School District Mishandles New Act 153 Background Check Law


by Christopher Paslay

The Philadelphia School District’s amended background check requirements do not align with new state law.

The Philadelphia School District sent out an email late Friday afternoon explaining that all District employees hired on or before December 31, 2014 must obtain updated clearances under Act 153 by November 30, 2015.

“The school district is requiring you to obtain updated clearances even if your current clearances were obtained less than 36 months ago to ensure compliance with the Act going forward,” the email stated.

The only problem is, that’s not what the new Act 153 law requires.

According to the Pennsylvania State Education Association:

  • If one or more of your background checks was issued between Dec. 31, 2009 and Dec. 31, 2014, each document renewal is due by its five-year anniversary date of issue.
  •  If all three background checks were issued Dec. 30, 2009 or earlier, these document renewals are due by Dec. 31, 2015.
  •  If you have no background checks because you have been continuously employed prior to Jan. 1, 1986 (the first date a background check was required), you must obtain all three documents by Dec. 31, 2015.

(A very helpful flowchart of the new Act 153 law can be found here.)

Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan delivered a letter to Superintendent William Hite questioning the District’s background check requirements:

The District’s approach presents multiple concerns. Although not required by law, the District is requiring anyone who was hired on or before December 31, 2014 to obtain new clearances within the next seven weeks. This means that an employee hired, for example, in August of 2014 and who obtained all the requisite clearances at that time is now required to obtain those clearances again despite having just gotten them months ago. Under the law, such an employee would have until August 2019 to obtain those clearances.

Indeed, it appears as if the District is mishandling the new Act 153 background check law. It’s not just that the District informed its employees of the requirements in a Friday-news-dump style email, but because they waited until October 9 to send out this message—seven weeks before the November 30 deadline.

“Failure to comply with this State of Pennsylvania mandated requirement could result in disciplinary action or your inability to remain in an active employee status,” the District states on its website.

But again, the District’s deadline is not in accordance with PA state law.

Why would the District unnecessarily require ALL employees hired on or before December 31, 2014 to obtain new clearances, even if many of these employees have valid background checks that don’t expire for up to four years?

The District claims it’s so they can track their employees’ renewed clearances:

Currently, the District has no way to track individual clearance expiration dates.  The only way we can comply with the law is to create accurate tracking as employees provide renewed clearances.

The new cycle system will allow the District to track and notify employees of their clearance status with the District, and, by extension, ensure compliance with Act 153 now and in the future.

But this isn’t necessarily true, either. The District could solve this “tracking” problem by allowing any District employee who possesses clearances issued between December 31, 2011, and December 31, 2014 (which remain valid 60 months from their issuance), to resubmit them to the District, which would provide the District with an expiration date; there is no need for these employees to pay for new clearances. Any employee who doesn’t have copies of their valid background checks—or any employee whose clearances have expired by PA state law—would have to obtain new clearances.

Perhaps Dr. Hite and the Office of Talent might consider such a plan? This would cut down on the paperwork backlog in Harrisburg, and collectively save thousands of dollars in application fees—money that could be better spent in the classroom where it’s needed.


Filed under Dr. William Hite

Applauding the Philadelphia School District’s Gutsy Leadership

by Jeff Rosenberg

The School District’s recent attempt to void the teachers’ contract has brought out the best in our leaders.

Earlier this month the Philadelphia Daily News reported, “The education advocacy group Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools has taken legal steps to challenge the School Reform Commission’s decision last month to cancel the teacher contract.” Local rabble-rousers need to take a step back and a deep breath. This is my 38th year teaching for the School District of Philadelphia. My colleagues are teachers. Some of my closest friends are teachers. I married a teacher. I am now risking becoming a pariah, but after reflecting, let’s give our leadership their due. (I was able to do this by attempting to stand in the shoes of Philadelphia School District spokesman Fernando Gallard and anticipating how he likely would have responded.)

The leadership was gutsy and cunning and showed ingenuity by conducting the meeting to void the contract in a manner that was antithetical to our democratic principles and practices, and then exerted superhero willpower by turning a deaf ear to the public criticism and reaffirming their dogma right or wrong.

SRC Chairman Bill Green exhibited innovative leadership when he initially responded to the public outcry of the stealthily arranged meeting as happenstance, “We were planning to have the meeting next Thursday, and it just didn’t work out for us. And so Monday was not a targeted date. It was simply the date that we could get it done.” Later he referred to it as a “legal matter.”

Mayor Nutter attempted to calm the furor by dismissively saying, “I don’t know if any of the folks who are upset about this would be happy if the meeting was conducted in the middle of Broad Street at noon.” (When city council scrapped his proposal to sell PGW without a public hearing, he disappointedly said, “It is the opposite of transparency,” and referred to it as the “biggest copout.” This revealed the Mayor’s uncanny discretion on when to apply “transparency” and identify and quantify a “copout.”)

Chairman Green, Superintendent Hite, Mayor Nutter, and Governor Corbett, demonstrated their solidarity and compulsion for fairness when they fearlessly stood up to the teachers, and in virtual unison professed to anyone who was breathing that everyone else but the teachers has “stepped up” with concessions for the children, including the district blue collar workers and principals. Straight-shooter SRC Commissioner Sylvia Simms got to the crux, “We need to stop playing games on the backs of our children.” (She maintained her tell-it-like-it-is authority when she berated protesting children that they were “probably in failing schools.”) Mayor Nutter referred to it as a “sharing environment.”

They deserve the credit for bringing about that altruistic environment when the other unions were first “stepped on” before they “stepped up.” The “concessions” were more like strong-arm tactics of coercion, as the other unions were threatened with inventive and resourceful alternatives, including layoffs, private-contractors, and the unilateral imposition of work rules with even more severe cutbacks. Faced with fear and mounting pressure, they acquiesced. When things get tough, the tough get going. It required strong, unyielding, and adroit leadership.

So how does this creative out-of-the-pocket and daring shakedown shakeout? It will cost beginning teachers opting for family coverage with a surcharge and “Buy Up” $7,537, 17.39 percent of their lavish $43,358 salary; it will cost teachers with six years of experience and a required bachelor’s or equivalent $8139, 14.40 percent of their affluent $56,531 salary; and it will be 11.31 percent of the purported $72,000 average teacher salary. (Their unlimited personal expense accounts for classroom spending will go untouched.)

These unprecedented and burdensome cost initiatives imposed by the leadership are the equivalent of pay-cuts that will bring millions for the children. When teachers get raises, they generally do not exceed 2 to 4 percent cost of living rates. The higher end percentages of the health care contributions easily exceed the salary raises for an entire 3 to 4-year contract.

This should allow the district to maintain and even increase the already colossal teacher turnover, keeping those aggravating, tertiary labor costs down. The PFT reports that 60 percent of teachers have five years or less tenure. Our leadership is on top of this national cutting-edge trend to create a transient, unstable teacher corps by taking away any incentive to stay, along with any school-based security and stability.

When Superintendent Hite was asked about his own cabinet making comparable health care contributions, he politely responded after you, giving teachers an opportunity to lead.

At the same time, our leadership has expressed compassion for the teachers’ plight and acknowledged how tirelessly they worked with their students. A tolerant Superintendent Hite has even invited them back to the bargaining table, full well knowing that they might lack the trust required in good faith negotiations because of the ongoing violations by the district and SRC. It takes incredible chutzpa for that kind of consideration and perseverance.

Amazingly, there is still enough of that self-assurance leftover, along with the foresight and resolve, to begin spending 14 million dollars they do not yet possess. Directing his principals to confer with their teachers on how to spend their own money, shows his unshaken belief in cooperation and shared decision-making.

Best of all, by their actions and unwavering example, the charismatic SRC, district, and government leadership earned our gratitude for inspiring and motivating the Philadelphia community in general and the rank and file in particular to come together and take a stand (albeit contrary to their own) in a show of solidarity the city hasn’t seen in years. The familiar chants of “Shame on you” were especially passionate and tight. (And to Mayor Nutter, I think the attendees were generally satisfied with this meeting on Broad Street in broad daylight.)

This past episode to void the contract and its aftermath has brought out the best of our leaders. Sadly, our leaders are not getting the credit they think they deserve, which is something every teacher can relate to.

In the meantime, after expressing my unstinting admiration for our SDP leadership, I’m hoping that I might be able to at least get back into the good graces of my dog with a belly rub or two, as I will certainly be sharing his house.

Jeff Rosenberg is an education writer and longtime Philadelphia public schoolteacher.

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Filed under Uncategorized

An Open Letter to H. Sharif Williams, Goddard College Professor and Mumia Supporter


Dear Dr. H. Sharif Williams,

My name is Christopher Paslay, a frequent contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, and a longtime teacher and guidance counselor with the Philadelphia School District; I also have an MEd in Multicultural Education, and have followed the Mumia Abu Jamal case closely for the past 20 years. I’d like to address some of the points you raised in your October 5th OP-ED: “Our Students and Educational Philosophy: Working Toward a Just and Civil Society.”

You state, “Mumia Abu-Jamal, as a Goddard College alumnus (BA ’96), social critic and member of the millions of people incarcerated in the United States, represents something incredibly important in the context of our commencement ceremony. He knows what is means to obtain a degree in the face of overwhelmingly challenging circumstances.”

Before I continue, Dr. Herukhuti, let me ask you this: Do you believe in redemption? I do. And that’s the fundamental problem with your decision to have Mumia Abu Jamal speak at Goddard’s graduation. If Mumia had owned what he did, repented, and tried to make amends, I’m sure most people would have no problem with Goddard choosing Mumia as a commencement speaker; a remorseful and repentant Mumia would fit Goddard’s educational philosophy perfectly.

But Mumia has never, ever, taken responsibility for murdering another human being. He’s also never, not once, shown any meaningful sign of remorse for his actions. Now, I know what you are thinking: Mumia’s innocent. He’s a political prisoner, etc. But even if he is innocent (the evidence overwhelmingly points to his guilt), he’s still done nothing to reach out and ease the pain of Maureen Faulkner, or to help in the effort to bring the “real” killer to justice. The irony here is that you state Mumia, “knows what it means to raise troubling and provocative questions that lead one to compelling answers.”

Fine. But what about the most troubling, provocative question of them all: What happened the night Daniel Faulkner was murdered? Mumia was there, and so was William Cook, his brother, and they saw the whole thing. Why did Cook never take the stand on his brother’s behalf? Why has Mumia, who is supposedly in this unique position to open pathways of critical discussion, never clearly communicated the events of that night, and why does he refuse to even address the question in interviews? Why has Mumia never offered his cooperation in helping bring the killer of Daniel Faulkner to justice? Why has he never reached out to Maureen Faulkner in his infinite wisdom and compassion and tried to ease her plight?

I think we know why. And this is the hypocrisy of you, Dr. Herukhuti, and your educational philosophy of a “just and civil” society. Just and civil societies do not give unrepentant killers a commencement platform at the expense of grieving women (Maureen Faulkner, by the way, publicly said your decision was “disgusting”). Regardless of what you believe about his guilt, he is still a cold and callous man, who has mocked civil society, and whose refusal to discuss the night of Faulkner’s murder has tormented the friends and relatives of Daniel Faulkner, as well as the Philadelphia community.

When you speak of Goddard’s educational philosophy of a “just and civil society,” it begs the question, Justice for whom? For the grieving Maureen Faulkner? For America’s police officers? For the Philadelphia community and it’s law abiding citizens who made up the jury and found him guilty as charged? Do we not count? And if we don’t, why not? Because too many of us are white? Because we represent the establishment? Because we abide by the law and are not “radicals”?

Let’s now for the sake of argument assume Mumia is guilty of shooting Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner first in the back, and then point blank in the face. Let’s assume the four witnesses who identified Mumia as the shooter and so testified in court were right. Let’s assume the two people who signed a sworn statement that they heard Mumia say, “Yeah, I shot the mother fucker and I hope he dies” are telling the truth. Let’s assume the reason why Mumia and his brother William Cook never testified or gave a clear version of events of the night of the shooting is because Mumia did it. Let’s assume the reason why Mumia’s .38 was found at the scene with five empty shells was because Mumia actually fired it—he saw his brother getting pulled over by a white cop, lost his temper, and ran across the street and shot Faulkner in the back and then the face (which is why the bullet removed from Faulkner’s brain matched Mumia’s gun, and why the bullet from Faulkner’s gun was removed from Mumia’s chest).

Let’s assume these things are true, just as the jury did, just as every appeals court over the past 32 years—including the PA Supreme Court—have found to be true. What does this say about Goddard? It says that Goddard College supports giving a voice to an unrepentant murderer (not a man who has turned around his life and made amends), that Goddard has no qualms of giving a platform to a man who used violence—first degree murder—to build a platform for his views. This is the most extreme form of radicalism: using murder to deliver a message. That’s what Mumia has done, and Goddard has supported it.

The biggest tragedy, though, the most egregious crime against free thought and Goddard’s supposed fight for “social justice” is the fact that your school has indoctrinated its students into believing Mumia is either innocent or did not receive a fair trial. Why else would your graduates request him as a commencement speaker? If you deny this, ask yourself this question: Did you show your students both sides of the issue EQUALLY? Did you lead them back to the primary sources of the case against Mumia—the trial transcripts; the original news stories filed about the murder and trial; the literature written by Maureen Faulkner and Philadelphia syndicated radio host and columnist Michael Smerconish?

My guess is that your didn’t. My guess is that you exposed your students to pro-Mumia literature, much of which can be classified as agitation-propaganda based in conspiracy theory, questionable sources, and half-baked conjecture. As a Philadelphia public school teacher, THIS is the most reprehensible part of Goddard’s decision to study Mumia, the fact that you failed to leave it up to the students to decide for themselves, rather, manipulated them into swallowing whole ideas that support your underlying political agenda.

Your educational philosophy of “working toward a just and civil society” is hypocrisy, Dr. Herukhuti, at least in light of your callous and misguided decision to use Mumia Abu Jamal as a commencement speaker; I think it had more to do with getting free publicity for your obscure college than it did with “justice”. As a Philadelphia teacher and guidance counselor, I will from this point forward advise my students against attending a school as irresponsible and insensitive as Goddard College.


Christopher Paslay
English Teacher/Guidance Counselor
Swenson Arts and Technology High School


Filed under Free Speech

Are 1 in 5 Women ‘Sexually Assaulted’ on Campus?

by Christopher Paslay

Rape culture orthodoxy on college campuses is the latest issue that the left has deemed off-limits for discussion.

(The following article was published today on American Thinker under the heading, In Defense of George Will.)

On the liberal left, there are certain topics that are closed to debate. Global warming is one of them, and anyone who dares question the validity of doomsday statistics regarding carbon emissions or greenhouse gases or the overall temperature of the earth (which, by the way, has gone down over the last 15 years), is bullied and ostracized and called names like “troglodyte”, “wing-bat”, and “climate change denier”.

Rape culture orthodoxy on college campuses is the latest issue that the left has deemed off-limits for discussion. Like global warming, any attempt to examine or question statistics of sexual assault on campus (which are all compiled by leftist progressives), what constitutes sexual assault (also defined by the left), and the amount of evidence needed to bring assault charges (decided by the left again), is met with vicious attacks from women’s groups, Democratic politicians, and the progressive media at large.

George Will is the latest writer to be lambasted for blasphemy. His June 6th Washington Post piece “Colleges become the victims of progressivism” dared to question the left’s narrative on sexual assault on campus, suggesting that the ever-expanding definition of “sexual assault” (dozens of colleges now consider any sexual contact between two adults under the influence of alcohol sexual assault) is causing victims to — surprise, surprise! — proliferate. He also stated that progressives have incentivized pulling the “sexual assault card,” if you will, and that they have created a certain privileged status associated with doing so:

Colleges and universities are being educated by Washington and are finding the experience excruciating. They are learning that when they say campus victimizations are ubiquitous (“micro-aggressions,” often not discernible to the untutored eye, are everywhere), and that when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate.

