit in the freshmen section at pep assemblies as she watches her dad scream for the Lancers.
“I know someday she’s going to go, so I have to enjoy the time that we have together and continue to make her days with me at East wonderful,” McKinney said.