Category Archives: writing
Randy Doyle was swimming. Strong, rhythmic strokes. Over and over again. And with each stroke he felt better. With each stroke he felt more alive, more excited. He could hardly wait to get to the other side. But as he swam, the water grew colder and thicker. It became more and more viscous, like swimming in a pool of 10w30. The oil was everywhere. It stuck to everything. His arms, his face, his feathers. The more he tried to get rid of it, the more it stuck to him. He crawled out of the water and tried to run. It was so hard to breathe and he was being chased. At first he didn’t know what was chasing him. He was in a maze, a corn maze, no it was made of football players then the football players turned into percentage signs and he could see what was chasing him. It was the numbers 25, 35 and 45. Why those numbers he didn’t know. But they were evil. They had claws and sharp teeth. They were getting closer and closer. He tried to call for help but his mouth wouldn’t open. Finally it did and he yelled “Bunny, Bunny” over and over again. Bunny appeared dressed as a rodeo clown. He came right up to him. But instead of diverting the numbers away like a rodeo clown was supposed to do, he looked Doyle right in the face and laughed “Give it up” over and over again.
Doyle started to wake up. He was aware that something was different. The bed felt different. He was naked and he never slept naked. The room felt different. Still with his eyes closed he reached around the bed as if he was looking for something. His left hand stopped up against something soft and round. It felt good. He stroke it. Then came the voice.
“Morning, Tiger. Don’t tell me you’re up for another go? You know I am if you are.”
Oh my god thought Randy. I know that voice. It was Kathleen. He remembered being with her in the restaurant…Then the rest started to come back to him.
She pulled herself closer to him, kissed him on the forehead, the cheeks, the lips. He felt the warmth of her body. She was older than him, maybe by 5 years, yet she had kept herself in shape. He was starting to get excited.
At little while later, he looked at the radio-alarm clock on the night table.
“We missed breakfast. “
“I’m not hungry. Are you?”
“No, it’s not that. The keynote speaker was supposed to be there to discuss his latest book.”
“Who’s the keynote speaker and what is his latest book?” asked Kathleen. Then she added “And why should I care?”
“William Vandonkersgood. Author of ‘Reinventing the School: Tearing down to Build up’ and founder of the Phoenix movement.”
“Yeah, Phoenix as in the bird that rises from the ashes, not the city in Arizona. He believes that the whole education system is rotten at the core and can only be changed by tearing everything down. “
“So he’s an anarchist.”
“They never use that term. But they have bulldozed a few inner-city schools in New York and Philadelphia.”
“How do you get away with bulldozing a school?”
“Apparently they show up on a Sunday morning. The neighbours assume they have permission. Any way they do it in neighbourhoods that aren’t in the habit of calling the authorities. And they have official looking papers on hand if anyone asks.”
“What would he put up in its place?”
“That’s the beauty of it. He doesn’t propose anything. He thinks the new system should just rise up from the ashes of the old. It should be created co-operatively.
“Let’s grab something for breakfast before the first session.”
“Thought you weren’t hungry.”
“That was a few minutes ago. Now I am.”
In the coffee shop downstairs they went over the program for today.
“Let’s see what I should go to,’ said Kathleen as she perused the program.
“Didn’t you pre-register?”
“Of course I did. But I never go to these things unless they look good. Let’s see…
‘From Caterpillar to Butterfly’, ‘Making your Staff Do the Crap Jobs and Thank you for it’, ‘Literacy: ItsEverybodies Business’, hmm a couple of mistakes in the title. No irony there. ‘Liberation Teaching: Releasing the Inner Guerrilla in all of us.’ ‘The Hip-Hop Principal’, ‘No one fails: Modern Assessment andEvaluation’. What do you think, Randy?”
“I signed up for ‘Growing your Career from the Bottom up.’ I think I should go to that.”
“That’s sounds a lot like ‘From the Classroom to the Director’s Office in Ten Years’ I wonder what the difference is.”
“You know what sounds good ‘Fromthe Whip to the Jelly Bean Jar: a History of Persuasion’’
“I’m going to ‘When Teachers Go too Far: How to Deal with Unwanted Staff’. It sounds useful.”
“Do you have problems with your staff?”
“Look at the time. Tell you what, let’s meet for lunch and compare notes about the sessions.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
The big conference room was abuzz with conversation. 500 Principals in one spot all talking shop. 250 Principals telling 250 other Principals what they thought of their morning sessions. 250 Principals trying to listen over the din of 250 Principals all talking at once. Apparently some sessions were very good, some so-so and others a total waste of time. The session entitled, ‘Casting a Broad Shadow: How to Promote yourself to your Superiors’ was very well attended and seemed to be well worth it. ‘Building a Fair and Balanced Timetable’ drew three participants. Normally it would have been cancelled but apparently 35 people had signed up for it and 32 were no-shows. That’s the problem with going at 8:00 a.m. after a night of Principals cutting loose.
Eventually Kathleen and Randy found each other and found seats together, near the back and a long way from the head table.
“So where did you end up going?” asked Randy.
“What sessions did you go to?”
“I decided on ‘Military Techniques Applied to a High School Setting’ and ‘Speaking Their Language: Howto Rap with the Groovy Kids of Today’ ‘Military Techniques’ was good. It focused on the concept on dividing a staff into cliques who spend all their time and energy fighting each other and allow you to do what you want to them. I came away with several ideas I am going to apply when I get back to St. Kilda’s. The second one on the other hand was so bad it was funny. I think that the guy has been doing the same presentation since the 60’s. If we had listened to acid rock and smoked dope, it would have been a complete nostalgia trip. What about you?
“I’m just trying to picture you as a hippy.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, could I have your attention please. I would like to introduce the head table. On my right are Helga Overmeyer, Principal of Central Winneposis High School and Chairperson of the Conference Organizing Committee and Hugh Really, Past President of High School Administrators’ Association of Canada and on my left is Alma Ludwigshafen who is the current President of the HSAAC and who is going to introduce today’s keynote speaker.”
Polite applause followed as Ms Ludwigshafen walked up to the podium.
“I went to ‘Growing your Career from the Bottom’ like I signed up for. Then I took a page out of your book and went to something that looked interesting. ‘Keeping your Ambitions in Check. When the Guy You Work for Leaves Something to be Desired’
“Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to tell you the background of your distinguished guest. He was born and raised in Cinderella, a coal mining town in West Virginia. He attended many underfunded public schools where he earned marks good enough to win a scholarship to Duke University. There he met many students from vastly different backgrounds than his and realized the unfairness of the public school system.”
“What was ‘Growing your Career from the Bottom’ like?” asked Kathleen, who could barely hear the speaker at the podium.
“It had a lot of good ideas about the art of what he called sycophantism. How to play your cards right and at the right time. Whose favour you should curry and how. How to maximize your profile in the Board. I would recommend it to anyone with ambitions of going beyond the Principal’s office.”
“Throughout his career, first as a classroom teacher, then as an Administrator and finally as a Professor of Education at Slohand College in New Jersey, he has dreamed of finding a way so that every student will have an equal chance at success.”
“What about Keeping your Ambitions in Check?”
“Total waste of time. The guy giving the presentation had no idea of what it is like to work for a loser. I could have given a better presentation. I know what it’s like.”
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I give our keynote speaker: William Jefferson Vandonkergood.”
“Who is this guy again?” asked Kathleen
“William Jefferson Vandonkersgood. He’s really big right now. He founded the Phoenix movement which destroys old decrepit schools so that new ones can be built. He’s so big they call him the new Lewis Peacock who created the Oreo Nation and the answer to Jessica Froem. I have all his books and I am hoping to get his autograph.”
Louder applause than for Ms Ludwigshafen followed as Vandonkersgood stood at the podium and adjusted the microphone upwards.
“I thank you. I thank you very kindly. But please wait for my speech before you shower me with all this applause. Make me earn it.” The crowd drew quiet then laughed at his last sentence. “It’s true. I started out in a one-room school house.” His accent made ‘I’ sound like a two syllable word. “Well actually we would have been happy if it was a one-room school house. The rain came in through the roof (rhymed with boeuf), the wind came in through the windows and the rats did purty much what they wanted. And that was on a nice spring day. In the winter time we would fight to get into the outhouse, where at least it was warm. I could tell ya that we might of been poor but we were happy. But it would be a lie to say that we didn’t dream of going to a proper school, with a proper roof, with proper windows. You know what I mean, huh?”
“Now didn’t I go off to college and see that not everybody went to a school without a proper roof and proper windows . And that set me to thinking what can I do for all those Bobbies and Betties in schools like the ones I knew. I started asking anyone who’d listen why some kids go to fancy schools with all the up-to-date technology, with happy well-paid teachers who are dedicated to their jobs and other have to go to, well let’s call them crap schools, with no supplies and over-worked, underpaid teachers who quit teaching on average after only two years. I asked why in a democracy do we not have equality of opportunity and I am still waiting for a satisfactory answer.”
“One good thing from Keeping your Ambitions in Check was the advice he gave about ignoring your boss if he has nothing but stupid ideas. At Lord Byron last year Bunny, our Principal, started a initiative where students who misbehaved were no longer sent to the office. They were told to take a walk and be back in ten minutes. Well, that meant that instead of disturbing one class, they were now disturbing all of them. And kids would try to get kicked out of class so they could wander the halls. It got to the point where there could be twenty or thirty kids in the halls at the same time.”
“So Bunny gave up on the idea?”
“Hell no. I just told the staff to go back to sending people to me and I would deal with them. Bunny is out of the building so much that he is totally unaware. In fact when he is there he comments on how well the program is working since there is nobody in the halls anymore.”