Will also questioned the numbers being put about by Joe Biden and the Department of Justice — that one in five women on American college campuses are the victims of sexual assault:

The administration’s crucial and contradictory statistics are validated the usual way, by official repetition; Joe Biden has been heard from. The statistics are: One in five women is sexually assaulted while in college, and only 12 percent of assaults are reported. Simple arithmetic demonstrates that if the 12 percent reporting rate is correct, the 20 percent assault rate is preposterous. Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute notes, for example, that in the four years 2009 to 2012 there were 98 reported sexual assaults at Ohio State. That would be 12 percent of 817 total out of a female student population of approximately 28,000, for a sexual assault rate of approximately 2.9 percent — too high but nowhere near 20 percent.

(Interestingly, the “one in five women is sexually assaulted while in college” statistic is based on one — count it, one! — study conducted in 2007. The polling sample of this study?  A random survey of  students from a whopping two schools.)

Like wolves, the tolerance-and-compassion left went for Will’s jugular. The progressive women’s activist group Ultraviolet started a petition, which supposedly garnered close to 100,000 signatures, to have Will fired from the Post. Four Democratic senators wrote a scathing letter to the Post, claiming Will and the Post “trivialize the scourge of sexual assaults” on college campuses, and have “shown a fundamental disrespect to survivors,” among other criticisms.

In addition, the usual Obama sycophant media outlets blasted Will, one of which was the propagandistic, tabloidesque Huffington Post; curiously, because the Huffpost was recently forced to correct an erroneous attack on National Review writer A.J. Delgado (who also dared question sexual assaults on campus), the Huffpost tactfully took shots at Will via Arial Koren, Senior Class President of the University of Pennsylvania, who penned an emotional account of her own rape survival, stating that Will denied “the validity of the again-and-again proven-accurate statistic that 1 in 5 college women will be assaulted at school.”

When Koren says “again-and-again,” I assume she is referring to the single 2007 study of two schools?

Many readers on the Huffpost’s comment board called Will a variety of obscenities, suggested that he himself should be raped, and even claimed that the Wapo has devolved into a right-wing propaganda machine on par with FOX News (if you can believe that). To their credit, the Wapo unofficially responded by publishing a piece headlined “One way to end violence against women? Married dads,” which outlined the benefits of women not sleeping around, infuriating the women’s activist group Ultraviolet.

Will, of course, is not the only writer to exercise his 1st Amendment rights and question the left’s sexual assault narrative. As mentioned above, National Review writer A.J. Delgado has written several sensitive and articulate pieces about the topic, not only backing his points with well researched facts, but also keeping a respectful, objective tone as to not disrespect the true victims who’ve faced the brutality of sexual assault. Still, facts and compassion aside, the progressive media bullied him like they did Will, twisting his words, taking his quotes out of context, and in the case of the Huffpost (which was forced to run a correction on their attack), simply putting words in Delgado’s mouth that he never spoke.

No one is questioning that sexual assault in college (or anywhere, for that matter) is despicable, that victims’ stories must be reported and heard, and that perpetrators of sexual assaults should be punished accordingly. What must be questioned, however, is the left’s version of such assaults, their severity and frequency. If Ultraviolet, the Huffpost, and Democratic senators truly want to end sexual assault — and not merely use it to shift power to progressives and to continue to spin the “War on Women”– they would have an honest and open discussion about the following:

1. “Sexual assault” is too broad a term to be used on campus. Currently, the term encompasses everything from rape (forced oral, vaginal, and anal penetration), to unwanted sexual touching (feeling a person’s backside while slow dancing at a party), to the failure to give consent (technically, according to many college codes of conduct, hooking up with a person while under the influence of alcohol is not true “consent”). All of these are covered under the blanket of “sexual assault,” though they are very, very different. The fogginess of the term “sexual assault” is no accident. It has been made intentionally vague by the left, so as to allow the left to spin and apply the term any way they see fit. This is dangerous to everybody involved.  It trivializes rape, and opens the door for all manner of misunderstandings. If the left truly cared, they would push to have “sexual assault” specified, categorizing it perhaps as “rape,” “unwanted groping,” or “consent while intoxicated.” This would save a lot of communication problems, and is much more effective than having students sign forms before having sex, which, amazingly enough, has been proposed by liberal law makers.

2. More research needs to be done to measure the true extent of sexual assault in college. One study, surveying two schools, is not enough evidence to state that sexual assault is an “epidemic” which affects one in five women (notice it’s women, and not persons.) This research needs to be done on a nonpartisan basis, by multiple, reputable research organizations.

3. The idea that those accused of sexual assault (basically men), are innocent until proven guilty. The Department of Justice, under Attorney General Eric Holder, has put pressure on American universities to implement something known as “preponderance of evidence,” which basically means that those accused of sexual assault (men), are guilty until proven innocent. In the past, for a person (usually a woman) to accuse another person (usually a man) of sexual assault, they needed to show significant proof that it occurred — a standard of about 75 percent certainty. The Obama administration is now strongarming colleges to lower that standard of proof to 50.1 percent, which is basically her word versus his, with no burden of proof on her side. Again, this is dangerous, as it is vague and can ruin the lives and reputations of those falsely accused.

The left seems to think that they have successfully sprayed their territory, and that to question their perspective on events is to condone rape or blame the victim. In essence, they’ve successfully politicized rape. This is despicable, but it feeds nicely into their claim that conservatives have a war on women. On one hand, they can control behavior and speech codes on college campuses, indoctrinating youth with progressive agendas and all manner of P.C. rubbish in the process, and on the other hand, they can vilify anyone who dares question their conclusions, the way they’ve attempted to vilify George Will.

But this is America — not China, not Cuba, not the old Soviet Union. There is something called the 1st Amendment, and despite the left’s attempts to silence anyone who disagrees with them, the discussion will remain open.


Filed under Free Speech

Uncle Tony’s Charter School: The Conclusion

Illustration by Sean Wang

a satire by Christopher Paslay

When beloved high school principal Dominic Rossetti is forced to open a charter school so his uncle Tony, an organized crime boss, can embezzle the money to fund a strip club, Dom is thrown into a humorous yet tragic situation: he is compelled to run his uncle’s bogus charter school while trying to educate Philadelphia’s children.

Part 25 of 25

The Kid’s journal ended there, right there, wit him describing how he was losing his mind in the parking lot of Penn’s Port High.  The very last sentence in his journal, which I just got done reading early this morning . . . I stayed up all night reading it . . . was, What you resist, persists.  I guess he was talking about resisting the truth, resisting telling Gina the truth, that is.  His time a resisting was over, though, cause he called me on the phone when he got home from Penn’s Port High and asked me if I’d be home later that night, if he could come over wit Gina and Ashley and talk about things, get them out in the open so he could get this incredible weight off his chest.  I says sure, Kid, of course you’s can come over, but warned him that his aunt Linda was away at her sister’s for the weekend and couldn’t cook no dinner, so he shouldn’t expect nothing to eat when he got there.

Around 8:00 p.m.—this was just last night—I hear a car pull up in my driveway and some people come to the door.  They is arguing, and now I can hear Gina saying that she didn’t understand what was going on, that none a this was making any sense. I don’t know what the Kid had told her, but Gina wasn’t very happy.  I answer the door and give them all a big, warm hello, and the only one who really greets me back is little Ashley, who says, “Hi, uncle Manny.”

“Hey, sweetie-pie.  What can I do for you?”

“Can we come in?” the Kid says.  “We have to explain a few things to Gina.”

They come on in, the three a them, and Ashley sees Patches, Linda’s cat, and chases her into the back room.  I tell Ashley that there’s a television in there, and that she can turn it on and watch a show or something.  She does, she sits on the big sofa wit Patches in her lap and watches some kinda music video, I think.  This was good, cause now me and the Kid and Gina could talk, talk about whatever we wanted; I decided right then that I’d tell the truth about everything, be honest about whatever they asked me.  Like I says before, I don’t know what the Kid had already told Gina—or didn’t tell her, for that matter—so trying to lie prob’ly wouldn’t have worked so good.  Plus, there was no real reason to lie, anyways, cause the Kid really didn’t do nothing wrong.

“So let me get this straight,” Gina says, “there is no charter school, correct?  World Peace doesn’t exist, except on paper?  Is that what you’re telling me?”

“Yes, Gina,” the Kid says, “that’s what I’m telling you.  The whole thing was a scam to steal money.  But like I said, I didn’t steal anything.  It was my uncle Tony.  It was his idea.  He just picked me to run the charter because he knew I had experience with this stuff, with education.  There wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it, because I owed him a favor.”

“Because he got you out of jail in Atlantic City?”


“And got your Porsche back?”


Gina just shakes her head.  “You know Dominic, if you don’t wanna get married, just say so.  Just say, ‘Gina, I don’t wanna marry you.’  I’d have more respect for you if you did that.  This story you’re telling me about World Peace being fake and empty inside, well, it’s ridiculous.  Totally ridiculous.  I know there’s a school, Dominic, because Ashley applied there and was put on a waiting list.”

“Everybody’s on a waiting list, Gina,” the Kid says.  “No one ever gets accepted.”

“Baloney,” Gina says.  “There are students there, you said it yourself.  Over a hundred students.  They took those tests . . . the state exams, and scored real high.  I read about that in the newspaper.  World Peace was also in that other newspaper—Education World, for Christ’s sake.  I guess those articles were fake, too?”

“Those articles were based on a fake website,” the Kid says.  “The person who wrote those articles never even saw the school.  And the State exams, they were fixed.”

Fixed.  Sure.  Okay.  You know, Dom, I don’t wanna talk about this anymore.  I don’t know what is going on with you lately, but it’s scaring me.  If you don’t wanna get married, if you’re feeing too much pressure and you wanna call the whole thing off, fine.  I’ll be devastated, and so will Ashley, but I can’t live like this.”

“Gina, Listen, I—”

“No Dominic, you listen.  I already married a man who was a liar and a cheating sonnavabitch, and I’m not going to do that again, ever.  I never told you this, but when that article came out a few weeks ago saying that you were related to Tony Genitaglia, my father told me to call off the wedding, right then and there.  He asked me if I knew that one of the biggest organized crime bosses in Philadelphia was your uncle, and I admitted I didn’t, and do you know what he said?  He said, ‘God only knows what else you don’t know about him.  Walk away, Gina, while you still can.  I don’t trust this guy farther than I can throw him.’  That’s what he said.  But I stuck up for you.  I told him how good of a teacher you were, and a principal, and how caring you were, and how much you loved me and Ashley.  Looks like he was right, and I was wrong.”


“I’m not stupid, Dominic.  I may only be an x-ray technician, and not have all the fancy degrees you have, but I’m not dumb.  I read that article in today’s paper, by the way, did you know that?  You thought that since the newspaper came after I went to work, and you threw it away before I got home, that I wouldn’t read it, but I did.  I saw it, Dominic.  It said that an investigation found that there’s all this missing money at World Peace, that somebody may have stolen it.  Guess who that somebody was?  You.  Dom Rossetti, Mr. Bigshot C.E.O.  I can’t believe it, I can’t.  Stealing money from children, just like Ashley’s father!”

It was tough for me to see Gina lay into the Kid like that, believe me.  I was hurting, just like he was.  I hadda help the Kid as best I could, so I says, “He didn’t steal nothing, Gina.  He’s telling the truth.”

Gina kinda stops for a second, like hearing my voice snapped her outta a trance and whatnot.  She looks at me, turns and looks right into my eyes.  “Manny,” she says, “you don’t have to cover for him.”

“I ain’t covering for him,” I says.  “Dom didn’t steal no money.  It was all Tony, my friggin asshole brother, pardon my language.  He made Dom do it, open the charter school so he could, um, embezzle the money.  Dom had no choice, see.  If he didn’t do what my brother told him—” I made a slashing motion wit my hand across my throat “—that woulda been the end of your fiancé Dominic, here.  It’s true.  My hand on a stack a Bibles.”

“I don’t believe you,” Gina says, and crosses her arms.  But I could see she wanted to believe me, that she was really thinking hard about what I was telling her, that her mind was still open to the truth.

“Dom didn’t steal nothing, not a penny,” I says.  “None a the stuff you think you know about him is true.  He did get locked up in A.C., and Tony did need to bail him out.  Dom owed Tony a favor and was forced to open World Peace, see, so Tony could steal all the money and start a strip club in Baltimore.  No screwing around.  The teachers there was fake, and we hadda hire fake students when people from the State came in for their walk through.  And all the lessons was fake, too.  I even pretended to be the principal—principal Bradshaw—and me and Petie hadda throw the test monitor jackoff from the State into the trunk a Petie’s car, just to shut his big trap.”

Gina laughed when she heard this, and this kinda whatdoyacallit—lightened her mood.

“You’s laughing,” I says, “but it ain’t funny.  You can go ask the little needle-nose how it felt to spend the afternoon in the back of a Cadillac.”

“It’s true,” the Kid says to Gina.  “All of it.  Did you know that my uncle Tony had my father killed, two weeks before I was born?”

What?” Gina says.  “You never told me that.”

“That’s because I never knew it until Tuesday, when I went to talk to Tony down in Baltimore.  You know how I went to see Tony to try and straighten everything out?  Well, he didn’t want to hear it.  Any of it.  He said I was an ingrate, like my father, that I didn’t care about the family.  When I told him I didn’t want to run his scams anymore, that I had real students in real schools to take care of, he said I was picking my principles over the family.  He said, ‘You’re just like your father.  He chose his principles over the family.  That’s why he had an accident—but it wasn’t an accident.’”

“He said that?” Gina says.

The Kid nods.  “Oh yeah, he said it.  Not in those words, but I knew what he meant.  The weird part was, I think deep down, I always knew that.  So did my mother.”

“I never knew your father was murdered, Dominic.  I’m so sorry.”

“Dom’s father was a good man,” I says, and looked right at the Kid.  I always wanted to tell him that, the Kid, but I never could.  Not wit the chance it would get back to Tony.  But I was telling him now, see.  Better late than never.

Nobody says nothing for a long time.  Finally, Gina says, “I can’t believe the charter school is empty.  It just boggles my mind.”

“Oh, it’s empty,” the Kid says.  “Not totally empty—there are some desks and old textbooks and broken computer parts in there—but that’s about it.”

“He ain’t lying,” I says to the girl.

“I want to see it,” Gina says.

The Kid nods.  “Fine.  You can see it—it’s not a secret anymore.”

“I want to go in there and look around for myself.”

“Be my guest,” the Kid says.

“Okay, let’s go then.”

“What?  Now?”

“Yes, now.  You have nothing to hide, right?”

“No.  Not at all.  But what time is it?”

“I don’t know?  Eight-thirty, maybe?  Come on, grab Ashley.  Let’s go.”

The Kid sighs.  “Fine.  Let’s go.”

So the two stand up, grab Ashley, and go out to Gina’s car.  Just then, though, the Kid comes back inside by hisself and hands me a package.  It’s a big padded envelop wit what looks like a copy of a journal, a buncha newspaper articles and other papers, and a whatdoyacallit—a flash drive.

“Here,” the Kid says.  “Take this, uncle Manny.  There’s something I have to do tonight, and if anything happens to me, I want you to mail all of this to the Philadelphia Post, okay?”

“What is it?”

“It’s the truth.  About me, and you, and Tony, and everything.  Just promise me you’ll mail it, okay?

“Sure kid, okay.”

“Thanks,” the Kid says.  “I love you, uncle Manny.”

“I love you too, kid.”


About an hour after the Kid left, there was an explosion and fire at World Peace Charter High School. The official fire call came in at 9:37 p.m., and the fire wasn’t declared, um, under control until close to 2:00 in the morning.  That’s at least what the Philadelphia Post said this morning on their website.  Here, let me pull up the article and read it:

 Two Dead in World Peace Charter Blaze

 A deadly blaze at World Peace Charter High School in Northeast Philadelphia has claimed the lives of two people.  The fire, which is believed to have started with an explosion, was first reported at 9:37 p.m. on Friday, April 11.  Firefighters battled the flames until early this morning, when it was eventually brought under control around 2:00 a.m. 

