from the central school’s office

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Senior Member
Hello everyone,

From the book Thank You for Being Late by Thomas Friedman.

This was an era in which Title IV-C Education Department grants enabled public school teachers to apply through their districts to create new curricula that other districts could purchase for low or no fees. It made high school teaching, for those who aspired to it, a very creative job—it wasn’t just a matter of rinsing and repeating what was handed down from the central school’s office. For instance, my World Studies teacher, Lee Smith, and his colleague Wes Bodin created a World Reli-gions curriculum, stimulated by the multireligious nature of the student body in St. Louis Park and the desire by the St. Louis Park School Board to set some guidelines in 1971–1972 on what could and what could not be done religiously in the local schools.

What is the school's office? Is it the administration of a particular school? Or is it the administration of a particular school district?
And why is 's used? Is it the same as the central school office?

Thank you.
  • sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I can talk about the grammar, but you really need a US member to explain the US school system.

    On the face of it (just looking at the syntax, free of any context) "the central school's office" means "the office at the central school" (whatever the central school is; I am not familiar with the term). Logic says that this interpretation is unlikely.

    On the face of it "the central school office" could mean the same as the above (unlikely) or "the office that acts as a centre for the schools in the district".

    I wonder whether the apostrophe should really be there.

    I am sure that an American member will arrive here soon to explain the matter.


    Senior Member
    English - US
    I wonder whether the apostrophe should really be there.
    It does seem to me like another of Mr Friedman's "not quite right" usages of English, but perhaps it is correct at that time and place.
    In the US, it is common for each locality to manage its own schools. For example, Dallas has the Dallas Independent School District. Each school has an "office" for the management of the school, i.e. for that school's principal, vice-principal, etc. The administration of the entire district takes place in what is commonly called the "central office." For example:
    Professional and high-functioning central office.
    We will reach our destination if the central office staff is one of the most efficient and competent in the nation.
    If I were writing that sentence, I would have written "... from the central office" or "... from the school district's central office," but not "... from the school's central office" as the central office is shared among many schools. It looks like Friedman or some "helpful" editor felt the need to add "school's" as a "clarification" and inserted it in the wrong place.
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