“Now didn’t I say to myself: This is America. We all deserve to go to a good school, with happy hard-working teachers, new test books and everything else that some people think of when they think of school. But how were we going to achieve that. There’s so much red tape. There’s so much politics involved in educational change that nothing ever seems to change. It’s not about merit pay and it’s not about vouchers. Other countries seem to be able to reform their schools. Why not us? Well I looked around at our manufacturing industry and I started to see some parallels. American factories are old and rusted out. This is especially true in the North-East, which we now call the rust-belt. For the most part German and Japanese factories are modern and efficient. What do their factories have in common? Well they both had the piss bombed out of them during the Second World World. That freed them to start a new. That’s what we need to do with our schools.”
“Your Bunny sounds like a real winner.”
“You can’t imagine.
“Of course, we couldn’t start a war in order to get our schools bombed. And we certainly couldn’t bomb our own schools. Think of the headlines if ever the USAF bombed poor defenseless school children. I mean poor defenseless American school children. Still there ought to be a way to get the old run down schools torn down and shiny new ones built in their place.”
“Now I reckon that some of you have heard that I go around tearing down schools. These are only vicious rumours. Bulldozing a school would be illegal and I wouldn’t be walking the streets as a free man if this were true, would I? Now that is not to say that there aren’t a lot of schools crying out to be bulldozed. And I could probably give you all advice on how to hypothetically bulldoze a hypothetical school.”
“Then there’s the idea that the Board had that we should answer all phone calls in both languages. I don’t know about other schools in the Board, but none of the secretaries at Lord Byron speaks French and nobody phones the school expecting to speak French. It’s pretty ironic coming from a Board that takes the $3 million dollar French grant and spends it on anything but French. Anyway our secretaries didn’t bother with that one and to the best of my knowledge no one has ever noticed.”
“Now if I knew of a school that needs bulldozing and I can think of a few, the trick would be to act as if you’re part of an official action. Wear all the proper uniforms; have all the official looking papers. People will not call you on it. This is all hypothetical, right? If you do it at the beginning of a summer, then the Board has some time to decide what they are going to do with all those students and no school. But unfortunately the Board doesn’t always notice right away. I’m not sure what things all those Trustees and Admin people do, but paying attention doesn’t seem to be one of them. Somebody bulldozed PS 444 in the Bronx, that’s in New York, at the beginning of July and I guess no one noticed until the middle of August. “
“Now the idea behind bulldozing a crappy inner-city or rural school is that they don’t build schools like that anymore. They have to replace the crap with something good. Okay maybe not necessarily good but at least new. Did I mention that all this is hypothetical?
“Probably one of the more stupid ideas coming out of the Board is…”
“You mean apart from your evaluation policy.” Interrupted Kathleen
“Well, that’s a hard call. They’re both in the same league. Anyway the Board has this idea to integrate grade nine English and science. The same teacher would do both. And they only want science teachers to do it.”
“That’s a bit of a force fit isn’t it? What sort of activities do they envision?”
“I’m not sure. Short stories about amoebas? It wouldn’t be my first choice of things to integrate.’
‘Is this backed up by any kind of research?’
‘I doubt it. We don’t do research.’
You would think that all this talk about tearing down schools would be met by a lot of incredibility, shock even. Teachers and Principals are pretty much conservative people. Not the kind of people who destroy things. But something happens to teachers once they get out of the classroom; they don’t want to go back. And they will do most anything to make sure they don’t. From the perspective of a recently liberated classroom teacher there are no bad ideas. At least not those of their superiors. So maybe that’s why no one got up and walked out on this man who was proposing so much destruction. He was the darling of the educational establishment. Or maybe it was just because they were polite Canadians with an American visitor. Maybe most were still feeling the effects of last night’s “conferencing” in the hotel’s Blue Moon Saloon. Whatever the reason, 500 Principals sat there and listened to William Jefferson Vandonkersgood outline how to bulldoze an intercity school.
“Now what is important to remember about the Phoenix movement is that entire schools do not have to be torn down. You can start small. You can tear down interior walls. Make sure you know which ones are load bearing ones though. Or you might as well just bulldoze the whole thing anyway. Tear down the interior walls and see what that brings. Force everyone to rethink the school. I know what you’re thinking. We all tried ‘Open Concept’ in the 70’s. But did you really? Or did you just try to teach the old fashion way in a room without walls? I challenge you to redefine what ‘tearing down’ means. Rip all the pictures off the walls and let the students cover them. Throw out the textbooks and let the students write their own. Get rid of departments. Get rid of department heads. Fire the janitors and have the teachers and the students take ownership of their classroom. Fire the secretaries and let the students acquire the necessary office skills.”
A buzz had been slowly building as his ideas seem to advocate laying a lot of people off. But there was nothing in that buzz to indicate that anyone didn’t approve of these ideas. In fact wild applause broke when Vandonkersgood reached the logical conclusion of his argument:
“Fire the teachers and let the students teach themselves.”
“Bravo, bravo,” came the cry from a table near the front. “Give ’em hell, Billy!” yelled a voice on the left. “Show no mercy.” shrieked the middle. Many in the hall had risen to their feet and the mood swept through the room until nearly everyone was up and applauding. Vandonkersgood put his hand up to quiet the crowd, but it was apparent that he enjoyed the applause. he continued:
“Throw out the old military-based command structure in your school, put the Principals back in the classroom and run the school collectively.”
With that the crowd grew quiet. What did he say? Put Principals in the classroom? What kind of a lunatic was this guy? Let teachers decide things? What did they know? “Billy, you’re crazy!” cried a voice on the right. The man who went with the voice got up and stomped out. “You should be bulldozed” yelled the table up front and walked out collectively. Tables on the left started chanting “Kill Bill, kill Bill!” One by one people stood up and left the room. Vandonkersgood continued, raising his voice over the din of chairs moving and feet stomping.
“Why shouldn’t Principals go back in the classroom? It keeps them grounded in reality. It makes them take ownership of their decisions. I know what you all are thinking. It’s what I hear all the time at home. It’s nothing but Communism. But it isn’t. It’s like Hutterites or kibbutzim in Israel. Don’t. Don’t .’ The crowd was probably a third of what it had been at the beginning. ‘Don’t close your minds to new ideas. Try to think outside the box.”
It was fruitless. No one was listening any more.
“School’s have to stop being factories which produce docile obedient sheep. We need to question everything and everyone.” “Schools should not be an agent of the government, but an agent of change.”
Vandonkersgood surveyed the room and realized there was no point in continuing. “I’d like to thank you all for inviting me to speak to you today and thank you for listening.” Vandonkersgood ended without a hint of sarcasm in his voice. Alma Ludwigshafen got up and started applauding. A handful of the remaining Principals joined in, but it really was a pitiful amount of applause. Randy and Kathleen continued their conversation. Since lunch was being served immediately after the speech, most of the Principals who had walked out on the keynote speaker began filing back in, the rest went to the Blue Moon.
‘Science-English integration is just one in a series of ideas that I have to sell to the staff. They never want to hear it. I don’t particularly want to do it. But Bunny always leaves me holding the bag.’
‘How did he ever become a Principal?’
‘Beats me. But there are a lot of things about the Board that I don’t understand.’
‘Would you like the chicken or the fish?’
‘Addison! I thought last night was your last day on the job.’
As dippy as ever Addison answered ‘Well it was supposed to be. But Daddy was short staffed and asked me to stay.’
‘I’ll have the fish.’
‘Poor Randy. You know you shouldn’t have to put up with this crap.’
‘Yeah, but what am I supposed to do about it?’
‘Run the school as if you were the Principal. Would Bunny notice? Would he care? You know he might even by glad that he doesn’t have to do anything. The school will be better run with a Principal who’s there in the building.’
Addison was back with the food.
‘Okay that’s one chicken for madame and one for sir.’
‘Thank you very much Addison.’ said Kathleen.
‘I thought you ordered the fish.’
‘I did. But I assumed that she would get it wrong so I ordered the one I didn’t want.’
‘Yeah, me too. I guess we’re good problem solvers.’
‘That’s why you need to take control of your school.’
‘Just do it. If you don’t like Science-English Integration, get rid of it. Don’t like Potential Intelligence, get rid of it.’
‘’Whoa, there. Hold on a minute. That’s not taking on an absent Bunny. That’s taking on the Board.’
‘If you are half the man you were last night, you’ll do it.’
“I was good last night? I mean I was good last night, wasn’t I?’ Randy was feeling manly and powerless at the same time. It was one thing to be good in bed. It’s another thing to go against Board policy. ‘Why don’t we discuss this over dinner tonight? What sessions are you going to this aft?’
‘I don’t like any of them.’
‘Yeah, they all look kind of lame. How about Keeping Them on Edge. How to Keep your Staff Guessing your Next Move?’
‘I don’t know. Maybe Delegate, Alienate, Subjugate. You know I don’t like any of them. I think there’s better things to do with our time. How about my room in five minutes?’
‘Sounds like a plan.’
Finally the day of the home opener came. The team had played two games on the road first and had shown real signs of improvement. In the first game against Kim Campbell the defence had done a good job in holding last year’s second best offence to just three touchdowns and Lane had managed to move the ball well and the Bengals had answered those three touchdowns with three of their own. In the end what cost them the game was a fumble in their own end late in the game which set up the winning field goal.
The next game was a heart breaker. They played the Sacre Coeur Crusaders. Like in the first game, the team started with a prayer circle. The players dutifully recited the words of wisdoms that Coach Ibrahimovich had prepared for them. He had made sure to remove all references to God or Allah and this time any mention of Jihad was removed as well. The irony of them reciting Muslims prayers before playing the Crusaders was lost on all, players and coaches alike. Padre O’Connor, the chaplain at Sacre Coeur, was surprised and a little bewildered to see a prayer circle from a publicly funded high school.