The bodies of the two victims have not yet been identified. 

Investigators believe the fire started with an explosion on the first floor, although the cause of this explosion has not been determined.  Several residents of the 2500 block of Southampton Road reported hearing a loud noise right around the time the fire was first reported.

“It sounded like a big bang, like something blew up,” Hollis Jackson, who lives directly across the street from the school, said. 

Hillary Aris, who lives one block from World Peace and has a son on the waiting list to attend the school, said, “There was a loud noise, and I heard glass breaking, like somebody broke a window.”

World Peace Charter has been the subject of recent controversy.  Last month, it was reported by the Post that C.E.O. Dominic Rossetti was the nephew of Philadelphia organized crime boss, Tony Genitaglia, and that Rossetti had a history of gambling.  Rossetti declared chapter 13 bankruptcy in 1998. 

World Peace Charter is currently under investigation for financial mismanagement, and possible misappropriation of funds.  Whether the recent probe of World Peace Charter’s finances and the explosion are connected is unclear.

The fire was also on the television last night on the 11 o’ clock news.  It was a real bad one, wit flames pouring outta the windows, and sparks shooting outta the roof, and smoke—big, giant clouds a smoke, filling the night sky.  Two big fire trucks was parked outside wit hoses running from them, and firemen was holding those hoses steady and aiming them onto the school as best they could.  As soon as I saw the fire on the news I called the Kid on his cellphone, but he didn’t answer.  I left a message for him to call me back but he never did, so I started to get worried.  That’s when I remembered the package he gave me—that padded envelope wit the photocopied writing and newspaper articles and such—and started taking the stuff out.  As I held the journal in my hand I heard the Kid’s voice in my mind: Take this, uncle Manny.  There’s something I have to do tonight, and if anything happens to me, I want you to mail all of this to the Philadelphia Post, okay?

I looked at the copy a the journal real close and realized it was the Kid’s, and that the newspaper clippins was all the articles about World Peace Charter, every one a them.  There was other papers, too, like a copy of World Peace’s charter application, and what looked like some kinda engagement poem.  Course, the first thing I did was take the paperclip off the journal and start reading it right from the beginning.  I put on my reading glasses and sat down at the kitchen table and I ain’t gonna lie, it pulled me in from the start.  All the stuff we did was described in detail, see, even our addiction meetings.  It told all about World Peace Charter, and Tony, and Gina and little Ashley, and a course, me.  I read it straight through the night into this morning, tearing up a coupla times—the parts about the girl Tamarra really had me choked up—and I learnt a lot about the Kid, let me just tell you’s guys.  I learnt a lot about Tony, too, about how much of a friggin jackass he is, how much of a bully and a jackass.  If he did anything to the Kid or Gina or little Ashley, I swear to God, he needs to pay.

That’s why I’m making this recording here, why I’ve spent the last five hours just talking into this electronic thingamajig here.  Cause I’m getting a little package together of stuff myself to give to the cops—you’s guys who will be listening to this—the F.B.I.  The Kid is innocent, see.  He didn’t do nothing wrong.  It was all Tony, Tony Genitaglia, my brother.  When you’s guys listen to this recording, make sure you read the Kid’s journal, too.  I’ve made another copy a it, and am putting it in wit this package.  I’m including the news articles, and the poem—it’s the Kid’s proposal to Gina—and also the charter school application that he wrote for World Peace.  It’s all here, all of it, and you’s F.B.I. guys gotta go through it real, um, thoroughly, see.

When I mail you’s guys this package, I’m gonna mail a copy of everything to the Philadelphia Post, too, just like the Kid wanted. Not that you F.B.I. cocker-roaches need to know about any a this, cause it ain’t really none a your business, what the Kid asked me to do.  I only got six months to live, so I figure I’ll do all I can to help Dom, the Kid, who was always like a son to me.  Now, I ain’t stupid—I know that this is kinda like snitching on my brother, and I’m also howdoyasayit—incriminating myself—but hey, it’s the least I could do.  I’m not planning on staying in this country no more, anyways, being that I’m dying; me and Linda was always planning on moving to some nice village in Italy, maybe Genoa, and living right there on the beach.  It’s beautiful in Genoa, wit the colorful views of the Mediterranean, and all the historic art and culture, like the St. Lawrence Cathedral, and the Royal Palace of Genoa, and that whatdoyacallit, the Palace of the Doges.  The sights is beautiful, and the food is, um impeccable—like when the old Italian grandmothers cook soup wit garbanzo beans.

That’s where me and Linda is gonna live, see.  And that’s where I’m prob’ly gonna die.


There was a buncha people crying, standing there, crying, especially Theresa—my sister, the Kid’s mother.  Gina’s parents was crying, too . . . well, her mother was, her dad was just kinda standing there wit a poker face, so it was hard to tell what he was feeling.  A crowd was gathered round—close friends and famb’ly members—and they was fulla emotions, some sniffling, tissues out, wiping away the tears.  There was flowers, lots a flowers, and the priest was there, hands raised, saying the prayers.

“Dominic Rossetti,” the priest says, “do you take this woman to be your wife?”

“I do,” the Kid says.

“Gina Grasso, do you take this man to be your husband?”

“I do.”

My wife Linda, my beautiful wife Linda, was there next to me, standing barefoot in the sand, the breeze coming off the blue green sea making her bright pink dress gently flap against her body.  She had a hat on, a big pink one, and she was using her one hand to keep it on her head and stop it from blowing in the air.  It was warm air, though, July air.  The sun was still high in the sky, see, still blazing over the Mediterranean behind us.  I was holding Linda’s hand as I was listening to the Kid saying his vows.  This made me think of me and Linda’s vows, how we said them 40 years ago.  I still love my wife, as much as the day I asked her to marry me.  I could see the Kid was like me, that his love for Gina was real and just as strong, that 40 years from now, if they was both lucky enough to be alive, they’d still be together, that all they’d went through over the past 11 months had, whatdoyacallit, forged a bond between them that would never be broken.

“And now, if we could have the rings, please.”

Little Ashley came forward then, holding the rings on a silver tray.  The Kid took Gina’s ring first, and as the priest spoke, as he blessed the couple wit God’s eternal love, the Kid slipped it on Gina’s finger.  Gina took the Kid’s ring, then, and slid it on his strong finger.  Ashley stood next to them in her pretty white dress, next to her mommy who was just as beautiful in her shoulderless wedding gown, next to her new step-daddy in his white tuxedo, and beamed; the Kid saw Ashley smiling and winked at her.

“I now pronounce you husband, and wife.”

Dom and Gina kissed, and everyone started clapping.  For a second, just a split second, I missed my brother Tony, but that passed quickly; Tony and Petie was dead, and that’s just the way things go sometimes.  In a way I guess they deserved to die, as much as anyone really deserves to die.  See, Tony and Petie blew World Peace Charter up, and themselves wit it.  Course, it wasn’t no suicide . . . Tony was too high on hisself to wanna die . . . it was just an accident, a typical Petie accident—an oops-kaboom, to use Petie’s words.  I can only imagine, now that the jig wit World Peace Charter was up, that Tony had wanted the Gorilla to torch the evidence to cover his trail of, um, corruption, but somehow, Petie managed to frig it all up; I don’t know how he managed to frig it up so bad, but he did, turning hisself and Tony into strips a fried bacon.  You’d think, though, that Tony woulda had the Gorilla do this by hisself, that Petie woulda went into the school alone.  But I think I have a good idear why Tony was there wit him: He wanted to see the inside a World Peace Charter for hisself, just like Gina did.

It took 48 hours for the cops to identify the bodies, and they had to use the whatdoyacallit, the dental records a Tony and the Gorilla to do it.  When I heard the news on the television I was shocked . . . shocked and relieved.  See, the Kid and Gina and little Ashley was still missing at the time, but as it turns out, they was secretly staying at Janice’s place—Gina’s friend from college.  The Kid had a good idear that Tony was gonna try and make him pay for turning his back on the famb’ly, so he did the smart thing and went into hiding.  The three a them had just missed the explosion by maybe five minutes, according to what the Kid told me later, and the crazy part was, they never even went inside the school at all; when they got there they saw the Gorilla’s car, and the Kid didn’t even let nobody get within 10 feet a the place.  Gina tried to argue, right there in the street in front a the school, but when the explosion blew-out all the windows on the first floor—glass shattering on the ground at their feet—Gina thought better of it.

The three got back into Gina’s car and the Kid sped to where he was planning on going all along—to the Philadelphia branch of the F.B.I.  He had wit him everything he needed, a copy a his journal, the news articles about World Peace Charter, and of course, the most important item—the flash drive wit the audio recording of his meeting wit Tony at Straight A’s the month before, where Tony basically admitted to everything . . . planning the scam, strong arming the Kid into stealing all the cash, and even hinting at the murder a the Kid’s own father.  All this was on tape, see, cause the Kid had recorded it on his cellphone right at the table next to Tony.

Course, the Kid never told me any a this that night he came to my house, cause he said he felt bad about being a snitch, about talking to the F.B.I.  He didn’t care that he was ratting out Tony, cause Tony was a piece a shit who killed his old man.  What the Kid was most shameful of was diming me out to the feds, cause I was clearly part a the whole scam from the beginning.  I wouldn’t a cared, though, cause I know deep down I woulda deserved what I got.  He never did tell me he was planning on taping his conversation wit Tony and taking it to the cops.  And I guess that’s why he never wrote any a it down in his journal, neither; God only knows who may have found it.  For all the Kid knew, Tony wanted him dead, and he never did learn for sure if anybody had been following him, or screwing wit his phone; to this day he doesn’t know for sure.

The feds was investigating World Peace Charter, though.  When the Kid gave the F.B.I. the flash drive, along wit his journal and that other stuff, it basically just added to the stuff they already knew.  I ended up sending the Kid’s envelope, including my own audio recording, to the feds the morning after the fire, too, and also to the newspaper; the newspaper people never got it, though, cause I frigged up the address and it got sent back to me.  Course, the feds was already watching Tony, so they kinda already knew what was happening.  A week after World Peace was ruled an arson, there was this big raid down at Straight A’s, and the club was shut down for good.  All the assets was whatdoyacallit, liquidated, and the money was giving back to the State and Philadelphia Unified School District.  Eisenhower even got a portion a the money–$125,000, I think it was.  After an initial month-long investigation, the Kid was cleared of all criminal charges, in part cause he agreed to testify against Tony—and me—in court, in part cause his journal, along wit my tape recording, cleared his name.  But Tony was dead, and I was already out a the country, so none a this mattered anyways.

Course, the Kid was fired as principal of Eisenhower High School, and this was really tough on him.  He made several public apologies, one in a commentary that was published in the Philadelphia Post, and one on television from the School District central office . . . but the School Board was unmoved.  Then in May, when Tamarra, the girl, found out that she’d won that $30,000 scholarship the Kid had helped her wit, and was gonna be able to attend Cheltenham Preparatory Academy for Girls in the fall, she got her friends and relatives together—and a buncha students, parents, and teachers from Eisenhower—and held this big old protest rally in front a City Hall, forcing the mayor to talk to the School Board and ask them if they could reconsider giving the Kid back his job as principal of Eisenhower.  In June, during the final School Board meeting a the school year, the Board voted unanimously to, um, reinstate the Kid as principal, and he was back at Eisenhower the following week.

So I guess you can say things worked out okay for the Kid, after all.  I should know, cause I’m recording the whole thing on the same electronic thingamajig I used to tell my story in April.  I wanna get this all on tape for when the Kid and Gina have their baby . . . she’s three months pregnant, by the way . . . so Dom’s kid will know that uncle Manny wasn’t no creep, that he loved his nephew just like a son.  I’ll never get to meet the kid, cause I only got a few months left, but so goes life.

The Kid is happy, though, so I’m happy.  Right now he’s down by the water wit little Ashley, tossing a penny into the ocean, and watching her go and fetch it.  She’s swimming right in her white dress, and her long blue swim fins, and her snorkel gear that the Kid got her for Christmas.  She’s a good swimmer, little Ashley is, and when she dives down into the blue green water a the Mediterranean, I can see her head bob and her legs kick, and her brown hair shining in the sun.


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Filed under Uncle Tony's Charter School

Uncle Tony’s Charter School: Part 24

Illustration by Sean Wang

a satire by Christopher Paslay

When beloved high school principal Dominic Rossetti is forced to open a charter school so his uncle Tony, an organized crime boss, can embezzle the money to fund a strip club, Dom is thrown into a humorous yet tragic situation: he is compelled to run his uncle’s bogus charter school while trying to educate Philadelphia’s children.

Part 24 of 25

Caroline’s was a disappointment, that’s what the Kid wrote in his journal.  And this wasn’t cause there was some tall guy in a leather coat watching them from a bench across the street, neither.  At this point, the Kid didn’t realize the guy was watching them, he didn’t make the connection until later, but I’ll get to that in a minute.  Anyways, Gina was in love wit Caroline’s, but only wit the way it looked, cause her and the Kid never even ate there before.  Actually, they had dessert there once—coffee and a slice a cherry cheesecake right before Christmas, sitting at a table right in front a this picturesque bay window—but that was it.  Course, the Kid couldn’t blame Gina for thinking the place was pretty, cause he guessed it was, in an old, Italian kinda way.  Everything inside was authentic and original, the hardwood floors, the high ceilings, the antique oak furniture.  There was lots a China, like in Dom’s grandma’s house, and real nice silverware, too.  It was whatdoyacallit, quaint, tucked away on a side street in a blue collar neighborhood in the heart a South Philly.

There was no parking, though, so Gina and the Kid hadda park Gina’s car in the Acme lot six friggin blocks away, and that’s what all the guests at their wedding would have to do—leave their cars in the lot and walk six blocks to the reception at Caroline’s.  It wasn’t that big a deal, the Kid wrote, but it was still a small minus in his mind . . . another reason to take Caroline’s off the list a possible places to have their reception.  Course, if the lack a parking was a small minus, than the service and the food was a big minus.  Now, you’d figure if you and your fiancé was eating at a restaurant that you was considering hiring for your wedding reception—possibly dropping $15,000, which was their budget—it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect the food and the service to be, um, impeccable; that’s what you’d figure.  It wouldn’t be ridiculous to expect the owners to come out and chat you up and give you drinks on the house and maybe even dinner on the house, if they really wanted your business.

To Dom’s . . . what’s that word . . . charging, though, the 60-something Italian couple who owned Caroline’s did nothing a the sort.  After the Kid and Gina talked to the owners, Walt and Lorenza, for at least an hour in their office about prices an options for their wedding reception, Gina and the Kid went back into the dining room to eat dinner.  Gina got some chicken dish, and the Kid ordered the filet mignon, feeling good about things at this point; he was still open minded, he wrote, and really wanted to make Caroline’s work for Gina.  His mind began to close when they waited 45 minutes for their meal, wit no complimentary bread, not even crackers.  Their waiter—some tall effeminate young man who got on the Kid’s nerves—was a real spastic, too; he was in charge a serving the whole restaurant, and it seemed Dom and Gina ended up on his pay no mind list.  No biggie, though.  As long as Gina was happy, the Kid was happy.

When their dinner came, finally, Dom knew Caroline’s was outta the running for their reception.  His filet was a joke, a freakin joke.  It was tough and hard to cut, like the cafeteria meat Dom used to eat when he was away at college.  It didn’t taste much better—it had a hunk a fat and gristle—and after chewing this one bite for like ten friggin minutes, he actually hadda spit the piece out into his napkin, my hand on a stack a Bibles; Dom wrote that he’d prob’ly get a better piece a meat at Straight A’s, and said there was no whatdoyacallit—pun intended.  The most ridiculous thing, though, was the price a the filet.  On the menu the steak was listed at “market value,” and when Dom and Gina got their check, Dom learned that “market value” was $37.00.

