From Missing to Marking

By Zoe Cowan

Attendance Clerk Barbara Burroso has come full circle since being a chronically late student at Tam High in the 1960s.

“When I first got the job, I went home to my husband and I said ‘I got the job. It’s permanent. The girl who could never get to class on time is now managing attendance.’”

Burroso was a travel agent for 22 years, as well as an accountant for a restaurant, before coming back to the Tamalpais Union High School District (TUHSD) as an administration substitute. In the fall of 2016, she was offered a permanent position at Tam as attendance clerk, where she remains today.

Burroso grew up in Mill Valley with her six siblings in the historic Hayes House, which also served as a hotel for visitors of the Mount Tamalpais and Muir Woods Railway. She attended Tam for two years, before moving to Petaluma with her family. Reflecting on her time at Tam, the differences between then and now are clear.

“When I think about being a student here, I remember because it was the ‘60s, it was very mellow, very peace-oriented,” she said. “Even the campus was different … But I remember it being not stressful. I think now the students here have a lot more pressure on them than I ever did here. High school, for me, was very fun and freeing.”

After graduating from Tam a semester early, when she was only 16, Burroso attended Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) where she studied art history, world history, and interior design.

“I never went to a four-year college, but I did go to a secretarial college [in addition to SRJC]. It was different back then. Plus, I’m one of seven kids,” she said. Even back then, college was a lot of money, especially for her large family.  “I was kind of fending for myself,” she said.

Her interest in interior design lead her to floral design, a niche in which she’s been working on top of other jobs for years. “I design weddings and events as well, outside this little office. I’ve been doing that for 20 years. It’s me and my girlfriends that do everything. So if an event comes our way… [we all] come together and we do something fresh and fun. It’s a great escape,” she said.

Though floral design gives her an escape from everyday life, Burroso has found a happy place within the Tam community. “The people I work with are fantastic, [they’re] fabulous,” she said enthusiastically. “Admin, [are] all great people, [and] interesting to get to know. And the students. I mean, you guys are like my happy spot here.”

As attendance clerk, Burroso spends her whole day interacting with students. As expected, this keeps the job interesting—she hears all the wild excuses students have for being late.

“Well, I got a great one today, what was the one?” she said, spinning her chair around to ask the nurse who was out of sight in another room, “the moon was waning, so she had to do a dance?”

“No, I thought it was about a song? I can’t remember the name,” the nurse said.

“Oh right, it’s something about the sun. The sun song was on, so she had to do ‘the dance.’” She spun her chair back around, laughing to herself. “I get all kinds of excuses,” she added, “and that student actually had one of the best.”