Behind the Blackboard:

Secretary wears many hats for entire school

Patti Wallace relishes in ‘putting out fires’



FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes at a middle school and it takes someone organized and flexible to handle it.

For Patti Wallace, secretary to the principal at South Forsyth Middle School, no two days are alike because she’s typically the point of contact to fix any problems that arise.

On any given day for the past nine years, Wallace puts out multiple fires for teachers and students from helping with last minute events, finding a substitute teacher or sometimes covering the clinic for the nurse.

Wallace joined Forsyth County Schools 19 years ago when her children were young and attending school in the district. Because they had the same schedule, she was able to take care of them when they got home in the afternoon.

As fate would have it, she now works with her daughter at South Forsyth Middle.

At the beginning, Wallace started out as a second grade paraprofessional and eventually moved to kindergarten. She transitioned to middle school and was in the severe and profound special education class for eight years.

She eventually returned to being a secretary, a profession she worked for 15 years prior to joining the school system. She said she must enjoy the job.

As soon as school begins, Wallace said she and her team try to get the teachers started.

“Parents and kids come in, too,” she said. “The first hour we’re open is pretty hectic and chaotic.”

After that, she focuses on setting up for staff meetings, handling attendance and addressing any last-minute issues.

“We venture around and do whatever has to be done,” Wallace said. “There are lots of things that need to be done. Teachers may need something, lockers may have to be opened if a custodian can’t come down or the nurse may need help with a student.”

And after she finishes putting out those fires, Wallace dives into her official job duties doing whatever else the principal and administration need.

“My hands go everywhere,” Wallace said. “At times it’s hectic and sort of drives you crazy. But everybody in this school is so nice and helpful to work with.”

She loves getting to chat with teachers between classes and learning about their lives and classes. Wallace keeps treats in her office for the staff, and she often goes through the school to hand out goodies to pep everybody up.

“I try to keep the staff happy,” Wallace said. “They need as much support as they give these kids. They’re supporting the kids and so we support them. That’s probably half my job making sure they can get through their day happy.”

One of her biggest struggles is not having enough time to do everything needed.

“Teachers get sick, their kids get sick, they’re gone and we have substitutes,” Wallace said. “Although there are a lot of substitutes in the county, we struggle sometimes to get some.”

But it’s all worth it when she sees the staff happy.

“The people are so great,” Wallace said. “Every person who walks in here is great and passionate about their jobs. They enjoy their jobs and it helps me enjoy mine.”

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