The Kid was fuming, he wrote, but he didn’t wanna spoil Gina’s good time, so he didn’t make too big a deal over it.  Course, he hadda speak to Walt and Lorenza about it, so he told the spastic waiter to go get them so he could ask them a few questions.  That’s when the Kid saw the tall guy outside sitting on the bench in the leather coat watching them through the window.  It was past 10:00 p.m. and dark outside, so somebody just sitting on a street bench and not moving was kinda weird.  And come to think of it, that was the same guy sitting there when Dom and Gina first came into the restaurant over two hours ago.

“Can I help you?” Lorenza says to Dom, holding a stack a menus in her hand.  “Eric said you wanted to talk to me about something?”

“The filet,” Dom says, and explains that he doesn’t think it’s worth the $37.00, that it’s a bit pricy.  No, Lorenza says, the price is fair—market value.  Dom just nods and pays the check, asks Gina if she’s ready, and the two put on their jackets and leave.

The tall guy in the leather coat was still sitting on the bench, watching them.  Dom tried not to make eye contact, but the guy stayed in Dom’s, um peripheral vision the whole time.  In fact, Dom wrote he couldn’t get the guy outta his freakin peripheral vision—he was stuck there, watching him, like one a those creepy paintings where the eyes a the person follow you all over the room.  Dom starts talking a little louder to Gina, having a conversation wit her he’s not even paying attention to, hoping the guy on the bench will think Dom doesn’t see him, isn’t aware of him.  Course Dom is aware of him, that’s all he’s aware of now, and Dom really pretends to get into the conversation wit Gina, really hams it up so the guy on the bench doesn’t sense how scared Dom is, doesn’t smell his fear, but Dom knows it’s no use, cause the guy can read his every gesture, his every expression, can even monitor Dom’s thoughts.  Dom feels the panic start to come on now, the anxiety; in his journal, he underlined the word panic.

“. . . and we could have a destination wedding, like we talked about before,” Gina is saying.  “I think you’re right, Caroline’s is out.  My chicken wasn’t even that good, either.  The only thing about a destination wedding is, it costs a ton of money for people to go.  I think my parents could afford it, but what about your mom?  She’s got some money saved, right?”

“Um . . . yeah,” Dom says.

“I actually like the destination idea, come to think of it.  We should go somewhere warm, on a beach.  How awesome would that be to get married right on the beach in July?  To have everybody barefoot in their suits and tuxedos and dresses, standing on the beach with their toes in the sand. Oh my God, I love it.”

The guy on the bench gets up, starts to follow Dom and Gina.  He’s about a half block behind them, but getting closer.  The Acme parking lot where Gina’s car is is still a ways away . . . maybe two blocks, at least.  Dom and Gina is holding hands and so as the Kid starts walking faster to get away from the guy following them, he starts pulling Gina along wit him.

Dom,” Gina says.  “Come on, you’re pulling me, that hurts.  Why are you walking so fast?”

“I’m cold,” the Kid says.  “Buurr.  It’s cold out here.  Are you cold?”

“It’s 60 degrees.”

“Naw, it’s colder than that.”

“You’re nuts, you know that?” Gina says.  “Anyway, I think if we have a destination wedding, we shouldn’t bother inviting cousins, just aunts and uncles.  Keep it small, just Ashley, my parents, your mother, your uncle Manny . . .”

The guy in the leather coat in gaining on them—he’s maybe 10 feet behind them—and now Dom can’t help but take quick looks at him over his shoulder.  Gina keeps talking about the wedding, and doesn’t notice.  Dom notices, though, and his heart is banging like a friggin drum in his chest.  The Acme parking lot is coming up, about a block away now, and Dom starts walking faster.  Ashley walks faster, too, but is still talking, not paying no attention to the guy behind them.

“. . . Ashley will be the ring bearer, of course . . .”

The guy in the leather coat is close enough to grab them.  He reaches for something in his coat, and Dom stops and turns, and the guy pulls the something out, and he reaches forward in Gina’s direction—his hand in the air—and the Kid opens his mouth to shout at him when the Kid sees the car keys in the guy’s hand, sees the guy turn and bolt across the street to his car, open the door, get in, and speed away.

The Kid’s mouth is still open, still ready to . . . what?  The Kid didn’t know, he wrote in his journal.  Gina is still talking, only mildly startled by the guy who brushed past them and went to his car.

“. . . and we could just do the wedding favors ourselves, you know?  Buy little candles or key chains, and put our pictures on them.  How does that sound?  Just do the wedding favors ourselves?”

“Yes, Gina,” the Kid says, “absolutely.  We’ll do it ourselves.”

“Good, I think that’s the best bet.  It will save us money, too.”

They were at the car now, Dom and Gina was, and the Kid’s hands was shaking so bad, he could barely unlock the door.


The Kid went into Eisenhower on Thursday, even though he took the week off.  Wit all the craziness that had been going on wit World Peace Charter lately, Dom had completely forgot about his meeting wit Tamarra, who had gotten accepted into Cheltenham Preparatory Academy for Girls the week before.  She showed Dom her acceptance letter the morning after she got it in the mail, barging right into his office and waving the letter and saying, I did it, Mista Rossetti!  I did it! and giving Dom a big hug that was so emotional, the Kid wrote in his journal, even his secretary was wiping her eye.  Course, that was only the first step in the process, and Tamarra understood this as well as the Kid did.  She still hadda pay to go to go to Cheltenham Academy, and this wasn’t gonna be easy; since January, her and the Kid had been applying for every scholarship under the sun, hoping to come up wit the $25,000 and change needed for the tuition and living expenses.

There was one last scholarship, though, that Tamarra had yet to apply for, and that was the biggest of all a them.  I forget what the Kid said the name of it was, but it was a scholarship for kids who had a whatdoyacallit, a deceased parent, and it was good for $30,000 a year.  The deadline for this scholarship was Monday, April 14, 2013, four days away.  As long as the application was, um, postmarked by midnight a that day, Tamarra would still be eligible to receive it.  The trick was, helping Tamarra win it; the Kid knew the bigger the scholarship, the stiffer the competition.  Plus, it was a national scholarship, so kids from all over the country was trying for it.

“You think I got a shot, Mista Rossetti?” Tamarra says, sitting next to the Kid at his desk in his office, looking over his shoulder.

“Absolutely,” the Kid says, and it was true. The other parts a the application was already done, the letters a recommendation, the transcripts, and the background information on Tamarra’s famb’ly.  The essay was all that was left, and although it was a pretty tough essay question, Tamarra had a good a chance as anybody.  She had the Kid on her side, see, showing her all the writing tricks he had learned over the years as both a teacher and a student.  Stuff like how to brainstorm, an outline, and most importantly, how to rewrite, which is what imbeciles like me never did in school, ever.  He taught her how to say more in less space . . . if that makes any sense . . . and how to just say what she meant—not try to sound like somebody else, using fancy words that really didn’t fit.

The essay that Tamarra needed to write was supposed to be about helping somebody cope wit the loss of a parent—what kinda advice would you give them and whatnot.  Dom helped Tamarra organize her thoughts an outline the essay, which needed to be between 750 and 1,000 words.  She wrote a first draft, which Dom was reading now, and it talked about the lesson she learned from him the year before, the idear that what you resist, persists.  She even used Dom’s analogy about a little kid fighting against a migraine headache, crying and kicking his legs against the pain, and how when he did this, he ended up puking all over the place.  If only the little kid could accept the pain, she wrote, if only he could go with it, things would start to get better.

“How’s it sound, Mista Rossetti?”

“Good,” the Kid says.  “Seriously.  I’m impressed.”  And it was good.  So good, in fact, that Dom felt like Tamarra was actually giving him advice, advice that was somehow more powerful now, more, um, profound.  Maybe the words in her essay seemed so deep and moving cause they was written by a 16 year old girl who’d lost her mother to a murder-suicide, or maybe they seemed extra wise cause they was something that the Kid simply needed to hear at that very moment in his own life; somewhere, there was a truth he needed to stop resisting, a truth he needed to accept and tell.  Whatever it was, though, as he sat reading Tamarra’s essay, he couldn’t help thinking about his own situation, how frigged up it suddenly was.  He thought a the scare he had the night before at 3:00 a.m. at Gina’s house.  He was lying wide awake next to her in bed, like he’d been doing for prob’ly two weeks now . . . since those articles came out in the paper, at least . . . his mind racing, his stomach churning wit the panic that was always there like chronic indigestion, keeping him up.  He thought he heard a noise downstairs in the living room, see, or maybe it was right outside the house, he wasn’t sure.  It sounded like a paperclip in a lock, or maybe like a person trying to pick a lock.  It was loud, and the Kid could hear it from Gina’s bedroom, cause her house at night was pin-drop silent.  The Kid shook Gina and asked if she heard it, but Gina, still half asleep, groaned and told the Kid to leave her alone.  The noise didn’t go away—the sound of a paperclip jiggling in a lock—it was right in the goddamn living room, or right outside on the street in front a the house, the Kid was positive.

Well, enough was enough, the Kid thought; something funny was going on.  It wasn’t no mouse, cause they squeaked, squeaked and made scratching sounds in the wall, and that’s not what this was.  This was some asshole trying to pick a lock, and Dom was sure of it.  So he got outta bed and grabbed the baseball bat Gina kept in her closet and went downstairs.  He turned on the living room light and nothing was there, he wrote in his journal, but a second later the Kid heard a car door slam and an engine rev, and he ran to the front window and saw the back a what he thought was a Cadillac speeding down the street, but it was too dark to see, exactly; he couldn’t get the license plate, neither.

The paperclip noise stopped, so the Kid went back to bed, but still couldn’t sleep.  In the morning, after Gina and Ashley was outta the house, the Kid went out front and checked the lock on the door, checked the windows—feeling like a total paranoid mental case, he wrote—and found nothing wrong.  He checked the back lock, too, and all was normal there.  That’s when he thought a his car, his Porsche, which was actually parked on the sidewalk in front a Gina’s house, cause the streets in South Philly was so small.  It’s been moved, he thought, somebody messed wit it.  He got his keys and opened the door and yes, the stuff on his dash looked like it had been moved; somebody had been in there.  Course, there was nothing broke or stolen, so he couldn’t call the cops.

His cellphone rang then, and it was his secretary, reminding him about the meeting wit Tamarra.  Jesus Christ, the Kid had almost forgot.  He rushed inside and got ready, showered and got ready, and when he went back into his Porsche and put the key in the ignition, he froze, certain that when he turned the key it would explode—blow up in a freakin fiery ball.  He felt the panic coming, felt his arm going numb.  His right hand was on the key, but wouldn’t move.  Things inside the car started spinning, round and round, and then he forced hisself to breath deep, slow and deep, and closed his eyes and turned the key, and his candy apple red 911 Turbo S Porsche started—vroom—and there was no explosion.

“What you resist, persists,” the Kid says.

“Yeah,” Tamarra says.  “You taught me that, Mista Rossetti.  Is that a good thing to write about?”

And the Kid just nodded.


The Kid didn’t sleep Thursday night, neither.  He was tossing and turning and keeping Gina up, so he said frig it and just went downstairs and put on the television.  At 6:15 a.m., he heard Gina’s alarm go off, so he went upstairs and climbed back into bed while she was in the shower.  He was starting to doze off when Gina came over and kissed him goodbye, and then he rolled over and some time later jerked awake, grabbing the mattress cause he felt like he was falling.  He got up and made some coffee in the kitchen, he wrote, and when he was sitting at the table eating his cereal, he heard something bang against the front door.  It was only the newspaper, he realized, cause the idiot delivery person was just making their route now, at 9:30 a.m., which was a friggin disgrace; no wonder the Philadelphia Post was going outta business.

He brought the newspaper inside, opened it at the kitchen table.  He paged through it quickly, skimming the articles, keeping an eye out for anything about World Peace Charter.  He got to the education section, and there it was, another goddamn story about him and Tony: Probe Uncovers Missing Funds at World Peace Charter.  There was new facts in this story, which talked about how the only money left in World Peace’s whatdoyacallit, coffers, was $1,000 and change, and how a more detailed audit of World Peace’s finances was soon to come, maybe by the School District or State, or even by the I.R.S; now it was clear that the feds was getting involved.  Well, that was it for the Kid; he was toast, he wrote in his journal.

The Kid would have to come clean, all the way clean.  No one was pulling any strings to make this one go away, and it seemed as if the Kid was just realizing this for the first time.  He had his journal, though.  In it, he wrote, At least I have this journal.  The truth was in there, at least.  Later that night he would end up photocopying it, photocopying it and giving it to me to give to the newspaper, in case anything happened to him.  Course, the Kid was gonna have to tell Gina, and this was the worst part, cause God only knew how she’d react.  There, at the kitchen table, he rehearsed the way he was gonna tell her . . . and he wrote out different, um, scenarios in his journal as well.  Writing in the journal helped his thoughts, I guess, cause God only knew he hadn’t been to an addiction meeting in weeks—maybe cause he was embarrassed.

After writing a buncha stuff down and scribbling it out, page after page of it, the Kid wrote that he’d finally figured out the best way to tell Gina: he’d take her to see me; that’s what he decided to do.  It made sense, cause I’d back the Kid’s story 100 percent, see.  I’d tell her everything, just like I’m telling you’s guys now.  Course, I don’t know why the Kid never came to me sooner—especially when he went to see Tony down at Straight A’s—cause I woulda did my best to help him out wit whatever I could.  I woulda tried to talk some sense into Tony at least, persuade him to leave the Kid alone.  It mighta done zero good, but who knows?  The Kid coulda given it a shot.

At 4:00 in the afternoon, the Kid wrote that he had a brand new worry:  Ashley wasn’t home from school yet, and she usually got home by 3:30 at the latest.  When there was no sign a her by 4:30, he called the school, but nobody answered; the secretary had prob’ly already gone home for the night.  Without hesitating he jumped into his Porsche and sped up to the school, searching the streets as he went, pulling over to talk to groups a students gathered on the corners, asking if they’d seen Ashley, Ashley Grasso.  Nobody had seen her, and the Kid’s mind wandered to vice grips and power drills, all the stuff he knew his uncle used to hurt people—and the loved ones a those people—who disrespected the famb’ly.

Ashley was smart, sure, but she was small for her age, small for 13; she wouldn’t be 14 for another four months.  People abducted young girls all the time; you was always hearing about that on the news and in the papers, how some young lady was reported missing, had just went and vanished into thin air.  Young folks was even abducted from school, right from their own schools.  Like that one time in that elementary school in Southwest Filthy-delphia, when that lady wearing a Muslim outfit wit the black sheet covering her face like a ninja just walked right into the main office a the school and said something like, Yeah, I’s hear to pick up such-and-such, I’s her momma’s friend, so can y’all just get her please, and the jack-knobs in the office actually went and got the little girl and, um, released her into the custody a the strange ninja lady.  The little girl was missing for a coupla days, and when they found her, she was half naked, crying, and prob’ly scarred for life.

Dom got to Penn’s Port High School and the main office was empty; it was almost 5:00 p.m., and everyone had gone home.  Luckily, though, the principal—Connie Ricks—was still there, sitting at her desk behind a stack a binders.  He went right up to her office and knocked on the open door, he wrote in his journal, startling her.  She looked up, putting a hand on her chest, and says, “Oh my God, you scared the be-Jesus outta me.”

“Ashley Grasso,” Dom says, “have you seen her?  Do you know where she is?”

“How did you get in here?” Mrs. Ricks says.  “The front entrance wasn’t locked?”