Soon after the game started the pleasant fall day turned into a meteorological nightmare. The skies darkened, wind increased to what weather men call gale force and rain started falling. Horizontally. Any hope of a passing attack was gone and even the ground game was very difficult. Both defences knowing that the pass was impossible, concentrated on stopping the run. Nobody could move the ball. With the score still 0-0 in the fourth quarter, the Crusaders were punting once again. The wind picked that particular time, with the ball in the air, to increase to what the weather men call hurricane force. Even though they had kicked it from their own side of half, the ball carried passed the goal line then passed the dead ball line for a single point. Try as they might, the Bengals could not answer. The final score of 1-0 sounded more like a soccer game.
Two games. Two loses. Even if the points difference was only -4, against Happy Valley things would have to be different.
Ryan had lost a lot of his innocence, but not his desire to fix things. The same enthusiasm that he brought to the fight to save the planet, he would bring to the fight to get rid of Potential Intelligence. He would just need a good game plan.
White and his lackeys and flunkies had told him in no uncertain words to be quiet. “Shut the fuck up” was how it was put. Still there was be a way to get around that order. He thought about it for weeks, even to the point of putting work on the overhead for his grade nine science classes to copy into their notes. While they quietly wrote, he brainstormed ideas. He could write letters to the local papers. Okay that wasn’t shutting up. Maybe he could write those letters and pretend to be somebody else. Like Barovsky, or Doyle. No, that was fraud or something. He could refuse to use PI. ‘Yeah, I’m going to Bunny right now and tell him I am not going to do this. Wait. Bunny’s not here today. I could… I could… I can’t shut the fuck up. They will just have to live with it. What are they going to do to me? Make me teach grade nine applied science. All those kids that don’t want to be there. I’m already doing that. Fire me? They don’t fire anybody. You have to molest a child to get fire. They can’t touch me.’
First offensive: a letter to the Granite City Times. No, an exposé to the Granite City Times. Who is Ken Smith and why he is ruining our schools? No, not eye catching enough Perceived Stupidity: The End of Western Civilization.
“Sir, we done copying. What should we do now?” said a girl from the front of the classroom. At the back of the classroom, the usual crowd had been throwing things out the windows for more than five minutes.
“Here’s a word search. Would you hand them out to the class, Aleisha.”
“Sure, sir. But I’m Chastity.”
Where was I? Ken Smith is a danger to your child.What you can do about it. Yeah let’s go with that. At home that night Ryan wrote a 5 000 word diatribe of Perceived Intelligence. He cited studies from as far away as Taiwan and Finland. He compared the Canadian school systems to schools good and bad. He had his point, proved his point, reinforced his point over and over and over again. He sent it off to the Granite City Times.
And he never heard back from them.
The weather was not going to be an excuse for losing this time. While the sun was not completely out-it was playing a game of peekaboo with the fans and the players, there was no rain and little wind. A larger than usual crowd had turned out to watch the Bengals take on the Happy Valley Vikings. The never-been-in-the-league-before Vikings. The-never-had-a-team -before-Viking. The-never-won-a-game Vikings.
It was going to be good. These guys had barely enough players to field a team. As it was most players had to play both defence and offence. The three girls from the synchronized swimming club had stuck it out and were dressed even if no one expected them to see the field. The guy with the club foot was there too. On the side lines he was practising kicking the ball off a tee and into a net.
The bus from Happy Valley had arrived late. When they did get there, most fans were already in their seats. The players were under strict orders not to make fun of their opposition. Any way they were busy praying when the bus arrived. The fans, on the other hand, were not at all hesitant about laughing at the Vikings. Unfortunately they lacked imagination and style.
“You suck!” “Where’s the rest of the team?” was the best they could do. Maybe it was because they weren’t used to being the ones taunting. In any other game they were the subjects of the taunts.
Warm ups, coin tosses and other formalities out of the way, the teams lined up for the opening kick off. Jordan White, who was also the kicker as well as being the middle linebacker, put the ball deep into the Vikings end. The kid who was supposed to run the ball back fumbled around with it and only got to the eleven-yard line before Jordan chasing his own kick stuffed him. The kid lay on the ground for a while but was able to continue. On the first play from scrimmage the Vikings ran up the middle for a couple of yards. On the second play the snap was fumbled. The Bengals recovered on the nine-yard line. Things had started just the way they were supposed to.
Unfortunately the two pass attempts were incomplete. But the field goal was good. After only a couple of minutes it was already 3-0 Bengals.
The Vikings chose to take the ball on the 35. They completed a pass for five yards, ran off-tackle for another four and gambled on third down. The Bengals were prepared to stop the one yard plunge. The Viking however faked the quarterback sneak, snapped the ball through his legs to the halfback who handed off to the wide receiver who ran an end around. Eleven of the twelve Bengals were completed fooled by the play. Fortunately Jordan White wasn’t. He eventually caught the ball carrier after a thirty yard gain. He hit him so hard the kid had to go off for a few plays.
They were now in Bengal territory.
The LBSS defence smarted up and managed to stop the Vikings at about the fifty. Head Coach Kidd sent on the punt return team. The Vikings Head Coach sent on the kid with the club foot and set up to kick a field goal.
Now with the seven or so yards that teams take in order to make sure the kick isn’t blocked, the ball would be placed beyond the 55 yard line which meant that the kick would come from the Vikings’ side of centre.
The punt returners were confused about where they should set up. They were on their 20, but Kidd signalled that they should stay where they were. There was no way this kick was going anyway near the goal posts.
The ball was snapped. The O-line was a bit shaky and Jordan came close to blocking it, but they got the kick off. The two kids on the 20 waiting to run the ball back got ready. They immediately realized that the ball was going farther than anyone anticipated.
Anyone on the Bengals that is.
What was at first a slow back pedal quietly into a full run. The ball was clearly going well past their heads. Past their heads and through the goal posts.
The reaction from the fans and the Bengal players was a combination of awl and fear. They had never seen a kick like that.
After one quarter it was 3 for the new look, bound for victory Bengals of Lord Byron and 3 for the hapless newbies from Happy Valley. Things were not going according to the script.
If the press wasn’t interested maybe the government would be. After all had Perceived Intelligence had not been approved by anyone at the Ministry. He started with his local MPP. Johnny Marre had represented the voters and the non voters of South Missachewopa for three terms. People pretty much knew what to expect from him and he knew what to expect from the voters. Ryan phone the local office. His secretary answered.
“Can I speak to Mr. Marre?”
“I’m sorry he’s not available.”
“When will he be available?”
So the next day when Ryan phoned it went:
“Can I speak to Mr. Marre?”
“I’m sorry he’s not available.”
“When will he be available?”
This continued for far too long. Ryan would phone and get the same answer and then phone again the next day. I suppose if the office of Mr. Marre was a more warm and fuzzy place, his secretary would have had the decency to say “next week” instead of “tomorrow”. But she didn’t. Finally Ryan asked why if Queen’s Park is not in session is he not at his office locally.
“He’s out in the riding.”
“What does that mean?”
“He is meeting constituents.”
“I’m a constituent.”
“Maybe he meet you someday.”
“I can’t tell you how helpful you’ve been.”
“You’re very welcome.”
Ryan would just have to go upstairs to the Ministry itself.
He went to the Minister’s website. There was a place to write questions to the Minister but after the disappointment with the Granite City Times he wasn’t sure if the written word was the way to go. Maybe he needed to talk directly to the Minister herself.
Edwina Mist had a fairly high profile. She had been Minister of several other things before her current role. And it was rumoured that she would be running for the leadership of the provincial party when the current Premier, Rushton Kappa stepped down. According to the pundits that was going to be sooner rather than later. Kappa was down in the polls and his hopes of re-election seemed faint.
After a lot of digging around, a few phone calls to friends from university, who had been Young Perpetuals and had gone on in the party and a bit of luck, he came up with the phone number to Minister’s office.
With his fingers trembling a bit he dialled the number and waited while the phone on the other end rang.
“Office of the Minister of Education. How may I direct this call?”
“Oh yes hello. I’d like to speak to the Minister, please.”
“And you are?”
“And who is Jason Ryan?”
“I’m a teacher at Lord Byron Secondary School.”
“Just a teacher?”
“And you want to talk to the Minister?”
“Yes, I do.”
To Ryan it seemed like five minutes of laughter that followed. When the voice on the other end finally stopped it said “Oh that was a good one. I haven’t laughed like that since the days of the Tories.”
“I don’t get it.”
“Why you were laughing.”
“The Minister doesn’t talk to teachers. If you have something to say, take it to your superiors. The Minister cannot talk directly to teachers. It muddles things up.”
“But things are seriously wrong in my school board.”
“Things are seriously wrong with all school boards. Put something in writing and send to the Minister.”
“And she’ll respond to it?”
“No, but it might make you feel better.’
“This is unbelievable.”
“Listen if you really want to change things, run for Trustee. They’re the people with the real power.”
No football coach is worth his salt if he can’t rant and rave. Head Coach Travis Kidd was worth the whole shaker. Practises were best described as long periods of physical exercise and even longer periods of verbal abuse. However sometimes you could say it was physical exercise followed by physical abuse. And sometimes it was just physical abuse. Fool around and you run hills. Screw up and you get a ball thrown at your head. Really screw up and have your gender identity questioned. But now in the locker room at half time he started with the silent treatment. Okay it wasn’t a locker room the teams stayed at the field and went to opposite end zones.
Given the proximity to the fans everything Travis Kidd said could be heard by the fans. They even heard the silence that started the half time talk. If was a silence filled by all the emotions, fears and desires that this game represented to the 0- for their high school career Bengals felt.
Forty-five players all with their helmets off and their left knee on the ground waiting, waiting for Head Coach Kidd to break the silence. Finally, there was a feeling of relief when he spoke.
“Ladies.” he barked then he paused. “That is the worse display of football that I have ever seen in all my years of coaching.” The feeling of relief was quickly replaced with a feeling of dread.
