« Vignette 5 | Main | Interlude 2 »

Plot 2

Ellen walked into the main conference room with her head down, shuffling the folders, dossiers, really, containing the high school histories of the two boys.  Michael Rogers and Ian Jameson were considered privileged students in this small district.  They had passed through the first three years of high school by the skin of their teeth, relying on their moderate athletic ability and parental influence more than intellect to pass classes.  

Ellen shook her head as she approached the seat farthest away from the heavyset man already red with anger.  The single most important thing she had learned about raising children, though she had none of her own, was that overly indulgent parents created students with a sense of entitlement that was hard to shake.  Few of those students had the smallest clue about personal responsibility and accountability.  Cheating was rampant.  Most of the teachers turned a blind eye, unwilling to deal with the wrath of parents who did not believe that their children would ever do anything seriously wrong and who also didn’t view cheating as a problem.  George Jameson, florid already, and undoubtedly headed toward neon red in the near future, sat, as close to the table as his beer gut would allow.  His t-shirt proudly pronounced his former membership in the brotherhood of fire fighters.  High blood pressure had forced him to retire early, and he was bitter about it.  He was bitter about many things, but not nearly as bitter as the bottled blonde with the heavy make-up sitting next to him.  Ellen had been on the other end of the phone receiver to her too frequently to think otherwise.  On the opposite side of the table sat a much more conservative looking couple.  Both dressed professionally, the Rogers already looked annoyed at the prospect of missing another hour of work to discuss their son’s problem.  Clearly the educators sitting at the table with them did not understand the genius of their son, or themselves.

Norman strode into the conference room, with just the right half-smile on his face.  He was walking a tightrope here, and he knew it.  Both the Jamesons and the Rogerses had friends on the school board.  He thought wryly how conveniently the board members forgot policy that they themselves had either reviewed or written, and that had been sent home to all students at the beginning of each year.  Still, he needed to handle this situation with kid gloves.  He looked down the table at Ellen, and hoped that she was able to keep her tongue in check today.  She was very good at what she did, but she did not do well with adults, usually.  She seemed to expect them to behave like, well, adults.  

Lisa Rogers looked pointedly at her watch.  “Can we please get this meeting started?  I have an appointment with a client in an hour.”  Norman watched Ellen roll her eyes.  This was not a good sign.

“Let’s just call for Dr. Baldwin, and we can get started.”  Ellen stood up, walked to the door, and asked Maria to page Dr. Baldwin to come to the office.  Inwardly she cringed at the title.  The man refused to answer to anything other than Doctor.  Ellen thought that this bit of arrogance aptly described the man in general.

She returned to the table and the four pair of glaring eyes.  A knock at the door, and Baldwin entered the room.  He had the audacity to be smiling jovially.  He was a rather large man, dressed in a manner that could only be described as foppish.  He probably affected the look intentionally.  He was unmarried, no one had ever recalled seeing him with a date, male or female, and rumors ran rampant about his proclivities.  Ellen shook the idle speculations out of her head, and got down to business.

“Dr. Baldwin, the Rogerses and the Jamesons have come to discuss the status of their sons’ English grades.”

Baldwin peered at the group over his half-glasses.  “Really, I don’t see what there is to discuss, Ms. Jones.”

George Jameson heaved himself to his feet and started in on Baldwin.  “Look here you.  My son is the star forward of the team.  If he doesn’t play, the team doesn’t have a shot in hell at the playoffs.  But you just give him an F.  You could have given him an extension on the project.  You could have passed him with a D based on his other work…”

Baldwin interrupted him. “Based on WHAT other work, sir?  The boy has done nothing all semester.  When he bothers to show up to class, he spends his time doodling, and flirting with the girls, and cannot be bothered to open his book or even simply pretend he is being productive.”

“Oh sure,” snarled George.  “I’m SURE that my son hasn’t done any work.  He’s passed every English class he’s ever had, never had a problem, until this year.”

Peter Rogers interjected, “Same here!  Michael has always maintained a solid average.  I don’t see how he is having problems all of a sudden.  It MUST be something about your teaching style or classroom management.”

Ellen thought about that solid C average and suppressed a comment.

Baldwin jumped back into the fray.  “I’m terribly sorry.  I have sent home progress reports expressing my concern and asking for a parent meeting.  I have not received a response, and therefore I had to assume…”

“What goddamned progress report?” Mrs. Jameson leaned forward.  Saliva sprayed from her mouth, and Lisa Rogers made a moue of distaste.  “I never saw a progress report.”

“You’re a fucking liar, Baldwin!” added George.

Peter Rogers began looking a little ill.  It didn’t keep him from adding his two cents.  “Frankly, Baldwin…”

“That’s DR. Baldwin, if you please.”

“Frankly, Baldwin, I don’t believe you sent any progress reports, and I’ll be damned if I watch my son lose his chance at a scholarship let alone miss out on his final year of playoffs simply because you claim he hasn’t done any work all semester.”

“Perhaps we should call these fine, upstanding citizens into the meeting,” Baldwin retorted.  “Surely they would have saved their work had I graded it.

Ellen had had enough.