“It’s Philadelphia,” Dom says.  “Nothing works the way it’s supposed to.  I’m Dom Rossetti, the principal of Eisenhower High School.  We met at the last principal’s meeting, remember?”  He holds out his hand, but the woman hesitates.  “I was off today.  My step-daughter . . . well, she’s not my step-daughter officially . . . my fiancé’s daughter is Ashley Grasso, and she’s not home from school yet.  She’s normally home by 3:30, and I’m worried.  Have you seen her?  Do you know where she is?  Please tell me you know where she is.”

“Okay, I remember you.  Yes.  Dom Rossetti.  Who are you looking for, now?”

“Ashley Grasso.  She’s in ninth grade.  She just started here a few weeks ago.  She’s short, not even five feet, brown hair, real cute . . .”

“Ashley Grasso?”


“She was on Home Bound for most of the year, right?”

“Yes, she had casts on her feet.”

“Right, yes.  No, I haven’t seen her.  I don’t recall her leaving early or being signed out, but I can check the log, if you want.  Here, let me see . . .”  Mrs. Ricks pages through the early dismissal book and then says, “No, she didn’t leave school early today.  She’s normally home by 3:30, you said?”

“Yes, and I’m worried.  I just have this feeling something happened.”

“Does she have many friends here at school?  Could she be over a friend’s house?”

“I don’t know, maybe.”

“Check with her friends.  See if she turns up with any of them.”

So the Kid does what Mrs. Ricks suggests, calls Tina, the girl wit the pool in her backyard, and calls Megan, too . . . their cellphone numbers was already programmed in his phone from before . . . and both girls say that they haven’t seen Ashley, and that they don’t know where she is.

“Any luck?” Mrs. Ricks says.

“Nope.  They haven’t seen her.  I’m calling the police.”

The Kid leaves, just bolts outta there without saying another word, so he can talk to the cops in private, let them know his situation wit Tony and everything.  As he’s dialing 911 a call comes through on his phone, a call from Gina.  The Kid ends the 911 call and answers.

“Gina?” he says.  “Gina, hello?”


“Yeah.  Let me call you back.  Ashley’s not home yet.  I’m calling the police.”

“What?  Where is she?  She didn’t go to physical therapy tonight?”

“Physical therapy?”

“Yes, Physical therapy.  It’s Friday night, remember?”

“Oh shit, that’s right.”



“Where’s Ashley, is she okay?  Is she at Physical therapy or not?”

“I . . .”

“Hello?  Dom?  Is she okay?”

“Um . . .”

Hey.  Earth to Dom Rossetti, hello?”

That’s when all the strength went outta the Kid’s legs, he wrote, and he just sat on the ground in Penn’s Port High’s parking lot, staring at the cracks in the cement.

The conclusion of Uncle Tony’s Charter School

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Uncle Tony’s Charter School: Part 23

Illustration by Sean Wang

a satire by Christopher Paslay

When beloved high school principal Dominic Rossetti is forced to open a charter school so his uncle Tony, an organized crime boss, can embezzle the money to fund a strip club, Dom is thrown into a humorous yet tragic situation: he is compelled to run his uncle’s bogus charter school while trying to educate Philadelphia’s children.

Part 23 of 25

The Kid took the following week off from work, he wrote in his journal, and nobody at Eisenhower blamed him.  Students, parents, and teachers was all worried and upset about what they was reading about Dom—calling the Kid up at school and on his cellphone and leaving messages a support—offering to help him in any way that they could.  Nobody really believed what they was saying in the papers, not most people, cause anybody who knew Dom knew he’d never steal a penny from no one, that Dom used his own money to buy stuff for the students, even.

The Kid had a plan, though, or he thought he did.  He didn’t write the plan down nowhere in his journal, but he did write about it after he did it; I guess he didn’t want nobody knowing about it until it was done, in case those people who was following him and listening to his phone calls somehow found his journal.  So anyways, this is what happened.  The Kid wrote that he went to see Tony that Tuesday, April 9th, 2013, down in Baltimore at Straight A’s.  The Kid called him first, just to make sure he’d be able to meet wit him, and Tony said sure, sure kid, come on down to the club and have a steak and a nice glass a beer, maybe even head up to the third floor wit one a the girls, all on the house.

The Kid hadda wait till almost 11:00 p.m. to see Tony, who didn’t even show up at Straight A’s until 10:00 p.m., two hours after he told the Kid he’d be there.  Apparently, nobody even knew the Kid was coming, cause the bouncers at the door gave him a buncha business about showing his identification, and when they searched him, they patted his nuts down just a little too roughly.  It was a big muscle-head bouncer wit a blond crewcut who did this—a 250 pound smacked-ass wit no neck—and the Kid wrote that he was really pissed at this, that he told the guy to back the frig off, that he was Tony Genitaglia’s nephew.  The guy just laughed and didn’t believe it, but the Kid said wait, just wait, when Tony gets here we’ll see who the frig is laughing.

And wait the Kid did, for two hours.  He sat at a cocktail table by hisself drinking a cola and checking his watch, keeping an eye on the door for Tony.  About every 15 minutes one a the girls would make her rounds and come over to him, naked except for a tiny G-string and heels.  Dom didn’t like this, he wrote, cause he was nervous and didn’t wanna be bothered.  He was engaged now, see, and loved his fiancé, and this is just what he told the girls when they came up shaking their tits at him and opening their skimpy underwear for him to put in some money.  Right when the Kid was on his last single and was gonna have to go over to the bar to get more change, the front door opens and Tony comes walking in.

“Uncle Tony, hey,” the Kid shouts, but Tony didn’t hear him.  Tony went straight through a door in the back and disappeared.  The Kid got up and went over to the door but in swooped three bouncers wit no necks, and they just looked at the Kid and shook their heads and told him to move away unless he wanted to leave the place wit a limp.  The Kid went back to his seat at the cocktail table and waited for another hour, putting more ones in young ladies’ underwear, and finally, finally, Tony comes back out and sees the Kid and says, “Hey, Dominic?  Hey, look at you!  Come here and give your uncle Tony a kiss!”

The Kid hugs and kisses his uncle, and Tony looks him up and down, and asks where he’s been cause Tony’s been waiting, and the Kid explains that he wasn’t allowed upstairs, that a coupla bouncers came over and was ready to chop his head off when he tried to go in the back.

“They’re just doing what they’s told,” Tony says.  “Nobody goes through that door, nobody but me and Paulie.”

“They gave me a problem outside, too.”


“On my way in, at the front door, the one bouncer with the short blond hair.  He was real ignorant when he searched me—basically punched me in the nuts.  I told him I was your nephew and he just laughed.”

“Scuze me?” Tony says.  “You told him you was my nephew and he laughed?”

“Pretty much.  Yeah.”

“Come wit me.”

Tony storms across the floor a the club and goes up to the bouncer wit the blond crewcut working the door and asks Dom if this was him, if this was the one who laughed at him and punched him in the balls, and Dom says yes, that’s him, he’s the one.  The guy isn’t facing Tony, so Tony taps him on the shoulder and he turns and sees Tony and says Oh hey, Mr. Genitaglia, how are you tonight? and Tony says Not too good and pulls out a gun and smashes him in the face wit it, grabs the guy by the back a his head and smashes the steel butt a the gun right through his nose.  The guy screams and drops like a friggin ton a bricks—250 pounds a bricks—and lays on the sidewalk holding his nose, blood friggin pouring out like a goddamn fountain.

“This,” Tony says to the group a bouncers standing around watching, “this is my nephew, Dominic.  If I ever hear that any one a you ever disrespects him again, I swear to friggin God, I will put a bullet in you myself, understand?”  He turns to the guy on the ground and kicks him hard in the ribs.  “You.  Tough guy.  I’m gonna count to ten, and if you ain’t off my property and outta sight . . .”  But Tony didn’t have to finish, cause the guy got up and staggered away, banging into a buncha trash cans in the alley.  Tony spits on the ground and shakes his fist in the air, and him and Dom head back inside.  Two bouncers hold the door for Tony and Dom, and they is real polite, saying, Right this way, Mr. Genitaglia.  Right this way, Dominic, and Tony mumbles something under his breath the Kid can’t hear.

Inside, Tony asks what Dom wants to drink and Dom says a can a cola, and Tony tells the bartender to fetch two bottles a some imported beer Dom never heard of, and hands one to Dom.

“Salud,” Tony says, and the two toast, and Tony tells Dom to look around, look around at his dream come true, a dream he couldn’t a done without him.  A colored girl is hanging upside down on the big brass pole on the main stage, her legs wide open.  A group a older men in business suits is sitting together watching her, sipping cocktails, grinning and watching. Tony takes Dom on the grand tour a the place, shows him around the first floor and introduces him to some a the girls and staff, and then they go on up to the second floor to the Emerald Lounge, where there’s more young beautiful girls winking at Tony and shaking their asses in his face.  Tony asks Dom what he thinks, and Dom says it’s great, it’s the most amazing strip club he’s ever been to, and then Tony says, “Wanna see the third floor, kid?  We got anything you want up there, anything.”

“Actually, I wanna talk to you about something, uncle Tony.  That’s why I came down here.”

“I thought we was talking.”

“No, I mean I need to talk to you in private, about something real important.  Is there some place we can go, just you and me?

Tony just looks at Dom.  “Is you okay, kid?  You’s acting kinda funny.  You ain’t gonna try none a that gay stuff on me, is you?”

“I’m not gay, uncle Tony,” the Kid says.  “I got engaged over the weekend.”

“To a girl?”

“Yes, to a girl, but that doesn’t matter.  We need to talk, uncle Tony.  In private.  Seriously.”

“What about?”

“About the charter school business.”

“Charters?” Tony says.  “Oh, you mean about the five new schools that I’m opening, that business?”


“Okay, let’s go into Paulie’s office, over here.”

Now, all the stuff that takes place next was written up by the Kid in a whole lot a detail in his journal, like always.  It’s a lot to remember, but I’m gonna try my best to remember it and repeat it just like I read it, especially the conversation between the Kid and Tony.

So, Tony takes the Kid to a back room on the second floor where they can talk, just the two a them, no strippers showing their asses around and looking for tips.  It’s an office wit a desk and file cabinets, and a floor safe in the corner.  Tony sits down behind the desk, and the Kid pulls up a chair across from him.  It’s pretty quiet in there, and the only noise is the soft vibration a the music coming from the main stage on the floor below.  Dom wrote in his journal that he was surprised at how calm he felt, how confident, how steady and sure a hisself.  He just looked at his uncle, kinda observed him, and noticed for the first time that he was old, that there was wrinkles around his eyes and the corner a his mouth, that his hair had gone all gray.  He was still big, sure—the whole famb’ly was, including Dom hisself—but it was then that Dom realized that under all the tough guy mafia song and dance, under the gun, and cursing, and carrying on like a maniac, there was just a man, just his uncle . . . flesh and blood, like him.

“Tony,” the Kid says, fidgeting wit his cellphone in his lap, “the reason I came down here to talk to you is because I’m finished, I’m done with the charter school business.  We had a good run, you and me, but now it’s over.  I’m engaged, Tony, I’m getting married, and I can’t do it anymore.  I can’t run your scams anymore.”

Tony was only half listening.  “Huh?  What is you talking about, kid?”

“I’m out,” the Kid says, “done, finished.  I did what you made me do—I stole a million bucks from World Peace Charter so you could build your strip club, and now the game’s over, at least for me.  I actually have a real school to run, Tony, you know?  Eisenhower High School.  Those kids need me, and I’m not gonna waste my time and money on your scams anymore.”

“What have you been smoking, kid, huh?  Did that broad you’s engaged to frig up your head or something?  I tell you when the scams is over, you don’t tell me nothing.”

“Tony,” the Kid says, “just listen for a minute, okay?  Just let me talk for a second.  You know a lot of people, right?  Politicians and other guys, right?  Well, if you talked to them, maybe we can have this whole thing squashed, and nobody will have to go down for it, nobody will have to go to jail.”

What?  What the frig is you talking about, kid, huh?  You need to start making some sense, fast.”

“You could pay people off to keep quiet, like you normally do.  Pay them off so they won’t—”

Enough, kid.  Enough.  You’s starting to get me angry.  You need to shut your mouth, right now.”

“So I don’t get any say in all of this?”

“No you don’t get no say,” Tony says.  “What’s a matter wit you, huh?  You’s forgetting yourself, kid.  You owe me.  Who got your sorry ass outta jail two years ago when you was locked up for getting mixed up wit that hooker in Atlantic City?  Who was that, huh?  Who made a buncha calls to Joel Gelles’ office to get the charges dropped, made the whole damn thing disappear off the face a the earth?  Who got your friggin Porsche back after your gambled it away—paid $35,000, I think it was, to get it outta hock—and had it delivered right to your house for you like a goddamned early Christmas present?  Me, that’s who.  Me.  And did I let you pay me back?  Frig no.  Cause we’re famb’ly, and we look out for each other.”

“I did have to pay you back, Tony.  You made me open a charter school so you could steal all the money and put it into this strip club.  How much money did you steal?  A million dollars, at least.”

“Kid, you act like you’s not my nephew, like we ain’t famb’ly.”

“Family?” the Kid says.  “Family members don’t bully each other into doing things that they don’t wanna do.”

“Oh, so I’m a bully now, is that what you’s saying?”

“Yeah, Tony, that’s what I’m saying.  What if I would have told you no, that I didn’t wanna go through all that bullshit to open World Peace Charter, just so you could steal all the money?  What if I would have told you no, forgetaboutit?  What would you have done?”

“You wouldn’t a done that, kid.  You ain’t stupid.”

“What if I did?”

“I woulda hurt ya, what do ya think.  I got a reputation to keep.”

“Would you have killed me?”

“It depends,” Tony says.  “Maybe, maybe not.  But you woulda paid, though, you know that.  Something bad woulda happened to ya if you didn’t.  Why is you asking me all this stuff, kid?  What’s going on?”

“Why?  You really don’t know why?  Have you been reading the newspapers, Tony?  Have you seen what they been writing?  It’s over for us, the jig is up.  Al Akbar knows about you now.  He knows about World Peace, how it’s just a front for the mob.  He knows you stole all the money, too.  He’s calling for an audit of our books and an investigation into—”

Frig Al Akbar!” Tony says.  “Frig him and the boat that prick sailed in on!  Nothing’s over, see!  Nothing!  I decide when it’s over, not you, not friggin Al Akbar!  And this is how it’s gonna go!  You is gonna keep running World Peace Charter, keep taking the money and giving it to me!  And next year, when my five new charters open, you is gonna run them, too, and give me all that money!  Are you getting this Dominic, or do I need to jam something into your ears to clean them out, like maybe an ice pick?”

“I’m done, Tony,” the Kid says.  “I’m out.  Do what you gotta do, but I ain’t doing this anymore, I can’t.  It ain’t right.”

Tony just shakes his head.  “I knew it.  I friggin knew it.  You’s an ingrate, just like your old man.  I thought you mighta been different . . . but you ain’t, and now I know it.  Did I ever tell you about your old man, how he died?  Your mother ever tell you that story?”

“Yeah,” the Kid says, “my dad fell off scaffolding two weeks before I was born.  It was an accident.  My mom’s been collecting the insurance.”

Tony laughs.  “Accident, right.  He fell off scaffolding, but it wasn’t no accident.  He made a choice, see, just like you’s making.  It was either his famb’ly that he married into—me, Manny, Theresa, all the Genitaglia’s—or his . . . his principles.  His friggin idear of doing what is right.  Kinda like you, huh?  You gotta do what is right.  You’s just like him, down to the nostril.  You even got his last name, Rossetti.  I always wondered why my sister Terry made you a Rossetti and not a Genitaglia, now I know: cause you’s an ingrate, just like your friggin father.”

“I love my father, even though I never met him.  I’m proud to be a Rossetti.  So is my mom.”

“You’s an ingrate, kid.  Like father, like son.”

“My father was a good man, and you know it.”

“He was a maggot and a cocker-roach.”