“If you want to be rhythmic gymnasts, be my guest. But I am here to win a football game and by God I am going to do that.” He paused again “Even if I have to run out on the field and do it myself. From now on there will be no more missed tackles. No more dropped balls. No more running the wrong pattern. We have not been working for months to lose to a team that can’t even use a toilet yet.”
Scottie Van Doornedorp had to fight the urge to say something about how he was pretty sure that they were potty-trained. But even Scottie isn’t that stupid.
The tone switched to one of motivation rather than vexation. “Look at the logo on your chests.” Above their numbers was a small tiger head. “You all are Lord Byron Bengals. You’re part of a long tradition. Remember that. Remember all the players who have come before you. Remember all the glory of past teams and accept your destiny. Now let’s go out there and be who we are.” A good speech. At least it was when he used it at Chevalier.
On to the field the players rushed ready to do their job. Happy Valley kicked off to them. The kid with the club foot booted the ball deep into the end zone where Stretch caught it. With the coaches all calling for him to go down on one knee, Stretch turned and started running down field. It was just too much to ask the kid to concentrate on catching the ball and listen to instructions from the side lines. The down field tacklers arrived and were so close to stuffing him. But Stretch had been put at kick off receiver for a reason. He was faster than anyone else on the team. He wasn’t very good at running patterns; he couldn’t tackle and he would get out of the way of tacklers rather than block. But he was fast.
So fast that he easily avoided any would-be tackler and made it out of the end zone. He gave a head fake to the one synchronized swimmer who got to play on kick offs and headed toward the sidelines. The Vikings had been too enthusiastic about making the tackle down field that no one stayed home just in case they were needed.
No one accept the kid with the club foot.
So the second half of the game between two hapless teams began with a show down between two unlikely heroes. Now the kid with the club foot had always known that if he was even going to have any success in sports it was going to be because of his brains and not his athletic ability. In house league soccer he soon figured out that his role was to stay near his own goal and clear the ball 50 yards down field any chance he got. He knew that if he pushed forward he would get caught up field and wouldn’t be able to get back in time.
When he saw Stretch head for the side lines he quickly calculated the angle he needed to take to intersect the trajectory of Stretch’s line. Slow as he was, as long as he got there before Stretch he could make the tackle. This is advance physics here as he needed to account for the difference in speed of the two objects. And his calculations found that the two lines would meet somewhere around the thirty yard line. The Vikings thirty yard line. That meant that he had to turn around and run toward his own goal line while Stretch was still on his own side of centre. On the surface it defied all logic; in reality it was brilliant. Anyone watching him would have thought that having kicked the ball he was returning to the bench. But no one was watching him.
They were all watching Stretch who was beating the Vikings one after another. He was going all the way. Or so everyone, including Stretch, thought. In fact Stretch was sure that he was on his way to scoring when the kid with the club foot got low and drove his shoulder into Stretch’s knee. It was more of a bump than a tackle but it did the job. Down went Stretch. The crowd all gasped and a collective “shit” was given off by the Bengal coaching staff. For their part the Viking bench went wild as the kid with the club foot came off the field. In fact, Fiona Lindenhauser, who was watching the game despite a rather large apathy toward the sport, thought the game had ended and the Vikings had won.
The happiness of Happy Valley was short lived. Even if he hadn’t scored, Stretch had given them excellent field position. Lane knew that their concentration would be lacking for a play or two. So he ran play action and went long to Scottie in the end zone who managed to hang on to the ball. Convert kicked. Score LBSS 10 HVHS 3.
“If you want to change things, run for Trustee.” That sentence spoke volumes about how much the Ministry of Education was out of touch. “Trustee” all sorts of people can run for Trustee. Eighteen year olds. Residents of mental institutions. Convicted criminals. But not teachers. If teachers were Trustees they would vote themselves outrageous pay increases. Lawyers regulate lawyers. Doctors regulate doctors, hell even investment bankers regulate investment bankers, well sort of. But here was the Ministry telling Ryan to run for Trustee. If only he could, he would sock it to the man. No more pulling the wool over the Trustees’ eyes. No more stupid BS like dogs in guidance, no more umpteen Supervising Principals without schools to be Principals of.
Ryan ran ideas over in his head for days. Days went by where his classes did nothing but copy into their notes or watch movies. Sometimes the movies had very little to do with science. Sometimes the movies had very little to do with anything.
At first it was just a vague notion. That it grew into a proper idea. He couldn’t be elected as a Trustee. But he could still run a election campaign. The fact that he couldn’t hold office might even help if it brought him more publicity.
The election wasn’t going to be until the fall of the next school year. Normally people don’t start campaigning until a month or two before. If they campaign at all. Some don’t have to. No one runs against them so they win by something called acclamation.
A full year before the election signs started appearing throughout South Missachewopa. Signs that said things like:
Vote Ryan.Even if they won’t let you.
A vote for Ryan. It’s a vote against Ed Smith.
When schools won’t fail our kids, they fail all of us.
0 plus 0 shouldn’t equal 50% Vote Ryan.
Ryan was smart enough not to use his full name. That way when the attack dogs that worked for Superintendent White went on the offensive, he could always claim that Ryan was a common name and it must be some other guy with a bone to pick with the school board. He imagined there must be quite a few in the category. But the attack dogs remained silent. Perhaps they hadn’t noticed or perhaps their attention was diverted.
Unfortunately the press didn’t notice either.
So after a couple of months of the sign campaign and a couple of thousand dollars spent, Ryan had to admit that he had very little to show for it.
There was no one about to admit defeat at what the other schools were calling the Loser Bowl. With a seven point lead and a quarter to go the Bengals of Lord Byron Secondary School were full of energy. They could smell blood. On the other hand the Vikings had never been so close to winning a game.
The third quarter had ended with a Bengals ball on the Vikings 35 yard line. One more score and they could count on this game showing up in the win column. Head Coach Travis Kidd felt they needed a little extra to push this game out of reach. So he called for a prayer session.
During the change over at the end of the third quarter, while the referees were changing ends the offence all dropped to one knee and following Lane’s lead recited the following. In keeping with board policy and to be sure not to offend Trustee Lindenhauser all references to God and Allah had been replaced.
“Football is great. Football is great.’
“Oh Football! Fill my request!”
“Hey, shouldn’t we be facing something?” asked Scottie in a moment of clarity.
“Yeah. That’s right. Let’s face the …” Lane looked around. “the goal posts.” He continued
“There is no Football, but Football and Football is the greatest.”
“Com’on Ladies. It’s time to play some football.” said Head Coach Kidd, who was worried about taking too long and pissing off the refs. “Bring it in and let’s have Knights on three.”
“Don’t you mean Bengals on three, Coach?” asked Scottie
“I said Bengals. Let’s have it, please. The refs are waiting.”
“One, two, three, Bengals.” came the cheer.
Whether it was because of the sanitized Muslim prayer or in spite of it, the Bengals took the ball and marched into the Vikings end zone. Bengals 17, Vikings 3 with 9.43 to play. From the insuring kick off the Vikings ran a fake double reverse which didn’t fool Jordan and the Vikings offence over on their 29 yard line. They managed a couple of first downs until they stalled on their own 52. once again they sent on their field goal unit. And the Bengals responded by putting Stretch on the ten. Off to one side hiding from the Bengals coaching staff and behind the kicker was the Vikings fastest runner. When the ball was snapped , the holder stood up and kicked the ball to the wide side of the field. The same side that the on side runner was on. The kick had enough height that the runner arrived in time to catch the ball in flight and race untouched into the end zone. It was a play never seen in North America. But one of the Vikings Coaches was an Australian on exchange for the year. For him it was a routine play in Rugby League. Bengals 17 Vikings 10 with 4:43 to go.
On the Viking bench there was a large argument about whether they should kick deep and hope the defence would hold them and get the ball back for their offence or kick short and hope to recover the ball. The proponents of the short on-side kick won out.. But with one concession; the kid with the club foot came on and lined up as if to kick the ball. He was on the right side of the ball. On the left side trying really hard to not look like she was about to kick the ball was one of the synchronized swimmers. A left-footed synchronized swimmer. With the whistle the kid with the club foot kick the turf beside the ball and the synchronized swimmer girl kick the ball for real; hard and low into the knees of Invisible.
Poor Invisible, who probably wished his name actually meant something, couldn’t get low enough, fast enough to snag the ball. It rebounded off his knees and into the arms of an on-coming Viking who had been instructed to do nothing but fall on the ball.
The Gods of Football appear to be fickle.
The Viking offence returned to the field and began to march down toward the Bengal end zone. With less than a minute to go they found themselves on the four yard line. First down goal to go. On first down they tried the double reverse again. It failed to fool Jordan who dropped the ball carrier for a lost. On second down they tried the double reverse yet again. Jordan assumed that they wouldn’t be so stupid to run the same play two times in roll, so he ignored the second hand off. He was certain it was a fake. He got to the ball carrier with his usual speed about the same time that the guy who actually had the ball was scoring. 17-16 with the convert to come.
What should the Viking coaching staff do? They could kick the convert and settle for the tie or go the riskier route and try a two-point conversion. Go big or go home they said and decided to go for the two points.
What they hadn’t considered was that they had really pissed Jordan White off. You know, ‘Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me.’ Jordan wasn’t going to get fooled again.
From the five yard line they ran a draw play which meant that the quarterback drops back as if he is passing but hands the ball off to a running back. Again it fooled the entire Bengal defence except Jordan who got to the running back at the one. The ball carrier bounced off Jordan and dove for the line. Invisible, who had initially been knocked down and backwards into the end zone, was just regaining his feet managed to get a hold of the Viking running back long enough until others arrived to make the tackle. For a moment all action froze as everyone on both teams was waiting for the ruling on the field. Had he broken the plane of the goal line before being tackled? Where he was lying would indicate than he hadn’t. But it was his forward progress that counted. The two refs were stationed on the goal line, each hoping that the other would make the decision. Finally one of them waved his hands to indicate that the ball had not crossed the goal line and the other ref quickly mimicked his motion.
