CAMPUS SUPERVISOR TEMPERS DISCIPLINE WITH CARING, HUMOR BIG MIKE CALHOUN HELPS TEEN-AGERS, FACULTY FEEL SECURE.
SANTA CLARITA - Campus supervisor Mike Calhoun, known for his bellowing voice, struts his 6-foot-2-inch, 210-pound frame around Valencia High School, clutching a walkie-talkie and sporting his usual outfit: a black leather Harley-Davidson vest with a ``Bad Pig'' patch, jeans and black boots.
It's a quiet day, and the attitude of summer school students and Calhoun, too, is a little more relaxed, but he still keeps close watch on the interactions of the kids - most of them clad in flip-flops and shorts - as he walks among them.
When the regular school year begins, Calhoun will return to his job of 15 years at Bowman Continuation High School, where he's in his element.
On the smaller Bowman campus, he towers among the swarm of students trying to get from one class to the other. He blares his catch phrases - ``Get to class'' and ``Go get an education'' - at the stragglers who are taking their time.
``The big thing is tardiness,'' said Calhoun, explaining that his job is to ensure a safe learning and working environment for the students and teachers. ``I clear the campus after break and lunch so the teachers can get started with their lesson plans on time.''
Calhoun couldn't have expected to be such an obvious presence on campus without inspiring some impersonators.
``They imitate me,'' Calhoun said with a certain pride. ``When they see me in between classes they'll say let's go to class.'' He yelled, imitating the kids who imitate him. ``It's funny, but while they're saying it, they're going to class, so it's effective.''
The man who rides his Harley-Davidson to work also established a reputation for cracking jokes, telling stories and singing his favorite tunes between classes, although the words aren't as clear anymore.
Sometimes when he sings Hendrix or Dylan, he'll get a curious glance from a student followed by an incredulous, ``You know that song?''
But Calhoun makes sure to draw the line between friend and authority figure.
``In the beginning, they think I'm a bigger force than I am, and they wait for me to break the ice,'' he said. ``I don't try to come on too strong, but I let them know there are consequences here.''
Calhoun, 49, is a William S. Hart Union High School District staple, starting as a campus supervisor in 1984 at Hart High and moving to Bowman in 1987.
With more than 18 years' experience watching teen-agers, the man students call ``Mike,'' ``Mr. Calhoun,'' ``Calhoun'' or ``Dawg'' has been in a unique position to develop insight into the behavior and interactions of youths.
``Kids respect him. They care about him, and he has such a strong rapport with our students and our staff,'' said Robin Geissler, principal of Bowman High. ``He just always knows what's happening on campus with the kids at all times, and he knows if a student needs extra attention.''
Students at Bowman seem drawn to Calhoun when they need help with a problem, because they know he always listens and cares, asking them to tell him their dreams.
``I found him more comforting than ... teachers,'' said Bowman senior Cynthia Davalos. ``If I had a problem at home and talked to him about it, or if I talked to him about a teacher, he'd make it better.
``They will respond to Mike when they might not respond to others. He has a really good way of communicating with kids.''
Calhoun's heard it all - from problems students have with each other to those involving drugs and alcohol.
``He knows who's absent, who's late and who's broken up with her boyfriend, and that's important in his role of encouraging students to achieve,'' Geissler said.
While being there for students, Calhoun picked up valuable lessons in how to relate to teen-agers, and that spilled over into how he raised his son as a single parent.
``I've learned that, when you're showing kids choices, you have to open the door and walk inside that door with them and look around,'' he said. ``I went with my son when he was registering for college, and that took all the shock out of it.''
And Calhoun believes that when you teach kids respect by showing it, they return the respect.
He said his own father gave him outstanding lessons on communicating effectively.
``I learned to not only be a good listener, but to take my time on what my answer will be,'' he said.
His father was a disciplinarian who kept tabs on his son at all times.
``He wanted to know where we were going, and he was the guy who took us to baseball and Boy Scouts,'' he said.
Calhoun learned from his father's patient style of parenting, which he applies to his work.
``He would sit down and talk things over, and he didn't extend his power over it,'' he said. ``That's why with the kids now, I see things work themselves out a little before I put my foot in it, or I put my foot in my mouth.''
Calhoun has transcended his role as campus supervisor and has become a motivational force for students who have found a second chance at the continuation school.
Bowman students have fallen behind in school and are deficient in credits because of personal problems, such as parental divorce, and they have a chance to make up those credits at the school.
``He was telling me different stories about a lot of successful people because he wants me to be successful,'' Davalos said. ``I think Mike Calhoun is one-of-a-kind.''
Calhoun gets the greatest satisfaction when he sees former students after graduation, especially when he runs into them at their work.
``I'll go into a busy restaurant, and I'll hear someone call out `Mr. Calhoun, we've got a table for you,' and we don't have to wait,'' he said. ``As long as you can help one kid out, you figure you're doing all right.''
Some say Calhoun's many life experiences help him communicate with kids.
``He's been everywhere and done everything,'' said Karen Moore, Calhoun's colleague for 12 years. ``There really isn't too much this guy doesn't know.''
The man of all trades moved from Pacoima to the Santa Clarita Valley with his family in 1968 - two days after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. - and has worked as a machinist, a bartender and a professional bodyguard, and he has even run nightclubs.
He dropped out of the College of the Canyons to join the U.S. Army, and he was the Army's liaison in an orphanage in Germany, where he got his start working around kids.
In the Army he learned an important life lesson - when you start a job, finish it - which is why leaving college still lingers in his mind.
``That's why I want to show the kids, the more you get out of this at Bowman, the better you're going to be when you get out there,'' he said.
The principal dreads Calhoun's days off.
``It makes my job a lot more difficult. If he's here, I know everything's going to flow well during the day,'' Geissler said. ``There's nothing like having Mike here. He's an original.''
(1 -- color) Mike Calhoun, a campus security supervisor, has been a fixture in the William S. Hart Union High School District since 1984 - usually at Bowman Continuation High School.
(2) Mike Calhoun, a campus security supervisor who enjoys working with teen-agers, arrives smiling on his Harley-Davidson for summer school work at Valencia High.
Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2002|
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