“He was a good man, just ask your brother Manny.”

“He was an ingrate!”  Tony stands up from the desk, crosses his arms.  “Our meeting is over, kid.  You made your choice.  You ain’t no Genitaglia, and you ain’t wanted on my property no more.”

“So that’s it?” the Kid says.  “We’re done here?”

You’s done kid,” Tony says, “you’s done.  You and your famb’ly, not mine.  But’s that’s what you want, isn’t?  To be like your father.  I knew it.  Well, I can make that happen, no problem.  There’s the door, kid.  Don’t let it hit you on the way out.”


Dom got home late that night, after 3:00 in the morning.  Gina insisted that she was gonna wait up for him, but when the Kid finally made it upstairs to her bedroom, she was sound asleep and curled up in a ball, he wrote, the TV still on and showing some old Clint Eastwood movie.  She groaned when he climbed into bed next to her, then rolled over and kissed him.

“Hey,” she says, “how’d it go?”

“Fine.  Go back to sleep.  We’ll talk about it in the morning.”

“What time is it?”

“Late.  After three, go back to sleep.”

“I love you,” Gina says, and rolls back over.

“I love you, too.”

The Kid couldn’t sleep, though, and tossed and turned until Gina’s alarm went off at 6:15 a.m., when she got up to get ready for work and to get Ashley ready for school; now that Ashley’s feet was healed, the funds for her Home Bound teachers was gone and she was enrolled in Penn’s Port High for the 4th quarter a the school year.  The Kid just laid in bed while Gina showered and put on her make-up, his head aching, his eyes red and stingy.  When she came outta the bathroom and saw Dom was awake she asked for details about his meeting wit his uncle Tony, and Dom gave whatdoyacallit—vague answers, he wrote, saying stuff like It went well, and We worked things out, and Everything’s gonna be fine.

“Is he going to talk to the newspapers?” Gina says.  “Call that U.S. Rep. and tell him that you aren’t involved with anything illegal?”

“I guess we’ll see,” the Kid says.

We’ll see?  What does that mean?”

“It means we’ll see, Gina, okay.  I’m tired, and my head is killing me.”

“Well is your uncle going to call the papers or not?” Gina says.  “It’s a simple question.”

“I don’t know!” the Kid says, and wrote in his journal that he was surprised at his anger toward his fiancé.  “Gina, I’m . . . I’m sorry for shouting, but I’m just so tired and stressed out.  I told Tony to call the newspapers and to talk to Barry Al Akbar, and Tony didn’t make me any promises.  He’s gonna do what he’s gonna do, and that’s it.  If nothing happens by the end of the week, we’ll get a lawyer, like you wanted.”

“Dominic, I—” Gina begins to say, but Ashley pops her head into the room, and the talk a the Kid’s meeting wit Tony stops.  “Mom?  You almost ready to go?”

“One minute, honey, alright?  Me and Dom are having a talk.”

“Good morning, Dom.”

“Morning, Ash.”

“I’ll wait downstairs in the car, okay?”

“Sounds good.  I’ll be down in a minute.”

But whatever Gina was gonna say is gone, cause she just stood there in the bedroom, arms folded over her chest, looking confused.  Finally, to break the silence, the Kid said it was all gonna work out, really it was, she didn’t need to worry, and that he was looking forward to their plans later that night to visit Caroline’s, the fancy Italian South Philly restaurant that Dom and Gina was thinking about using for their wedding reception in July.  The talk a planning their wedding seemed to calm Gina a bit, and she shook her head and smiled and said that she didn’t know what she was gonna do wit Dom, and Dom laughed and said it didn’t matter now cause she was stuck wit him, see, cause she said yes when he asked her to marry him, and that big old rock on her left ring finger proved it.

“I’m leaving now,” Gina says, and kisses Dom on the forehead.  “I’ll be home around six.”

“Love you,” the Kid says.

“I love you, too,” Gina says, and walks out the door.

Part 24

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Filed under Uncle Tony's Charter School

Uncle Tony’s Charter School: Part 22

Illustration by Sean Wang

a satire by Christopher Paslay

When beloved high school principal Dominic Rossetti is forced to open a charter school so his uncle Tony, an organized crime boss, can embezzle the money to fund a strip club, Dom is thrown into a humorous yet tragic situation: he is compelled to run his uncle’s bogus charter school while trying to educate Philadelphia’s children.

Part 22 of 25

Just like the Kid had said before, politics was thicker than both blood and water.  A buncha stuff happened the week before the Kid proposed to Gina, and none of it was good, at least not for the Kid.  The results a the math and science exams was in, and World Peace Charter’s scores was some a the highest in the entire friggin state; in fact, they was the highest.  World Peace was the number one school in Pennsylvania, wit 100 percent of students passing both tests.  Being that I was the principal a World Peace, and also the official whatdoyacallit . . . test administrator . . . I was really, um, curious to find out the results.  They was published in the newspapers, but this still didn’t tell me how in the friggin world World Peace scored so freakin high.  I was right there when those fake students took the tests, and although Dr. Trowbridge and that other little jack-wad—Richard-what-ever-the-frig-his-name-was—said I wasn’t allowed to read the tests after they was turned in by the students, I read them anyways, cause the Kid told me to.  The Kid said to me, Uncle Manny, make sure you look at the tests to see if the actors are really taking them or not, so I did, and they wasn’t really taking them; most a the questions was left blank, and most a the tests had different answers bubbled in.

I got my answer about the high test scores soon enough, though.  On the day the Kid was supposed to propose to Gina, Saturday, March 23rd, I get a call from this guy named Gerald Coonan, and he starts talking to me on the phone like I’m supposed to know who the frig he is.  Now, at the time I didn’t know who the Christ this prick sonnavabitch was—wouldn’t know him if I ran him over wit my car—though in the back a my head, for some crazy reason, I thought I’d heard the name before somewheres.  So he’s talking to me on the phone like a million friggin miles an hour, just rambling on and on, and I says to the prick, I says, “Whoa, whoa, slow the frig down, numbskull.  Who the hell is you again?”

“Gerald Coonan,” he says.

“I don’t know no goddamn Gerald Coonan.”

And he says, “I’m friends with Eddie Gunsenhouser, he never mentioned me?  I’m the C.E.O. and national sales manager from 21st Century Data, Corp.”

I was starting to remember a little bit.  “Oh yeah,” I says, “right.  You’s the guy that sells the standardized tests to the school districts and shit like that, right?”

Right,” he says.

“Yeah, now I remember you.  21st Century Data.  You’s guys pull in a buncha cash, from what Eddie told me.”

“Well, it’s not really about the money, it’s about the product.  At 21st Century Data, we believe that well designed tests can help children succeed in 21st century society.”

“Yeah, forgetaboutit.”

“It’s true,” Coonan says.  “We have the research to back our claims.”

“Yeah, so, why is you calling me up?”

And then he told me why, and when he did, I wasn’t surprised.  Coonan, see, he was trying to sell his standardized tests in other cities besides Filthy-delphia, but he was having trouble, cause there was all these other test companies who had already moved in and, um, established themselves, grabbed-up the contracts.  Coonan said he was trying to make headway in Camden, New Jersey, and in a buncha fancy school districts in up state New York.  Course, Coonan was doing okay for hisself, cause 21st Century Data already had a contract wit the State to produce the state exams, and wit the Philadelphia Unified School District to produce their monthly benchmark tests, but Coonan said he was trying to expand, branch out a bit.  Plus, 21st Century Data put out a real good product, see.  Their tests was the best for helping kids learn, and he had a whole file cabinet fulla research reports back at his office to prove it.

“You gotta talk to the kid,” I says, “maybe he can help you.”


“The kid, Dom.  My nephew.  He knows about this kinda shit, not me.”

“I was hoping to get help from your brother Tony, actually.”

“Tony?” I says.  “Forgetaboutit.  Tony doesn’t have no time for you.”

“He doesn’t.  Oh really?”

“Naw,” I says.  “Tony’s a very busy man.  Plus, what is you gonna do for Tony?”

So this prick says, “Manny, no offense, but how do you think Tony’s World Peace Charter School scored the highest in Pennsylvania on the state math and science exams, huh?  Do you think this was from all of the great teaching that goes on there?”

“What is you talking about?  World Peace is the kid’s charter, Dom Rossetti’s charter, not Tony’s.”

“Listen, Manny, nobody is judging anybody here, okay.  We all have our families to feed, right?  I’m just simply saying that if you get a chance, remember to put a good word in for me with your brother, okay?  That’s all.  Nobody owes anybody anything.  I’m just trying to expand my business, that’s all.”

“Wait a minute,” I says.  “You was the one who fixed the scores?  The test scores?”

“Nobody fixed anything.  Just remember me, okay?  Gerald Coonan, 21st Century Data.  Have a good one, okay, Manny?  Say hi to your brother for me.”

“Gerald Coonan,” I says.  “Yeah, maybe.”

“Thanks, Manny.  Goodbye.”

Then the guy hung up.


Course, as soon as this Coonan bastard hangs up, I get another call, bam—just like that.  It’s Tony, and he’s talking even faster than Coonan was.  Did I see the state exam scores? he asks.  Can I friggin believe it?  No, I can’t friggin believe it, I says, cause it was all fixed and whatnot.

“Fixed?” Tony says.  “Forgetaboutit.”

“Tony,” I says, “it was fixed.”

Tony laughs and says forgetaboutit again, says World Peace Charter School is the best in the state, that their math and science scores is the greatest, the greatest, and he is so proud of everybody, hisself, the Kid, all the students and teachers, everybody.  He knew they could do it, he says, that they could pass the tests.  He knew the Kid was a great principal, which is why he wanted him to begin wit.  Course, I was the friggin principal a World Peace Charter, not the Kid, and I told Tony this, and he just said forgetaboutit a third time.  We was all the best, he said, and we should get together and celebrate.  Oh yeah, he said, and he almost forgot: the Philadelphia Unified School Board just approved all five a his charter schools—all five!—not for the coming school year . . . it was already past that deadline . . . but for 2014.  Was the Kid around? Tony wanted to know.  Tony wanted to call him up personally and thank him, thank him and ask him if he wanted to come down to Straight A’s and have a nice juicy strip steak, a cold glass a beer, and a private lap dance—all on the house—just to celebrate.

“No,” I says.  “The kid ain’t around.  I think he’s in Princeton wit his girlfriend, actually.  Don’t tell him I said nothing . . . I don’t wanna jinx anything . . . but I think he might be proposing to her.  He didn’t say he was or wasn’t, but he showed me a diamond ring last week.  He wanted to know if he got a good deal.  He did.  A real good deal.”

“What in the hell is you talking about, Manny?”

“The kid,” I says.  “He might be getting engaged today.”

“Engaged?  The kid, Dom?”

“Yeah,” I says.  “The kid.”

There is static on the phone, and Tony is having trouble hearing me.  “Hello?  Manny, you still there?  Hello?”

“Yeah, I’m still here Tony.”

But then the call goes dead.  I didn’t bother calling Tony back, cause he was being a dumb friggin moron goombah as usual, and my head was starting to hurt just listening to him.  So when my cellphone rang a second later, I wasn’t gonna answer it, not a goddamn chance; it wasn’t till I checked the caller ID that I realized it was the Kid calling me.

“Hello?” I says.  “Dominic?”

“Uncle Manny?” the Kid says, and I could tell right away by the sound a his voice that he had great news to share, that he’d popped the question to that nice girl Gina, and that she’d said yes.  “Hey uncle Manny, guess what!”

“You won the lottery,” I says joking around, and couldn’t believe how much the Kid sounded like a kid, like a small boy who wanted to tell his dad he made the football team or caught his first fish or dove off the high dive at the pool.  See, Dom was like a son to me, and I ain’t gonna lie, hearing him all excited got me choked up a bit.  It got me choked up to hear him say that he just got engaged about 20 minutes before, that I was the second person he called to tell the good news, Theresa being the first.  It got me choked up to hear him tell the story, the whole story, how he asked Gina to marry him: he did it in Princeton, New Jersey, see, and everything worked just the way he planned it.  There was this photo shoot he wanted to get done, he had told Gina the week before, cause he thought it would be nice to have a buncha professional pictures a him and Gina and Ashley.  Princeton would be the perfect place to do it, too, cause in late March, when the trees is becoming green again and the flowers is starting to bloom, it’s just so beautiful there, especially on Nassau St.  And the college campus, too, that was beautiful, wit the art sculptures and the buildings wit the ivy—just so nice for some pictures.  Yes, yes, it would be nice they all agreed, and both Gina and Ashley was so excited to go.

And then the day came, finally, Saturday the 23rd, and thank God it was sunny, so sunny and warm.  The three a them drove up to Princeton in Gina’s car, parked in a lot and put five dollars in quarters in the meter.  At one o’ clock they met the photographer, who turned out to be a young woman, not a man like the Kid had been told by the photo agency, and her name was Turquoise.  Turquoise led them around Princeton and took dozens a beautiful pictures in dozens a beautiful places . . . she showed them to the Kid and Gina and Ashley on her digital camera as she took them . . . and soon it was time to do it, for the Kid to ask Gina to marry him.

He was nervous, sure, but who wouldn’t be; if you wasn’t nervous, you mustn’t really be in love, see.  And then Turquoise took them over to the courtyard on Witherspoon St., to a café table like she’d been, um, instructed, and reached in her bag and took out first a tea cup, than a spoon.  She gave the tea cup to the Kid, and he posed wit it for a solo picture, snap, snap.  Next, Turquoise positioned Gina at the table, and handed her a spoon that she told her to hold wit both hands out in front a her.  Gina took the spoon and right away saw the words Will you marry me? engraved on it, then turned to face the Kid, and saw him down on one knee.  Then the Kid started reading the poem he wrote, his voice thick wit tears, and at the end, when he held out the ring to her she took it, took it and said yes, yes, she would marry him, she would give him . . . whatdoyacallit—eternity.  She put on the ring and it was a perfect fit, cause the Kid had gotten Gina’s ring size from Janice, and she held it out and it was so beautiful, see, so sparkly, and Turquoise said oh my God it’s so beautiful, and so did little Ashley, and so did the group a college girls in the courtyard sitting at the table next to them, who was all up in Gina and the Kid’s business.

“Congratulations, Dominic,” I says to him on the phone.  “You’s a good man, and you is marrying a good woman.”

“Thanks, uncle Manny.”  There is a pause on the phone, and then the Kid says, “Do you think I should call and tell uncle Tony about this, or should I let him hear it from you or my mother?”

“I’ll pass the word along to him,” I says.  “No need to go outta your way to call Tony.  Just have a good time, you and Gina and little Ashley.  Congrats again, Dom.  You deserve it.”

“Thanks, uncle Manny,” the Kid says.  There was another pause, and he says, “I love you, uncle Manny.”

“I love you too, kid,” I says, and hung up before he could hear me crying.


There’s a saying about waiting for the other shoe to drop, and that’s what the Kid wrote the very next day in his journal—that things was going so good for him he was just waiting for the other shoe to drop.  And it did drop, right on cue wit the Kid’s expectations.  World Peace Charter School’s perfect math and science scores wasn’t that shoe, cause the Kid already knew about this on Friday, when the State exam results was published in the papers; when the Kid got a curious email from Gerald Coonan that afternoon, C.E.O. and national sales manager for 21st Century Data, congratulating Dom on World Peace’s success and asking him to say hi to his uncle Tony for him, Dom connected the dots.  And the shoe wasn’t the fact that his uncle Tony got five more charters approved by the School Board, cause the Kid had already read about that in the papers Friday, too; deep down, the Kid knew that this was inevitable, and had already accepted it in his mind.