Bengals 17 Vikings 16 with 5 seconds left on the clock .
Would the Vikings try an on-side kick again. They had few other options. Again the kick off team lined up with the club foot kid on one side and the left-footed synchronized swimmer on the other. But this time Invisible was ready for the kick.
Only they didn’t kick it to Invisible.
The Bengals were all lined up ready to receive a short on-side kick. Only Stretch was back if the kick was long.
And the kick was long and a long way away from Stretch. Again the Vikings Coaches had put their really fast guy near the side lines where he raced toward the ball. Would Stretch, who had terrible hands and couldn’t tackle, make it there first? Or would the Viking speedy guy arrive in time to pick up the ball and race once again into the end zone.
Head Coach Kidd couldn’t tell. The Viking Head Coach couldn’t tell. From their seats in the scaffolding that passed for stands, Bunny or Doyle couldn’t tell. Lyndsey Baggott, who had started to see something she liked in the tall skinny kid who everyone just called Stretch, couldn’t tell who was going to get there first, but she was sure it was going to work out.
Optimism goes a long way. As the Viking fast guy bent down the ball bounced off his hands and towards Stretch, who, living up to his nickname, got down low and like a defender in soccer, hooked the ball away and out of bounds. It was a temporary solution as it meant that the Vikings would take over where the ball had gone out. But the clock had expired during the kick off. By the skin of their teeth the Bengals had won their first game in living memory.
The Westjet plane touched down in Winnipeg International Airport. VP Doyle was looking forward to being away from Lord Byron Secondary School for a few days. He was attending the National High School Administrators’ Convention. Head of Student Services Bunyon was left in charge of the school. Principal Bunny was away on a Buddhist retreat.
Doyle quickly gathered his baggage and hailed a taxi. At the same time, a woman in a smart business suit tried to hail the same taxi. They reached for the door handle at the same time.
“Where are you going?
“Airport Holiday Inn.”
“You were going to ask me to share this cab?”
“Okay I suppose.” They got in.
“You here for the convention?”
“Sure, but which one? The Airport Holiday Inn is hosting the International Pipefitters, the Canadian Society of Funeral Home Directors and the National High School Administrators’.
Well I’d say you don’t look like a pipe fitter. So it’s a toss up between funeral home director and high school principal. I’m going to go with, mmm high school principal. Right?”
“Very funny, you’re a principal too?
“Sure am.” Doyle lied. He felt like a principal. He ran the show more days than not. He had tried keeping track of all the things Principal Bunny had been at: Safe Schools, Clean Schools, Unleashing the Innerpet in You, Up With Life, Down with Negative People, You Can Read, Managing from the Rear, Zen and the Art of the Modern School, .. after a while Doyle had lost track.
Anyway he wasn’t going to see this woman again, he might as well be her equal.
“Randy Doyle, Principal of Lord Byron Secondary School, Byronville Ontario.”
“Kathleen McEwen, head mistress of St Kilda’s Academy for Girls…”
“Oh look we’re here.” The hotel was across the street from the airport. Listen before we go our separate ways how about dinner tonight? Doyle couldn’t believe how bold he was.”
“I’d like that.”
A couple of hours later, VP Doyle was frantically trying to remember her name: “McGregor, Macpherson, Owen, no wait it’s the same as the woman who teaches home ec “(which hadn’t been offered at LBSS since the 70’s) Fortunately Food Services was offered and taught by Florence McEwen.
“Yes, that’s it McEwen!” He reached for the phone. “Hello front desk can you tell me what room Ms McEwen is in?”
“Which Ms McEwen?”
“I don’t have a Kathy; I have a Catherine and a Kathleen’
“Kathleen, Kathleen, Kathleen”
“Ok sir, one Kathleen will do. Connecting you now.”
“Thank you. “ While the phone was ringing, Doyle tried with only some success to calm himself.
“Hello, I’m Addison. I’ll be your waitress tonight. Can I start you off with a drink?”
“I’d like to try the Chilean Chardonnay.” Ms McEwen has wearing something a little less formal than her business suit.
“I’ll have a beer.”
“Certainly sir. Would you like to hear the specials for tonight?”
“Our appetizer tonight is a calamari cooked in a light Asian-Cajun sauce. Our signature salad is tandoori wild salmon spinach. Our entrée is Szechwan fried chicken and our dessert special is slow death par chocolat.”
“I’d like to try the wild salmon.”
“I’ll just have a burger.”
“Certainly sir. Will that be the Mediterranean burger, the Klondike burger, the Southwest burger or the Cardiac special?’
“Just a burger. With ketchup and mustard and a deli pickle.”
“Certainly, sir. That’s a good choice. I’ll be back in a moment with your drinks.”
“We’ve heard that you guys in Ontario have some pretty strange ideas about evaluation.”
“Really? I wouldn’t say that. We aren’t afraid to try new ideas.”
“The word about Ontario is that it’s become impossible to fail.”
“No, no. It’s quite possible to fail. But we have ensured that teachers do everything humanly possible before that can happen.”
“When, for example a student doesn’t hand in a major assignment, there are several steps that the teacher must take. They have to inform the parents, administer academic detentions, advice the student of his or her rights, and provide another assignment for the student to do.”
“And if the student doesn’t do the assignment in the end?’
“Then the teacher files a report with Administration explaining what they didn’t do to ensure the success of the student. And that report goes on the teachers personnel file.”
“So you blame the teacher?”
“We don’t blame the teacher. We blame the whole system. But the system is embodied in the teacher. That’s who the parents and the community see.”
“But it’s not the teacher who sets this policy.”
“No, but they do as they are told.”
“Why place the report in the teacher’s file?”
“So we can track each teacher’s failure rate.”
The waitress returned with the drinks.
“Caballo salvaje, 2006, for madame and a Coors Lite for sir.”
‘We mark now according to potential intelligence.”
“The student self identifies according to his or her Potential intelligence; high, medium or low. Then we grade them on a sliding scale. Those who self identify as high intelligence, we take away marks on a given test or assignment, those who self identify as low intelligence we give marks to.”
“So you penalize the smart ones?”
“No, no. We just even things out.”
“What’s stopping a student from self identifying as low, so he or she gets the extra marks?”
“Well, students are asked a series of questions designed to best evaluate their Potential intelligence quotient.”
“Potential intelligence quotient; their PIQ. It’s much more accurate than the traditional IQ with all the cultural bias inherit in the questions.”
“What bias is there in traditional IQ questions?
“Well, take this question for example: In baseball there are nine innings. The home team scores 2 runs in each inning and the visiting team scores 1 in each. What is the final score?”
“9 times 2 is 18 and 9 times one is 9; so the final score is 18 to 9.”
“BMMMG,” Doyle tried making a buzzer noise. “The home team doesn’t bat in the bottom of the ninth if they’re winning. There’s no point. So the final is 16 to 9. But only students who have grown up in North America would know that.”
“Grown up in North America and care about sports. But isn’t it just a bad question? How is assessing students on potential better?”
“Research has shown that the PIQ is a better indicator of potential success than any other measuring stick.”
“Where is this research done?”
“In the States, by the Colorado Institute of Learning.”
“Don’t work habits say a lot about the ‘potential’ of a student? Aren’t there more examples of hard working less intelligent individuals becoming successful than lazy, but smart ones?”
“We don’t want to discourage the lazy students by penalizing them for a personality trait that isn’t their fault.”
“What about students who cheat or plagiarize?”
“Again, it’s a personality trait. They are born that way.”
“Isn’t this system unfair? What about honest kids who never cheat or hand in something late?”
“That is where we use the PIG.”
“The PIG? What is that?”
“Potential Intelligence Generator. It’s a formula we use to balance the discrepancy between Potential intelligence and actual intelligence.”
“All this is giving me a head ache. But I want to understand what is going on in public education.” said Ms McEwen, thinking if only to better explain to potential students and their parents why they should enrol at St Kilda’s Academy. “How do you measure the PIQ and the PIG?”
“We have them write standardized tests from the Colorado Institute of Learning. Then we send them off to Colorado and a couple of weeks later we get the results.”
“I don’t get it”
“We get two numbers for each kid. We divide any mark a student earns by the PIQ and multiple it by the PIG.”
“You mentioned ‘actual intelligence’. Why don’t you just use that?”
“Because using ‘actual’ instead of potential is discriminatory. It favours the hard-working, intelligent academic students.”
“You mean the good students?”
“Exactly, for too long they have had it their way. Now we’re addressing the imbalance.”
“What is this Colorado Institute of Learning? I’ve been in education for, well, several years and I’ve never heard of it.”
“They’re leaders in their field. Visionaries. They see the value in all students and know how to get out that potential.”
“By rewarding laziness and cheating?”
“By refusing to discriminate based on those genetic traits.”
“You said that they do the testing. That can’t be cheap?”
“A school board our size pays about $100 000 a year.”
“$100 000 a year! That has got to be bigger than your entire textbook budget!”
“They take it out of the French grant. Totally worth it. Their researchers are working on measurement instruments that will determine when the student enters in grade nine what their marks will be when they leave at the end of grade twelve. That way they will be able to apply to university or college in grade nine and map out their futures so much earlier”
“If their marks are predetermined before they even start, why would they do any work?”
“Our students are intrinsically motivated. They learn because they love learning.”
“ That’s not like most students I know. Even at a private school they have other things on their minds”
“But when you remove the punitive aspect of evaluation, students blossom.”
“What if you get it wrong?”
“Here are you meals folks. The sesame Thai chicken salad for madame. And the Pasadena burger for sir.”
