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Scene, Sunday, May 6, 2007

There was a surprise in my younger sons’ backpacks this week in the form of a letter from the principal. First, I quickly scanned it to make sure it wasn’t a personal letter, ending with the dreaded words, "Please call to schedule a meeting so we can discuss your sons’ behavior/performance in school."

Realizing it was not the dreaded personal note, I let out a sigh of relief. Then I began to actually read the letter, which announced the principal’s plans to retire at the end of the current academic year.

"Another one bites the dust," was the first thing to pop into my head.

She is the second elementary school principal in a row to move on to greener pastures after having my kids attend her school.

I should have seen this problem coming years ago when the boys were just beginning their journey through the public school system. Jimmy was in second grade and Tommy in kindergarten when the principal of their school in North Carolina made an unforgettable comment to me.

We were in the midst of joking around about how "active" my boys were. He had grown up as one of three boys and could understand the job I had on my hands.

Ronnie wasn’t even in school yet but had made a name for himself by pulling the fire alarm one morning in the pouring rain.

It wasn’t long after that incident that principal commented, "You know, someone is going to have their hands full the year all three Zich boys are in elementary school at once."

Until that moment, I hadn’t done the math and realized Jimmy would be in fifth grade the year Ronnie entered kindergarten, with Tommy in third grade. As usual, I didn’t want to look that far ahead, when my "baby" would be in school.

Ronnie was barely out of Pampers at the time, giving me a couple of years to put off the dreaded idea of sending my youngest child off to kindergarten.

The principal knew we were a military family and seemed confident that the chances we would still be in his school district when that time came were pretty slim.

A couple of years later, the time arrived for Ronnie to begin kindergarten, and all three boys attended the same elementary school in Carlisle, Pa. I almost called their former principal in North Carolina in an attempt to fool him into thinking we were moving back.

But then I thought better of the idea. What if he has a heart condition or high blood pressure? The thought of all three Zich boys headed back to his school might be too much for one man to take.

The principal who did have Jimmy, Tommy and Ronnie at his school all at once appeared to handle it gracefully. Then, he quietly relocated to another school as we prepared to move to Virginia.

Our family’s record with preachers is even worse than the principal situation. Two weeks after I joined a new church in North Carolina, the preacher of many years announced he was leaving.

We moved to San Diego next, where the preacher lasted about 18 months before he retired and began attending another church.

The minister in Carlisle relocated to Pittsburgh just as we began to pack up our things to move. For all I know, he and the principal’s family had planned their escapes together.

I realize plenty of nonmilitary families relocate for professional and personal reasons, but it’s beginning to look a little suspicious to me. And I can’t even blame this situation on the dog because she’s at home bugging the neighbors while principals and preachers spend time with the Zichs.

There is a "For Sale" sign on the house across the street however. It appeared a few months after we moved in.

A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has moved eight times in 16 years of marriage to her Marine Corps husband. They have been stationed in various locations, including Okinawa, California, Texas and their current home in Springfield, Va. E-mail her at homefront@stripes.osd.mil or find the Zichs online at www.lifeonthehomefront.com.

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