The other shoe that the Kid wrote about in his journal was the small article that was published in the Sunday edition a the Philadelphia Post, the article about his finances and past credit problems.  The article seemed to come outta nowhere, outta left field, and was headlined . . . wait a second, I got it right here . . . it was headlined, Charter C.E.O. has Rocky Financial Past.  It was a small article, buried inside the paper’s education section, and all it talked about was how the Kid had declared chapter 13 bankruptcy in 1998, that was basically it.  The Kid wasn’t sure why this was coming out now, but he had a good idear, and so did I: it was prob’ly Barry Al Akbar’s doing.  Al Akbar was digging around Dom’s past, and wit his F.B.I. connections, this wouldn’t a been that hard.  Al Akbar also had a coupla private investigators in his circle, and they coulda been behind it, too.

Anyways, the Kid’s past bad credit was leaked to the Philadelphia Post, and the result was this small article.  Not many people saw it or paid attention to it, not even Gina, who subscribed to the Post and usually read it pretty, um, thoroughly.  Course, the Kid didn’t wait for Gina to see it before he approached her about it, cause he wrote in his journal that he wanted to nip the problem right in the bud.  When he saw the article in the newspaper he went right over to Gina in the kitchen and showed her, told her to read it for herself.  She did, but she didn’t think anything about it, cause she already knew these things about Dom, that he’d had a past gambling addiction, and that he’d had to declare personal bankruptcy to get outta the hole.  Plus, Gina was still buzzing from the high a getting engaged—still staring at her big sparkly diamond ring and taking pictures of it wit her cellphone and putting them up on Facebook—so some small article about Dom’s past finances didn’t faze her; it wasn’t the first time the Kid had an article about him in the papers, anyways.

Now, that was just the first article in the newspaper, see, the first “other” shoe to drop.  There was a few more “other” shoes to come, and the Kid just hadda sit there and wait for them.  On Tuesday, two days later, another article was published in the Post, this one a little bigger and piggybacking off a the first one.  This one was titled . . . hold on a minute . . . this one was titled, World Peace C.E.O. has History of Gambling, and actually had whatdoyacallit—documentation from the Kid’s credit card statements that showed that he spent thousands a dollars on several Internet gambling websites in the spring of 1998, and cash advanced large sums a money in the Taj Mahal in October of 2011.  The article also mentioned that the Kid regularly attended an addictions group in the basement of St. Rita’s church in South Philadelphia, which was a really rotten thing to put in the paper, cause those groups was supposed to be anonymous and whatnot.  The Kid showed Gina this article right away, too, and she was a little more upset wit this one, but not much more, cause like I says before, she already knew all this stuff about the Kid.

The third article, the one that came out the day after that, on Wednesday, that was the one where Gina started to get a little nervous and concerned, at least that’s what the Kid wrote in his journal.  The third article said, All in the Family: Uncle of World Peace C.E.O. is Organized Crime Boss, and I don’t need to look at this article to tell you its headline, cause it’s one none of us will forget.  This article basically ripped the Kid a new asshole, as they say, cause it . . . what’s the word . . . insinuated that World Peace Charter may have had ties to Tony Genitaglia—AKA: Uncle Tony—the big time east coast mobster.  It’s kinda crazy that nobody made that connection before, that Tony was the Kid’s uncle, but stranger things have happened, ya know.  Plus, Tony was always real, um, inconspicuous, and never had his name on any a the papers or nothing, never showed his face around the school or School District building or any place the Kid was, for that matter; and the Kid’s last name was Rossetti, not Genitaglia, after all.

Anyways, this third article was real frigged up, and went right for the Kid and Tony’s jugular.  It didn’t have no real hard proof that the Kid and Tony was linked, that World Peace was a front for the mob, but like I says, it suggested it.  See, the article not only mentioned Tony, but it mentioned me, too.  It didn’t mention me directly, but it did mention Roger Bradshaw, the principal a World Peace, and how he was suspect.  A quick background check a Roger Bradshaw came up empty—there was no information whatsoever on the guy, good or bad.  Did he have a PA principal’s certificate?  God only knew; it wouldn’t be the first time a principal of a city school didn’t have no principal certification.  The article also mentioned how U.S. Rep. Barry Al Akbar, Sr., was calling for a full audit a World Peace Charter School’s budget and finances, and how C.E.O. Dominic Rossetti owed it to the city and state taxpayers to fully cooperate wit any investigation, to be as, um, transparent as possible.

This article, well, this one Gina couldn’t ignore.  The Kid didn’t have to show her this one cause she’d seen it herself, and also received a call from her father, who wanted to know if the Dominic Rossetti in the article was the same Dominic Rossetti she just got engaged to over the weekend. Gina told her father it was, the Kid wrote in his journal, but that she’d have to talk to Dom about all of it before she jumped to any conclusions.  She knew Dom’s mother—had met her a half dozen times and liked her right away—and knew Dom had two uncles, Manny, who she’d heard stories about and met a coupla times briefly, and Tony, who she actually never met but got the feeling was some kinda criminal, especially the way Dom described him at the Alzheimer’s home.  Anyways, Dom wrote that Gina, who had off that day, called him right up on his cellphone that morning while he was in a staff meeting at Eisenhower, and asked him if he’d seen the article in the newspaper.  The Kid excused hisself and took the call, went out into the hallway where he could have some privacy.  Gina calmly asked the Kid if any of it was true, if his uncle Tony was a mob boss.  The Kid said yes, yes he was, he was a mob boss, and explained that he never really talked about Tony cause he was embarrassed a him and wanted nothing to do wit him, which I guess you could say really wasn’t a lie.

“Is that why you never told me much about him?” Gina says.

“Yeah, pretty much.  He’s in the mob.  He’s a made man.”

“Oh my God,” Gina says, and there was a pause on the phone, according to the Kid’s journal.

“Yeah, it’s a long story,” the Kid says.  “Do you know who Rep. Barry Al Akbar is?”

“Yeah, I heard of him.  Why?”

“Well, I think he’s behind this,” the Kid says, and quickly explained how World Peace Charter moved in on Al Akbar’s turf, and how Dom went wit another contractor for the security cameras, and how all kinds a shady stuff went on in the word a politics and education, and how at the moment, Dom unfortunately found hisself right smack in the middle of all of it—none a which was lies.

“Look, Gina,” the Kid says, “can I call you back?  I’m in the middle of this meeting here . . .”

“Sure, okay.  I can’t believe that people would think you have connections with the mafia, though.  How ridiculous.”

When the Kid got home, the issue was pretty much dropped, to the Kid’s surprise.  He wrote he wasn’t sure if Gina was no longer concerned wit the newspaper article—if she trusted him so much she just, um, assumed that nothing illegal was going on—or if she just didn’t wanna know the truth.  Either way, the Kid said that when he got home from school . . . he was now staying at Gina’s house five days a week . . . the issue was dead, and he didn’t have the energy to bring it up again; his plan was to tell Gina after he confronted his uncle Tony, and reasoned that the less Gina and Ashley knew, the safer they was—not only from Tony, but also from the F.B.I. and the scumbag media.

Course, the scumbag media wasn’t done, not even close.  They was on a mission now to get Tony and the Kid, and they was digging, digging, digging, like maggots on a piece a rotten meat.  This is when the Kid first started getting really, howdoyasayit, paranoid, and started writing in his journal that people was following him, that there was bugs in his house and that his phones mighta been tapped.  And maybe they were, cause it was around that time that Al Akbar’s people was on the Kid like a gay fraternity on a virgin pledge, running through his records, tailing him on the street, even going through the garbage in the dumpster behind his condo; Al Akbar never came out and admitted this, of course, but that was the word on the street.  But the press . . . sheesh, they was following him big time, always popping up outta nowhere wit their cameras and microphones, asking if he was working for Tony Genitaglia, if World Peace Charter School was in bed wit the mob.  Most a the time the Kid just shook his head and said no comment, and kept going about his business.

Then, well, then there was that one time I already told you’s about, when the press caught Tony and the Kid together at Dom’s place during the Christening a little Sherri during that first Sunday in April.  Gina and Ashley wasn’t there . . . they was spending the day at Gina’s parents’ . . . but I was there, and I saw the whole thing.  And like I says before, right in the middle a the Christening, this protest rally started in the street outside a Dom’s house, prob’ly organized by Al Akbar’s guys.  A few dozen people was marching in a circle, holding signs, and shouting that World Peace Charter was a front for the mob, and that the city’s children was victims a Dom’s greedy gambling habit, and all kinda other accusations about how World Peace wasn’t fair, and how it, um, perpetuated segregation, and how Dom made parents wait outside in the freezing cold in order to be offered an interview for admission.  They was shouting:

Hey-hey, ho-ho!  Dom Rossetti has gotta go! 

Hey-hey, ho-ho!  He works for Uncle Tony, don’t ya know!

And they was shouting this real loud, pissing off the neighbors on a Sunday afternoon, and worst of all, pissing off Tony.  So, like I says before, Tony flips his lid and storms outside and tells all these assholes to get the frig outta there, that they needed to get a job and do something wit their lives instead a always trying to tear somebody else down.  That’s when the photographer snapped that picture a Tony all red in the face, fist in the air, screaming at the protesters . . . Dom standing in the doorway in the background in his dinner suit, watching the whole thing.  This picture ended up on page 2 of the Philadelphia Post the next morning, wit the headline, Trouble on the Home Front: Education Advocates Protest Uncle and Nephew.  There was no new facts in the article, which was now filled wit all these worthless quotes from the moron protesters on the street, but it did repeat the information about the Kid’s bankruptcy, and his gambling addiction, and the scandal behind Roger Bradshaw’s missing background, and the fact that Tony Genitaglia was Dom Rossetti’s uncle.  It also reran the quote from jack-wad Al Akbar, and how he was calling for an investigation into World Peace Charter’s finances.

On Monday morning, when Dom got the paper outta Gina’s front door, he took it right to Gina who was in the bathroom doing her hair.

“Let me guess,” she says, “you’re in the newspaper again?”

“Yep,” the Kid says.

“What are they saying this time?”

“That I’m a piece of shit gambler who’s stealing money from the children of Philadelphia.”

“Is it this Al Akbar person again?”

“I think so, yeah.”

“You oughta sue him, Dom, you know that.  I’m no lawyer, but isn’t there something called defamation of character, or libel something like that?”

“Something like that.”

“Should we get you a lawyer?  My dad’s good with stuff like that.  I think we should call an attorney.  Seriously.”

“Okay,” the Kid says, “but not just yet.  Sometimes this stuff blows over.  I think it’s just politics, like I said.  Let’s just see how it goes.”

“Are you sure?  You’ve worked so hard your whole life building your career, helping all the kids in Philadelphia.  It would be a shame to have it all go down the toilet because some jealous politician was out to get you.”

“I agree,” the Kid says.  “It would be a shame.  But let me just try and figure this thing out on my own, okay?  Give me until the end of the week, and if there’s still an issue, if the guy doesn’t back off, we’ll talk to your dad about getting a lawyer.  Sound good?”

“What if you’re career is ruined by then?  What if you end up in jail?”

“That’s not going to happen, I promise.  I have a plan, actually.  I know exactly what I need to do to take care of all of this.”

“I’m going to call my dad, Dom.  I’m worried.”

“Gina, please,” the Kid says.  “Stop, okay?  Just stop.  You have to trust me on this, I know what I’m doing.  Do you love me, Gina?  Do you love me?”

“Of course I love you, Dominic.  I’m going to marry you.”

“Okay, and I love you too.  More than anything in the world.  That’s why you have to trust me.  I’m going to go see somebody this week, and I think they’ll be able to help.  I think it will put an end to all of this.”

“Who are you going to go see?  A lawyer?”

“No.  My Uncle Tony.”

What?  You’re kidding.  I thought he was in the mob?”

“He is.  But I have to talk to him, straighten something out.”

“Dominic, I don’t think that’s—”

“Trust me Gina, everything will be fine.”

“What are you going to say to him?”

“I’m going to tell him that he needs to come forward and talk to the newspapers, tell them the truth about everything.  Tell them that I never took a penny, that I have nothing to do with any corruption, that me and him are not partners and never were.  I’m going to tell him that he needs to do the same with Barry Al Akbar, so everyone will get off my back.  I don’t need to be in the middle of their battles.”

“I didn’t know you were in the middle of them, Dom.  I didn’t want to ask before, but is there something you’re not telling me?  We’re getting married now, and I have a right to know.”

“I told you Gina,” the Kid says, “I opened World Peace Charter School, and that put me in the middle of everything.  I stepped on Al Akbar’s toes, and I guess some other people of his, and now he wants blood.  Plain and simple.  It’s a turf thing, but I think I can settle this.  You just need to trust me.”

“I don’t know, Dom.  I’m worried.”

“Do you trust me, Gina?  Do you?”

“Well . . .”

“Do you?  Yes or no?”

“Yes, I trust you.”

“Good.  Just give me until the end of the week to deal with this, and if there’s still a problem, we can get a lawyer.  Deal?”

“Well . . .”


“Okay,” Gina says.  “Deal.  But if I’m still reading this stuff in the papers next week, we’re calling my dad.”

“Okay, it’s a deal,” the Kid says.  “Shake on it, then.  To make it official.”

“Fine.  Let’s shake on it.”

And they did.  And it was.

Part 23

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Filed under Uncle Tony's Charter School

Uncle Tony’s Charter School: Part 21

Illustration by Sean Wang

a satire by Christopher Paslay

When beloved high school principal Dominic Rossetti is forced to open a charter school so his uncle Tony, an organized crime boss, can embezzle the money to fund a strip club, Dom is thrown into a humorous yet tragic situation: he is compelled to run his uncle’s bogus charter school while trying to educate Philadelphia’s children.

Part 21 of 25

There was a buncha people lined-up outside World Peace Charter School, at least 40 or 50 a them, and there was more showing up all the time.  The Kid had no idear about any a this, until the Philadelphia Post called him up and asked him if he had any comment about it.  No, he said, he didn’t have no comment.  It prob’ly had something to do wit student admission interviews for the fall, the Kid figured, which opened for World Peace Monday, March 4th.  Course, it was only Friday, March, 1st, and the last thing the Kid was thinking about was World Peace next school year.  There was gonna be no World Peace next school year, cause the School Board was gonna shut them down, Dom wrote in his journal.  He was counting on it. The math and science scores would be horrendous, and there would be pressure to revoke the school’s charter.  Plus, U.S. Rep. Barry Al Akbar, Sr., was prob’ly in the background bad mouthing the place, using all his connections to replace the Kid’s school wit Achievement Kings Charters, Inc., which ran a better show and had much more experience.

Next school year for World Peace Charter wasn’t even on the Kid’s radar, he wrote, not for a second; he was spending most a his time thinking about buying a ring for Gina, and about helping Tamarra get into Cheltenham Academy, among other things.  It was true that the student admissions interviews did begin on Monday, March 4th, at 8:00 a.m., though.  This date was set a long time ago, when the Kid hadda submit his charter application to the School Board, showing his school plan for the next three years.  The Kid wrote in his, um, admissions policy that starting in 2013, students would have to come down to the school to interview wit the school faculty staff, in addition to completing the application; this policy was written on the World Peace website and stated that only the first 200 students would be offered an interview.  The Kid wrote in his journal that he figured this would cut down on people applying, but besides that, he said he didn’t even think that there would be no World Peace Charter by then, anyways; he never seriously thought the charter would get approved from the start.

Course, it did get approved, and all this craziness . . . what’s the word . . . ensued.  Now he was stuck wit dealing wit it.  And by 3:00 p.m. Friday afternoon, when the bell rang at Eisenhower High School to end the day, there was over 100 people at World Peace.  The Kid got another call about it, this time from Action News.  Did he have a comment concerning the long lines a people camped outside World Peace Charter School in the 25 degree weather, saving a spot for their sons and daughters so they could be the first ones interviewed on Monday morning?  Well, the Kid said, not at this time, no.  But the Kid knew now that he couldn’t keep hiding from all this, that he’d have to go down there hisself and face up to it, which he eventually did.  He went down right when it was getting dark and saw the scene for hisself, and he couldn’t friggin believe his eyes.  There was television news vans setting up their equipment—wit their satellite dish things up in the air—and there was big spotlights on reporters who was standing in front a World Peace wit their microphones talking into the cameras.  People was being interviewed, too, the parents who was standing in the long lines.  Dom wrote in his journal that he just sat in his car across the street and kinda watched it all, watched and listened.