“Excuse me. I wanted the wild salmon salad.”
“And I wanted just a plain burger.”
“Certainly, I’ll be right back.”
“You were asking about mistakes?”
“Yes, what happens if you peg a student as a C student in grade nine. But they’re really quite bright.”
“Well, you have to ask why they didn’t do well on the entry test. But it’s to their advantage to do poorly initially.”
“The Save Them At All Cost team kicks in at that point. We have a special program where they can get all the remediation that they need.”
“So sorry, there was a mix up in the kitchen. Your meals will be a few more minutes. In the meal time have a drink on the house.” said Addison putting the drinks on the table. “A vodka cooler for madame and a Heineken for sir.” And she left.
“Not exactly what we’re drinking is it? Who are these people at your Colorado Learning Institute?”
“Ken Smith, an evaluation guru, is the father of Potential Intelligence. He coined the phrase, did all the research and created all the measuring instruments.”
“Which he now sells to school boards at absurd prices. Has anyone else verified his research?”
“You don’t see a lot of that in education.”
“No, you don’t, do you? Educational research is almost an oxymoron. Someone comes up with a half baked idea and the Ministry or the Board latch on to it like it’s the second coming. At private schools we’re much more conservative, more traditional…”
“More afraid of change?”
“No, not afraid of change; but not prepared to jump into some wacky idea thinking it’s going to fix every problem.”
“I’m back.” Announced the waitress. “And here are your meals. “Sea bass for madame and southwest chicken for sir.”
“Not even close this time: try the salmon and a plain burger.”
“Whoops, I guess I screwed up again. I’ll be right back.”
“I was saying change comes to private schools more slowly. If there is a new idea out there, why not let others test it. Your school seems to be in a hurry to try out half baked ideas.” She paused.
“Sold to you by snake oil salesmen, it seems.” she added.
Doyle had to admit to himself that at first he had questioned some of the elements of potential grades and Potential intelligence. But he had learned from the introduction of the province wide no zero policy that it was best in the end just to go along with whatever the Granite District School Board wanted. And what the GDSB wanted above all was obedience. Someone, maybe Ryerson or Althouse had said that education requires “an inquisitive and disciplined mind” As far as what the GDSB expected from its junior admin was the discipline and to hell with the inquisitive part.
So when the Ministry of Education for the Province of Ontario decided that it was wrong to give zero for work not handed in, or tests missed without a valid reason or work plagiarized from another source , the Board jump onto the bandwagon and expected all schools to comply.
Problem was the old farts, the newbies and most of the teachers in between thought it was a pretty stupid idea. So Doyle had been tasked by Bunny to ‘sell’ the idea to the staff. Bunny would have done it but he didn’t like reading ministry documents because they gave him a head ache and he was going to be away for a few days.
Doyle found himself ‘tasked’ to sell stuff to the staff a lot. He wasn’t sure that he liked or agreed with the idea of never giving a student zero. But the unwritten rule of Admin solidarity obliged that he support it completely.
“So let me get this straight,” questioned Mrs Templeton. “If a kid skips a test, we don’t give him zero; if a kid cheats on a test, we don’t give him zero, heck, if a kid steals a test right out of the staffroom, we don’t give him zero?”
“That’s correct.” answered Doyle. “Skipping, cheating and stealing are all behavioural issues. It’s vindictive to use marks to punish students. Too often teachers use ‘Gotcha evaluation’ not to determine what students know but to prove that the teacher is smarter than the students. They ambush; use surprise quizzes and tests; they teach one thing and evaluate another. They produce students who worship averages and couldn’t care less about learning.”
“Are you saying that we’re bad teachers? Is that based on your vast experience in the classroom?”
“I’d like remind you that I have been with the Granite District School Board for nine years.”
“Yeah, most of it as fat boy consultant at the board office.” said a voice from the back of the room.
“And that should have been my job.” moaned Tanker
“I’m back. Have another drink on us.” Say Addison cheerfully, seemingly oblivious to the impression she was creating. “I’m sorry what was it again that you ordered?”
“Never mind” said Kathleen “Just bring us whatever you have. And the manager.”
“Certainly. Be right back. Daddy, they want to talk to you.” she yelled across the room.
“You can’t call them snake oil salesmen. They’re educational visionaries, looking to take us boldly into the twentieth century.”
“Do you mean the twentieth-first century.”
“You know what I mean. Ken Smith and the Colorado Institute have seen the future of education and they’re bringing it to us now.”
“At a nice price.”
“They’re entitled to make a profit.” Doyle finished his third beer and looked at the bottle longingly. “Could I have another?” he called to a passing waitress.
“You may not respect me; you may not like me. But this is board policy. You are employees of the board and if senior management says you are going to do this, you are going to do this.”
Templeton, Barovsky and most of the rest of the staff walked out of the meeting convinced of two things: this policy was a crock and they were going to continue doing what they had always done.
‘I think that went well,” said Doyle to Bunyon on the way out.
Fourth beer finished, Doyle tried to explain to Kathleen what they did when a student didn’t hand something in.
“If a student doesn’t hand somethin in, they muss meet with the teacher and explain why they mished the due date. They are given a new due date and sign a late contract. The teacher phones home and informs the parents. The teacher will arrange a time for them to come in and finish the assignment.”
“Sorry, don’t mean to interrupt. But do you just say they arrange a time for the parents to come in and do the assignment?”
“Yes, isn’t it brilliant? The parents have had practice doing their kids assignments in public school. They are always mad about having to come in and so it’s usually the only time the student is late with an assignment.”
“But you can’t count that mark.”
“Why not? Don’t public schools count all those science fairs done by parents?”
“The student didn’t do the work.”
“It works out. Then if the work is still not done, they (the student, I mean) is given a new, new due date. If at the end of the course the work is still outstanding, the student is given a new zero
“Two questions: what is a ‘new zero’ and why would a student who gets an A on the first assignment bother handing anything else in?”
“A new zero isn’t a number. It’s a place holder. It only really indicates that an assignment is outstanding.” Despite the four beers, Doyle was sounding coherent. Perhaps it was because he had learned it by rote and recited it several times. It was from a rather long document on the school’s website explaining the new evaluation to parents.
“There you are: wild salmon salad and the plain burger with ketchup, mustard and a deli pickle. Sorry for the delay. You must forgive Addison. She has her mind elsewhere.”
“That certainly was apparent.” said Kathleen in her best head mistress voice.
“Hmmm, you know this isn’t bad. Maybe even worth the wait. Tell me something Randy.”
“Do you really believe all these theories?”
“Do I believe in Potential Intelligence? Do I?”
“And what about the no zero policy?”
“Do I? Lemme eat my burger.”
“Come on, tell me do you believe in no zeros? Want another beer?”
“But I can’t break Admin solidarity. I can’t, I can’t.”
“Sure you can. You’re not in Ontario. Nobody knows you here and I won’t tell anyone”
“I can’t. I can’t. I can’t stand these stupid policies.” There now the proverbial cat was out of the bag.
“No zeros! What are they nuts? A kid skips a test and you let him write a new one. Why show up on the test day? A kid doesn’t hand in an assignment and it never counts against him! A kid cheats or steals and nothing is done! Where in the real world would you see attitudes like that? I hate Admin solidarity. I have a mind and I know how to use it. But they treat me like some trained monkey. Someone needs to grab the Minister of Education by the short and curlies and tell her to get a brain, rent some common sense. But who’s gonna do that. Senior Admin? No time soon. Principals? Those invertebrates. Teachers? Too busy complaining about Admin or the kids.” For the most part the adrenaline running through his veins had pushed the alcohol out.
“I am so sick of trying to sell stupid ideas to a skeptic staff, who aren’t going to agree with me no matter what I do. I just wish the Principal would do his job once in a while.”
“What do you mean the Principal would do his job? Aren’t you the Principal?”
“Well I sorta lied. I’m the Vice Principal. But I do his job most of the time. He’s never there.”
“I know how you feel. My head mistress is never there either.”
“You mean you’re not the Principal either?”
“Yes but in the different way than you. I’m the Director of St Kilda’s, which means I am above the head mistress. But she is all sorts of bother for me. Goes to this conference and then that one. Never seems to be in the school.”
“Why don’t you just fire her?”
“There is all sorts of red tape involved.”
“Well I guess the public and private systems aren’t all that different.”
“If you don’t count evaluation maybe”
“But why did you tell me you were the head mistress?”
“Well, men are sometimes turned off by successful women and you’re kinda cute.”
“Will there be anything else?” Addison was back.
“No just the bill please.”
“Tell me Addison. Is this your first day on the job?”
“Does it look like it is? Oh dear. It’s actually my last day on the job. I’m moving to Alberta to get married and start a career as a primary teacher.”
Superintendent White was the second biggest dog in the pack that was Senior Admin of the Granite District School Board. Only the Director of Education was more Alpha than him But the position of Director kept changing hands. In the past few years the job had passed between Carl Holzbein, who had run off to British Columbia with an elementary teacher at least half his age, Angela Testaverdi, who had more or less been run out of town by the Trustees for suggesting that country kids weren’t getting the same opportunities as those in Granite City and Gilles Crapaud who had been running things for a few years now. Or so it seemed.
The reality was that White was running things as he always had. Sure the Director got the good office, the nice car and the bigger golden parachute when his time was up. But the Director’s position had become a lot like being the Governor General. You went to cocktail parties; you made appearances at important fund-raisers and you cut ribbons at important openings of new schools; well, you would if there were new schools to open.
Director Crapaud had arrived from Toronto. The Trustees, in a surprise move, had gone outside the GDSB for its current director. That had rubbed a few noses the wrong way. When a new director is named from inside the GDSB, a lot of people get bumped up the career ladder. If the director was a superintendent, then a principal is made superintendent, a vice principal is made principal and a department head is made vice principal. But when the Trustees go to another board for the new director, all that career bumping goes on in the other board.