“Stop.  Please, everyone, return to your seats.  Clearly we need to step back for a minute and review what information we have in front of us.”

Ellen pulled out the folders.  She had made copies of the pertinent information, including the mysterious progress reports.  

She passed them to the parents.  “If you could please verify that the address on this document is the correct one?”  

Lisa Rogers scanned the paper, looked surprised, and nodded.  George Jameson didn’t bother looking at the report, simply the address, and grunted an assent.

“OK.  Now that we’ve established that Dr. Baldwin did, indeed, send progress reports, perhaps we can move on.  I’ll tell you what.  To keep things more neutral and simple, I’ll review the facts on the whiteboard.  If you feel I’ve missed anything, please wait until it is your turn, and we will add the information.”

Marge Jameson muttered, “This is bullshit.”  Lisa Rogers replied, “Amen, sister.”

Ellen distributed the packets of information.  She went to the whiteboard and drew a line down the middle.  On one side, she wrote Ian’s name and on the other, Michael’s.  

“First, you receive the student handbook each year.  I’m assuming you all received a copy?”

Four heads nodded yes.

“Okay.  That handbook outlines grading policies.  In addition to the handbook, the district requires all teachers to send home a syllabus with specific information about participation, homework, and other grade requirements.  I assume you received those as well?”

Lisa looked at her husband.  “Did we get that one?”  He shrugged.  “I never saw it.”  George Jameson snorted again.  “I KNOW I never saw one of those.  Did you get it honey?”  Marge shook her head.  

Baldwin looked positively triumphant.  “Ah, but ladies and gentlemen, I have signatures to PROVE that you received my syllabus.”  He pulled the small, torn-off slips of paper from his briefcase.  Faux leather.  Very posh, Ellen thought.

Baldwin then pulled a copy of the syllabus out and read aloud.  “Semester grades are based on the weekly homework grades, the weekly test grades, and the final project, which will be handed in NO LATER than one week before the close of the semester.”  He flipped the page and read again, “With the exception of serious illness, no late work will be accepted.”

Jameson looked more furious than ever.

“You have never made an exception?  Not once?”

“Never, sir.  I don’t care if they are ball players or not.”

Lisa Rogers threw in, “Yes?  Well I hear that you DO care if they’re ball players, and that you will do everything in your power to make those poor children miserable and cause them to fail.”

Baldwin managed to look shocked.  Ellen chalked acting skills up on the tally sheet in her head.

“Madam!  I treat all of my students equally!”

Marge Jameson shouted, “Except for the cheerleading squad.  They always seem to wind up with A’s.  Why is that, Mr. Baldwin? Huh?  Explain that one to us, you pompous ass.”

Ellen cheered silently in her head at the end comment, but managed to keep her glee to herself.

“I find the girls to be more conscientious about submitting their work, “ Baldwin sputtered.  “And it’s DR. Baldwin, if you don’t mind.

Norman, who had not said a single word until this point, finally spoke up.  “Dr. Baldwin, thank you for your time.  I’m sure you are eager to get back to your instruction.”

Baldwin left the room.  All four parents started yelling at the same time.

Ellen finally stood up and yelled back.

“ENOUGH!”  Shocked that the mousy little guidance counselor would raise her voice to THEM, the four adults stopped speaking.

“Frankly,” Ellen began, “We have a much worse problem then whether or not the boys play in the finals.  Without senior English, they won’t graduate.  They are going to have to attend an evening adult program to make up this semester’s credits, and make damned sure they pass next semester.”

Jameson sputtered, “But the scouts…”
“Are only interested in students who are going to graduate.  A scholarship doesn’t do much good if the player can’t attend the college.”

Jameson sat down, suddenly deflated.

Lisa Rogers looked at her watch again.  “Tell me how to sign him up for the adult program.”

Ellen handed over the paperwork.

Marge Jameson looked at Norman and announced, “This isn’t over.  I WILL have that man’s job if it’s the last thing I do.”

Norman calmly responded by handing her a list of her uniform complaint rights, and pointed out the address of the superintendent to which the complaint should be sent.  Marge looked at the paper.  Peter Rogers grabbed one and began reading it.  “Shit!  This process takes MONTHS,” he complained.  Norman shrugged.  “It’s really out of my control.”

George, blustery again, stood up and added, “You can be SURE the school board will be hearing from us. Let’s go Marge.”  

They left the room, followed by the Rogerses.

Ellen sank her head into her hands.  “Much ado about nothing,” she tossed at Norman.  He smiled and said, “More like ‘A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”  This got a grin out of Ellen.  “Shall we get back to the real business, Ellen?”  “Yes sir.  We most certainly should.”  

“Hey Ellen.  Where’s your coffee?”  “I forgot it this morning.  Too frazzled about the meeting, I guess.”  “Tell you what, go to Starbucks and get yourself some real coffee.  Pick up one for me while you’re at it.”  “Bless you, boss.”

Ellen walked out of the office, yelping as she bumped her knee into the file cabinet.  Norman just shook his head and smiled again.  He couldn’t figure out how she made it through the day in one piece.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Hosting by Yahoo!
[ Yahoo! ] options


Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)