Now don’t feel bad for Angela Testaverdi. When they run a Director out of town, they do it nice and gently. She got to keep her BMW, she and her husband got to go to two “conferences” in Las Vegas and Bermuda and she got a nice retirement gratuity. So don’t feel sorry for her. Could the Board afford all this? They just took it out of the French grant. After Testaverdi the next in line was Superintendent White. Now he would have to wait it out until Director Crapaud left and Crapaud was younger than he was. But Superintendent White wasn’t going to wait quietly.
A few years ago it was the dog plan. It worked like this. Put a big happy friendly dog in every Guidance Department in the Board. Students walk in with their problems and the first thing to greet them is a big goofy smile, a wet tongue and a whole big coat of fur just waiting to be petted. Who would care about their worries after that? And what a beautiful photo op. White next to a cute 15 year-old girl and an even cuter dog. That would make the first page of the Granite City Gazette-Times. And it did. Mind you anyone looking at it was going to pay attention to the girl or the dog and ignore Superintendent White, but the people who really counted would see him there and know who was responsible for the good PR.
Meleesa Cook walked slowly one day on her way to Guidance. She didn’t usually go to Guidance. It wasn’t because she didn’t have problems she could discuss with a counsellor. She didn’t feel right talking about her shyness with a stranger. But she was bursting inside. There was this boy that she liked, really liked. He didn’t seem to know she existed. She could talk to her mother about him, but what did her mother know about boys? She could talk to her father, but what did her father know about anything? Some of her friends went to Guidance when they had problems. Some of the girls at her school had a new problem every week and spent more time in Guidance than they did in class. She wasn’t friends with any of those girls though.
The cameras and reporters weren’t around when Meleesa, who was feeling a little more nervous than usual entered Guidance and was surprised to have a black lab jumping up on her. What was a dog doing at school? She didn’t like dogs, even the quiet ones. And this one wasn’t quiet at all. He was big and very excitable. An outsider might have said that here was one big ol’ friendly dog with a big ol’ wagging tail. Meleesa didn’t see it that way though. She saw paws as big as her face and a tail that could knock her right over. She screamed, the dog got excited and did knock her over, she screamed some more, the dog got more excited and you know that the only place this vicious circle is going to go is where she runs out of the room in tears and the dog pisses all over the floor.
Mr. Cook phoned the school as soon as he heard about the incident and demanded to know what the fuck the school was doing using dogs as guidance counsellors. Had they gone nuts? What idiot had thought that one up? Why can’t schools just do what they’re supposed to do? He was going to go to the press and see what they had to say about girls being attacked by school board dogs.
Bunny managed to calm him down and avoided the bad publicity but that was in end of the dogs in Guidance at LBSS. The program continued for quite some time at the schools in Granite City were perhaps dogs and 15 year old girls are less excitable.
Next came the obesity initiative. It hadn’t been his idea. The idea had apparently come from the phys ed head at Lord Byron, but he was quick to jump on the band wagon. When the idea proved popular, Tanker had been pushed aside and replaced with a more pliable newby. The obesity initiative brought in a lot of positive press and enquiries from other boards. Like most things in education it didn’t run long enough for there to be any measurable results. But of course that didn’t stop the Board from claiming victory before shutting down the program. Students who had lost weight were paraded in front of the camera. It was never really clear if it had been because of the program, in spite of program or the result of something altogether divorced of the program. In education you take credit for anything that appears to work and blame others for everything else. The most extreme case was the kid who had lost 48 pounds due to chemotherapy who was shown to the press as one of the success stories. They threw a baseball cap on his head to cover his lack of hair. Anything for good press.
But the obesity initiative was a cow that could only be milked so much.
So last year Phil White went looking for a way to hit the ball out of the park. He needed something big and bold. Something that would bring lots of positive press, would be associated directly with his name and would have all the appearances of being pedagogically innovative. After thumbing through some educational journals, Superintendent White came upon a brochure from the Colorado Institute of Learning. It was bright and glossy. It had colour pictures of good-looking, smiling students from racial diverse backgrounds having fun while learning. It promised great results. It seemed almost too good to be true.
So Superintendent White called the toll-free number and was impressed when it was Ken Smith himself who answered the phone. According to the brochure Ken Smith was a guru of evaluation. It was Smith who had invented the concept of Potential intelligence. And, for a small fee, he was willing to share the results of his research.
Superintendent White explained to Smith that he was looking for innovation, that he wanted to make a statement that would have a lasting impression and that he wanted to take the Granite District School Board in an entirely new direction.
Smith said that he had found his man. White had hardly put the phone down when there in front of him was the man himself, wearing a broad smile and a stetson hat. He had apparently got the first plane out of Colorado. Mrs Oliver, Superintendent White’s secretary showed him to a chair and set down herself. White wanted a written report of the negotiations.
“You bettya. We can put something together for you all. Our philosophy is that it’s not how smart you are that counts. It’s how smart you look.”
“I don’t get it”
“Are you the smartest person in the Board?”
“Probably not.” White forced himself to be humble.
“So why are you number two in all the Board?”
White thought about answering honestly. He was where he was today because he had kissed all the right ass, play golf-a really stupid game- with all the right people; because he knew how to take credit for the work of others. He had gotten drunk with the most boring people in the world, called them all by stupid nicknames and allowed them to do the same to him. He joined every committee going and lived by the rule of three meetings. It stated that if you had three places to be at the same time, you used each one as a reason to not be at the others and just went home early. It didn’t matter that you went to the meetings-nothing was ever accomplished at them anyway. It mattered that you had your name on the paper that the committee eventually would write. He had coached the right sports too. The ones like football that got plenty of good press. And here it mattered that you knew what you were doing, for it is a widely held believe that leaders come from the coaching ranks. Artsy-fartsy English teachers don’t make good leaders. Jocks do.
“Number two in the Board” how he hated being called that. Number two was the first loser. The silver medal is just a piece of jewellery. He was smarter than Crapaud and all the ones before him. He certainly worked harder than Crapaud. Hell, even the little statue of Buddha on his desk worked harder than Crapaud.
“You’re where you are in the Board ‘coz they’ll think you look smart. Don’t matter chicken’s teeth iffen y’are. Just so long as you look it. Now y’all listen up and I’ll explain how everything works. It ain’t rocket science, y’know.”
“You seem more like you’re from Texas than Colorado.”
“Oh yeah, that. Well y’all gotta understand that it might be called the Colorado Institute of Learning, but it’s located in Littletown, Texas.”
“Why not call it the Texas Institute of Learning?”
“Well y’all gotta understand that recent research has shown that people don’t associate ‘Texas’ with education very much any more. I dunno why that is. Colorado sounds a lot better. Any way lemme tell y’all about our research.”
“Go on, then.”
“Lemme tell all about P I Q.”
“P I Q?”
“Potential Intelligence Quotient. We judge students not by how smart they are, but how smart they look. Successful people look smart, whether they are or not. Y’all want to go to a doctor who hems and hawls. Even if he knows what he’s doing, he don’t make you feel confident. Who are the best politicians? The best bankers? The best lawyers?. As I say to my wife all the time: It’s not the meat, it’s the motion, baby!” And with that he slapped his knee.
“Y’all want success in life for your students?”
“Y’all want your schools to be the best in the country?”
“y’all want your parents to be happy with the job that the school system is doing?”
“Y’all want to be number one?”
Well, then lemme show y’all a couple of forms to fill out and we’ll git ya on your way to tomorrow. Now, y’ all will excuse me a moment.” he said as he walked out of the office. As soon as he was alone, Education Guru Ed Smith took out his cell phone and made a brief call: “Edwina, it worked like a charm. He bought it all, hook, line and sinker. It’s been a pleasure doing business with y’all. Got any other potential customers, like Phil here?”
About twenty minutes and $100,000 later, the Granite District School Board was on its way to the education nirvana that the Colorado Institute of Learning was promising. Now you might ask if a superintendent can just spend $100 000 like that without checking with the Director and the Trustees. Well he might not have the authority; but he does certainly have the ability. Neither the Director nor the Trustees were really watching what he did, so he did as he pleased.
After that followed a lot of training sessions for senior management, so they could get their minds around the idea that the kid who worked hard, did homework faithfully, studied for tests and handed assignments in on time was now the new delinquent of the school system. These training sessions couldn’t happen at the Learning Centre. The Learning Centre was full of offices and busy people running from point A to point Z. Anyway the Colorado Institute of Learning had a number of clients, mostly in the US and was running sessions almost constantly. Not in Colorado, mind you, or Texas. Hawaii seemed like a more appropriate place.
After Crapaud and White and their girlfriends or wives or whatever came back from being in-serviced in Hawaii, their assistants who also went to Hawaii, rented space in the best hotel in Granite City and trained the Principals and Vice-Principals. Now you might wonder how the Board Office became the Learning Centre at a cost of $3 million in renovations, which they didn’t take out of the French grant this time and yet there’s no space for Principals and Vice Principals to meet. You might wonder that and if you’re a tax payer in the area controlled by the Granite District School Board, you might want to phone someone in authority and demand an answer. Good luck with that.
Phoning the Learning Centre is an adventure and by ‘adventure’ I mean something you would do if you decided that your life was too good, you were too happy and you needed to feel like the majority of people who live miserable lives. If you enjoy frustration, please go ahead and attempt to connect with the appropriate person at the Learning Centre. First you’ll get a menu. Not a menu like in a fancy restaurant. You get a very mechanical sounding woman, who is on at least half of all phones in North America. Let’s call her Betty. I think you already know Betty. The first choice Betty will give you is press one for English and two for French. Why you are given that choice by the GDSB who by definition is an English language school board isn’t clear. Some Trustee obviously thought it was important for national unity. Perhaps Gilles Ducheppe and other Bloquistes have changed their entire view of English Canada knowing that the GDSB offers phone frustration in both official languages.
Now Betty will ask you if you know the extension of the person who you are calling. Of course you don’t. If you did, you would have dialled it. Don’t try arguing with Betty on this point. You won’t win. Next she will suggest that you punch in the first three letters of the person’s name. Of course the phone isn’t really good for spelling as each number has at least three letters. But Betty doesn’t give up easily. She’ll guess away until you find a familiar name or you give up. Betty must be hard of hearing because she says “I’m sorry I didn’t hear your selection.” an awful lot. Betty will also promise that you can talk to a real person any time you want. Don’t believe her. Of course you don’t know who to talk to. It’s not like there’s a Superintendent of Complaints. If you do get through to someone’s extension, they won’t be there. No it’s true. They are never there. Or at least they have taken a vow to never answer a ringing phone. You will be invited to leave a message in the voice mail box. But since they never answer their phone, their voice mail box is full. And you are kicked back to Betty who repeats “Thank you for calling the Granite District School Board. Press one for English et composez le numéro 2 pour service en français.” So there you are. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
You wanted to know why there isn’t room for meetings at the new and improved Learning Centre. The answer you would get, if you actually found someone to ask and this someone was prepared to tell you would be that there is in fact room at the Learning Centre, but that it’s nice to get out once in a while and hotels in Granite City are a good deal compared to those in the big city.
Principal Bunny loved the concept of Potential Intelligence. He thought that he would have done a whole lot better at school if he had been evaluated along Potential Intelligence lines. Bunny dressed well, spoke well and came across as a charismatic guy. If you can if fact be charismatic and at the same time afraid of people. In school, and especially at university he didn’t make every class or meet every deadline. It had had no effect whatsoever in his ability to do his job. Randy Doyle felt a little different about rewarding the lazy kids and penalizing the hard working ones. Doyle had always worked hard at school and on the job. He thought that so called ‘charming’ people got a free ride and this was just going to add to it. Why shouldn’t deadlines count? Why should kids get away with cheating or plagiarizing? Yet all this was part of Potential Intelligence. Oh well, he thought, at least I won’t be the one that has to sell it to the staff. Doyle looked forward to watching Bunny explain all this to the staff.
One of the students who should have benefited from Potential Intelligence was Jordan White, Phil’s second son. He could be best described by two expressions: gifted athlete and complete dink. As well as being middle line on the senior football team, Jordan played open side flanker on the school rugby team and was a champion wrestler. He had athletic ability to spare. As a linebacker he seemed to be a part of every tackle. There was a rage about him that on the football field or rugby pitch was directed and focused. He scored more points on interceptions than the team’s receivers did . When the team lost as it always did, the joke was that the defence hadn’t managed to score enough points. And by defence everyone meant Jordan. His coaches loved him, not because of who he was but what he could do for the team. Well most of his coaches loved him; his wrestling coach was a little afraid of him and was always glad when his bout was over and no one was hurt. Jordan was always on the edge and Coach Gillingham’s biggest fear that he would one day go too far and injure his opponent.
It’s hard to say what made Jordan a complete dink, assuming of course that dinks are made and not born. All the attention paid to him as an athlete since the age of six had certainly gone to his head. But there are a lot of gifted athletes who are humble, polite and friendly individuals. No one had ever accused Jordan of being humble or polite or even friendly. So it could have been that what made him the dink that he was, well was the fact that at school he got away with murder. Every teacher and every Principal that he ever had had realized early on who his father was. Even before he made Superintendent, it was very apparent that he was in the express line to promotion and it would be wise not to cross him.
Jordan had been recruited by several football programs, Queen’s, Ottawa U, Acadia among others. And by the University of Western Ontario. The Western football program had won six Vanier Cups and looked like a good bet for the next few years to come. Western was far and away his first choice. These days university players have to be good athletes and good students. Nowhere was this more true than at Western.
Problem was Jordan was not a good student. None of his teachers thought that he was smart and he spent so much time out of class-time he couldn’t afford to miss- that he never got good marks. And that was going to be a problem because as much as the football program at Western wanted him, he still needed to be accepted by the university admissions office. And his current marks weren’t going to do the job.
But what was the point of being Superintendent, if you couldn’t get your kid into the university of his choice? Years ago, when White wasn’t Superintendent White, not even Principal White just biology teacher White, the then Director of Education had come to White one parents’ night and asked what he had against his daughter, why he was giving her such low marks, why he wanted to ruin her life. White had been trying for several years to get into Administration. He was trying so hard that it had become a joke among his colleagues. They called him Brown nose White. There wasn’t a committee he wouldn’t join, including Status of Women and Aboriginal Education, even though as a black male, he was neither woman nor aboriginal. Even the Interdisciplinary Curriculum Initiatives. He never even found out what that committee did.
The Director’s daughter’s marks took a quick turn upwards and so did White’s career. The next year he was Vice-Principal at Chevalier.
Superintendent White didn’t see where things had changed. Jordan needed help in English and Biology. The other four marks weren’t going to be a problem. There were enough light courses on offer to give him a good average. Mrs Witherforce , his English teacher, was easy enough to influence. It only took one complaint to Bunny about a couple of essay marks. Could she justify such a low mark? Could he have them reassessed by another English teacher. When Witherforce heard of all this from Bunny, she could see the writing on the wall and just changed the marks upwards. She had always wanted to be in Administration.
Biology was another matter. He had Perkins for senior biology. Perkins had been around the block once or twice. He had seen all the games being played. He had seen the kind of people selected for Admin and he didn’t care what they did to him. They couldn’t touch him.
“He gets the marks he earns. Like everyone else in my class.”
“But he looks smart.”
“And I look rich!” which he didn’t unless dishevelled is the new chic.
“Things could get a little hot around here.” Bunny said without much conviction. He felt awkward about the whole thing. But White was good at putting pressure on his underlings. Bunny wasn’t the type to stand up to White or anyone else for that matter. Bunny liked being in charge of a school; he liked having an office; he liked the way people listened to what he had to say; but he really wasn’t a people person. At least not a people-with-a-complaint person. He wanted mostly just to be left alone. He really didn’t like dealing with all those problems that the students caused. Give them a punishment and the first thing they do as soon as they’re out of the office is phone their parents and start getting out of it. Sometimes they wouldn’t even wait to be out of his office. Take a firm stand with the parents and they just go over your head to the Board. If Bunny was afraid of students, the Board was even more afraid of parents. They always gave in to them. So what was the point? Bunny was really only happy being Principal when he wasn’t at the school.
“What exactly are you saying?”
“I think you understand me perfectly. Either the mark improves or…”
“Or what? Is that a threat?”
“Let me finish. Either the mark improves or White will be on my back.”
“Is that my problem? What is White going to do to me?
“Do you really want to find out?”
“Yeah, you know. I think it might be kind of fun to see where he goes with this.” Perkins was enjoying himself. “Tell him if he wants results he is going to have to talk to me personally.”
“Come on. Don’t make it worse than it is.”
“Worse for me or worse for you?”
The new day Mrs. P. informed Perkins that he had an appointment with Superintendent White.
“Four o’clock Tuesday.”
“Tell him I can’t make it. My mom is sick right now and I’m spending all my free time looking after her. Ask him to come here.”
“Oh I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
“I’d like to keep it quiet.” Perkins was a bit of a military history buff and he knew that the General who picked the good ground usually won the battle.
Sure enough, Tuesday at four o’clock White was there. Perkins was paged to come to the office. He phoned down instead and said he couldn’t leave the room as he was in the middle of setting up a lab and had a number of specimens about.
Begrudgingly, Superintendent White walked up to the second floor biology lab. The ripe smell of formaldehyde greeted him at the door. Throughout the room were fifteen or so dead cats waiting for dissection. Dressed in his old dirty lab coat, Perkins looked up from his front desk.
“Ah, Superintendent White, how are you?” Perkins wondered if it was going to be the carrot or the stick
His eyes started to sting. “Please call me Phil.” So it was going to be the carrot to start. “We need to talk about Jordan’s progress.”
“Oh, is Jordan your son? I didn’t realize.” Perkins lied. “Well it’s pretty easy to discuss his progress. There hasn’t been any. He started the semester slow and hasn’t changed.”
“Do you check homework very often?” White has looking for something to blame on the teacher.
“No, they’re in grade twelve. They’re almost adults and no one is going to make them do their homework next year. But he doesn’t appear to do it very often. Do you check his homework at home?” Perkins deflected the blame back.
“He’s very busy with football right now.”
“Too busy to come in at lunch for extra help?”
“There’s football meetings at lunch.”
“His choice. He gets the mark he earns.”
“How can we make this problem go away?”
“Well.” Perkins paused a moment before going on. “I’d like to go away to Montreal over the holidays. Stay at the Queen Elizabeth at Board expense.”
“That can be arranged. And my son gets an A?”
“Hold on. I’m not done. And I want a different hooker every night. Also at Board expense.”
White looked at him for a good minute. “You’re serious, aren’t you?”
“Damn right I’m serious. If this got out, it could ruin my career.”
“I don’t know how we can arrange that. I mean it’s not like they take credit cards.”
“The upscale ones do. Just get me your Board credit card and I’ll take care of the rest.”
“And for all that my son gets an A.” Half question half statement.
“A plus.” And offered him his hand
“Pleasure doing business with you.” With that Superintendent White left the room. A minute later Barovsky walked in and” was surprised by the formaldehyde and the cats.
“You’re not leaving these cats out overnight, are you?”
“I’m at the dentist tomorrow first thing. I’m showing a movie. Help me put these cats back in storage.” Said Perkins as he walked over to a camcorder attached to a tripod and shut the machine off. “Say do you know anything about posting to Youtube?”