This one lady, who had on this big wool hat and was wrapped in a green Philadelphia Eagles comforter, says to the reporter, “Well, I’ve been in line for eight hours now, since eight this morning.  But it’s worth it, if it means we can get our son Robert into World Peace, it’s worth it.”

And the reporter says something like, “Sounds like you mean business.”

“I do,” she says.  “I got my hat on, and my blanket here, and this thermos a coffee.  I took off from work today, but my husband Rick, he’s on his way down here, and he’s gonna take over for me.”

“He’s going to save your son’s spot?” the reporter says.

“He’s gonna save our spot.  We only have . . . lets’ see . . . about 62 hours until the doors open for the interviews, and we can make it.  Believe me, we can make it.”

Dom wrote that he was shocked, completely shocked; he had no idear what he should do.  Course, he made up his mind real quick when a parent spotted his candy apple red Porsche 911 Turbo S and started pointing and saying Hey, hey, is that Dom Rossetti?  Across the street!  The C.E.O.!  That’s his car!  None a the parents went over, though, cause they didn’t wanna lose their spots in the line.  A coupla news reporters started to go over wit their cameras and microphones.  The Kid saw this and started up his car and without turning on his lights, pulled outta there and sped away.  He wasn’t sure if this was caught on camera, but the whole thing did make both the five o’ clock and six o’ clock news that night.  The Kid was supposed to go to Gina’s for dinner—he went there every night—but he called and cancelled . . . I have a ton of work to do, sorry, I’ll see you and Ashley in the morning . . . and decided to go home to his condo in Center City to clear his head and figure things out.

He was sitting on his leather sofa watching the news, he wrote, holding his head in his hands and hoping not to see his Porsche on TV, when his cellphone rang.  It was Tony, my brother, and he was all excited about seeing World Peace Charter on the news.

“Hey, Dominic!” Tony says to the Kid.  “You watching this on the television?”

“Hi Uncle Tony,” Dom says.  “Yeah, I’m watching the news.”

“I’m so proud of ya,” Tony says.  “You’s doing such a good job wit that school.  Look, just look at all those people in that line wanting to get into our school.  It’s a beautiful thing, kid.  You’s doing real good.”

The Kid wrote in his journal that he didn’t honestly know whether his uncle Tony knew that there wasn’t no school, that it was all just a hoax.  He thought Tony knew it was fake, but now he wasn’t so sure.

“There is no school, uncle Tony,” the Kid says.

“Yeah, forgetaboutit.  Don’t try to be modest, kid.  You’re a good man, and you’s doing good for the city and all the children, even the coloreds.  And you care about the famb’ly, too, which you know is the most important thing.  If I was there wit you I’d give you a big hug and kiss, Dominic.”

“Yeah,” the Kid says, “thanks.  But I gotta go, uncle Tony.  Sorry, but I have a lot of work to do and—”

“Yeah, forgetaboutit,” Tony says.  “Have some manners, kid.  I’m calling you on the phone to thank you . . . your uncle Tony, who loves you . . . is calling you up on the phone to thank you, and you’s gonna hang up on him?”

“No, but—”

“But nothing.  Now listen, cause I have some good news I wanna tell ya.  I was thinking, since there’s all these parents outside our charter school wanting to get their kids in, we should open up some more schools, just to make room for all the others kids who can’t get into World Peace.  We could open up maybe five or ten more schools, and you could run them, since you’s doing such a good job wit this one now.”

“Uncle Tony, I—”

“Let me finish, Dominic.  Stop interrupting me for Christ’s sake.  Now, I know you think I’m some kinda moron, cause I never finished high school, but I actually got all the papers and applications together for our new charter schools, and I’m already starting to fill them out.  See, I remember how you did it last time, and I’m just gonna do it like that again.  I got this guy, this retired school superintendent friend a mine—he owes me from way back—and he’s actually helping me wit some a this stuff, gonna put his name on the application.  He might want a piece of it, he might wanna be the C.E.O. or maybe C.F.O. of one a these schools so he could pull in some extra cash for this shore house project he’s working on, but I ain’t got no problem wit this, do you?”

“I don’t know, uncle Tony.  I’m really stressed out right now.”

“Relax, kid.  I know you’s got a lot a stuff going on and whatnot.  That’s why you don’t have to worry about doing any a the paperwork or nothing.  I’ll take care of it, me and my retired superintendent friend.  He’ll do all the applications, go to all the meetings wit the School Board, all of that.  You just rest up and get ready to run the schools when they get approved.  We missed the deadline for next school year, so the charters won’t open until I think they said the fall of 2014.”

The Kid’s arm started getting numb, and the room started spinning, and he wrote in his journal that it was all over now, he’d reached the end a his rope.  He couldn’t take it no more, none of it.  He was gonna tell Tony it was over, right there, right then, and he didn’t care what happened, he didn’t care if Tony screamed and carried on, if he threatened to whack Dom and stick him in the trunk of a car or burry him in the weeds somewhere.  It was over, it was the end.

“Uncle Tony—” he started saying, but stopped, cause there was another call coming through on Dom’s cellphone, a call from Willard Fairweather, the President of the Philadelphia Unified School Board.  Dom looked at the caller ID and without thinking, told Tony he’d call him back, he hadda take this real important call which he had no idear how he was gonna handle cause the entire world was just falling down all around him.

“Kid—” Tony says, but Dom hangs up, and takes the other call.

“Hello?” the Kid says.

“Is Dominic Rossetti there?”

“Yes, this is Dominic.  Can I help you?”

“Hi, Dominic.  Willard Fairweather.  We have to talk, right now.  We have a real problem here.  Have you seen what’s going on down at World Peace?  Have you watched the news? Did Roger Bradshaw contact you yet?”

“Um, well . . .”

“Did you know there are parents lining up in the cold down there, saving places for their kids for Monday’s interviews?  Are you aware of this?”

“Well, I’ve been swamped with work at Eisenhower . . .”

“We can’t have this, Dom.  It’s not safe.  People are going to freeze to death.  Plus, it’s not fair and equitable.  I’ve been talking with Superintendent Crothers, as well as the rest of the School Board, and we feel that maybe we should call this off, reschedule the interviews for another date.  People are starting to complain, Dom.  It’s fine that you are limiting the interviews to 200 students, but you can’t do it on a first come, first served basis.”

“Okay,” the Kid says, as if he gave a frig about any of it anyways; there wasn’t even no goddamned school.

“It’s not fair, Dom, it just isn’t.  These parents that are lining up out there tonight, they are mostly . . . how shall I put this . . . they are mostly parents of the children who have the resources to do this, I guess you could say.  They can afford to wait out in the cold, and have family members who can save a place for them in line.  There are a lot of students whose parents work two jobs, who can’t get out there in the cold to save a spot, understand?”

“Yeah,” Dom says.

“Some parents might have medical conditions, too, might have asthma or some other health issue that might keep them from being able to go out there in the cold and get in line for their son or daughter.  This lining up in 20 degree weather is insane, Dom, and it’s not fair and equitable.  Plus, it’s dangerous.  Do you want a lawsuit from this?  I don’t.  The city and state don’t, either.  We have to call this off.  Seriously.”

“Okay, what do we do, then?”

“We’ll hold a lottery,” Fairweather says.  “We’ll go down there tonight, me and you and maybe one other School Board member, and we’ll explain about the safety and equity issues, and we’ll simply tell these parents lined up outside the school that they can go home, that sometime in the near future, they will be contacted and given the chance to put their child’s name in a lottery, and the first two hundred names drawn will be given the opportunity to interview for admittance into World Peace, to have their names entered into the second lottery.”

“A lottery to get into a lottery?” Dom says.

“Yes, I guess so, but it’s the only way to make it fair for everyone.  Do you have a better idea?”

“No,” the Kid says, “I don’t.”

“It’s settled then,” Fairweather says, and in the end it was, thank Christ.


Now, the next day after the phone call wit Tony and Willard Fairweather and the whatdoyacallit, the fiasco down at World Peace, the Kid was on the verge a having a mental breakdown, the kinda thing he had years ago in his apartment when he got in real deep wit the Internet gambling and me and the Gorilla hadda come to his apartment and threaten to bang down his door to save him.  He wrote in his journal that he knew he hadda confront his uncle Tony, he knew he hadda strap-on a set a balls and face my selfish prick-of-a-brother and tell him it was over, the charter school racket was finished, that at the end a the school year the Kid was gonna step down as C.E.O. of World Peace, and get on wit the real things in his life.  Now, there was still a good chance that the charter would get, um, revoked once the math and science scores came out, and this would be the easy way out; it would also make it nearly impossible for Tony to open up any more charters.  But the Kid didn’t wanna count on this, cause he knew deep down that politics was thicker than both blood and water—and test scores, too—and that God only knew what was gonna happen when the results a the state exams came out later that month.  And if the School Board didn’t revoke World Peace’s charter, what was the Kid gonna do?  Well, he was gonna do what he shoulda done from the beginning: tell Tony that he could take his charter school scam and stick it up his ass, that he wanted no parts of it, and if Tony tried to extort him again like before, the Kid would go public, maybe even go to you’s guys, the F.B.I.  The only question was, the Kid wrote, when did he do it?  Before or after he proposed to Gina?

Well, the Kid wrote that that was an easy answer—he’d propose to Gina first, he had to.  See, if anything happened to the Kid once he told Tony he was out, at least Gina and Ashley would know that he truly loved them, that he’d asked them to spend the rest a his life wit them.  And the Kid would know, too, that he’d done what he’d waited a lifetime to do to the woman he’d waited a lifetime for, and this would make everything okay.  If Tony killed him, at least he’d have the satisfaction of knowing he was engaged to Gina, and that he’d done the right thing; in a way, the Kid almost hoped for this to happen, that Tony would kill him so he’d never have to tell Gina the truth, that World Peace was all a big lie, that for the last year and a half, him and Tony was making a fool of everybody, Gina and little Ashley included.

The Kid wrote all of that in his journal, my hand on a stack a Bibles.  He wrote, I love Gina and Ashley, and I don’t care if Tony kills me.  He wrote it and underlined it three times.  And the crazy thing was, after that, the Kid also wrote that by putting this down in words, by coming to terms wit his fear and his true feelings, he felt better, he felt the anxiety and panic and numbness and dizziness start to fade away, and courage and strength and hope come in its place.  So it was settled, then; the Kid would propose to Gina, and shortly after, if the School Board didn’t vote to close World Peace down, go see Tony and tell him to go frig hisself.

First, though, the Kid needed to buy a ring.  Instead a going to some chain place in the mall like he did before, he went to a real store—Bibi’s Fine Jewelers in Central Jersey, owned by the father a Gina’s girlfriend, Janice—and this time picked out the right ring for the right woman.  He even bought a book, the Kid did, a book about how to understand diamonds and whatnot, about how to judge the whatdoyacallit, the four C’s—cut, color, clarity, and carat-size.  He learnt that cut was the proportions a the diamond . . . round, or heart, or oval, or pear . . . and that color was rated from D to Z, D being colorless and Z being light yellow.  He learnt about the clarity, which was rated from flawless to inclusions to imperfect, and of course he learnt about carat-size, which he kinda knew about already.

So he made an appointment to see Shericka, and when he got to Bibi’s, she was there waiting for him in her office.  They shook hands and the Kid explained that he knew Janice, and they talked about her for a bit, and then they started talking about Gina, and how Dom was gonna propose to her.  Shericka asked Dom what kinda diamond he was looking for, and Dom said he wanted a round diamond—a classic cut—and Shericka agreed that yes, this was the prettiest, and what she hoped to have; she told the Kid that her and her boyfriend, Kevin, was real close to getting engaged, too.  And the Kid also said he wanted something as clear and as colorless as possible, cause the sparkle, he said, is more important to him than just the size; a diamond can be big, he said, but if it was dull and cloudy, what was the point?

“I understand,” Shericka says.  “So about how much are you looking to spend?”

“Around seven thousand,” the Kid says; it woulda been more, he wrote, but his finances was shot from World Peace Charter.

“Wonderful.  And about how big do you wanna go?”

“Around a carat, give or take.  I want a good balance—a good size, but also a good sparkle.”


So Shericka leaves her office and goes into the vault and brings back three different stones in little white envelopes and takes them out on her desk and puts them on this black felt pad so the Kid can, um, inspect them real close.  She tells him the size and grade and price a each one, and he looks at them all, holding them in this silver tweezers, almost dropping it on the floor twice; his hands was shaking, he wrote, he was so nervous.  All the stones was about the same price—around $7,000, two was a little bigger and less clear, and the other was a little smaller but nearly colorless and flawless—it sparkled so hard, Dom wrote, that it almost burned out his eyeballs.  He even made a joke wit Shericka, told her that he needed sunglasses just to look at.

“It’s beautiful,” she says.  “Absolutely brilliant.  I think Gina will love it.”

“I think so, too.”

Shericka asks the Kid if he wants to look at anymore diamonds, or if he’s made his decision.

“Hmm, I think I’ll take this one.  Yeah, this feels about right.”

“Good choice,” Shericka says, smiling, and admits that if Kevin was to get this for her, she’d be quite the happy gal.  Course, the Kid wasn’t done, cause he still needed to pick out a ring for Gina; he ended up choosing an 18 karat white gold band in a Tiffany setting.  Now for a while, back in the 1980s, I was doing some business down there in Filthy-delphia’s jeweler’s row, doing some odds and ends for a diamond dealer Jerry D’Alessandro knew, so I knew all about diamonds and the fours C’s and whatnot.  And let me say this, the Kid got a good deal for that engagement ring, a friggin good deal indeed.  Actually, for some reason, I remember the GIA report by heart, cause the Kid showed it to me right before he proposed to Gina: the diamond was 0.95 carats, a G color grade, and a VS2 clarity; it was friggin beautiful.  Funny how ya just remember that kinda stuff, huh?

The final price on the ring, the whole kit and caboodle, came to I think $7,500 and some change, I think that’s what the Kid said.  As Shericka wrote it all up, she made small talk.

“So, where are you gonna pop the question?’ she says.  “Do you have a spot picked out yet?”

“Not yet,” the Kid says, but this was a lie, see.  He didn’t wanna tell, cause he didn’t wanna jinx it, like before.  He knew where he was gonna propose to Gina, knew the time and the place—Saturday, March 23rd, in Princeton, New Jersey.  As a matter a fact, even as Shericka was filling out the paperwork, it was all set up and planned out; he wrote it all out in detail before hand in his journal.  The Kid was gonna drive Gina and Ashley up to Princeton for a photo shoot he had arranged—in Gina’s car, cause there wasn’t enough room for Ashley in his Porsche.  The photographer was gonna follow the three a them around Nassau St., getting pictures a them eating ice cream, laughing, and holding hands.  They might even go across the street onto Princeton University’s campus and take a stroll, get pictures by the sculptures near the art gallery there.  Eventually, though, the photographer would lead them over to the courtyard on Witherspoon, right next to the library, to a café table for solo pictures.  The photographer would first have the Kid pose wit a tea cup, and when he was done, have Gina pose wit a spoon.  On the spoon would be engraved the words, Will you marry me?, at which point the Kid would tell Gina to turn around, and he’d be on one knee holding the ring, asking if she’d marry him.  Course, he wouldn’t just ask her to marry him, he’d read the poem he wrote.  I actually got that here wit me, too, along wit the news articles and the copy a his journal.  Here, let me read it to you’s guys:

Will You Marry Me?


Sometimes, when I wake-up in the morning,

and the world floods my brain like a tidal wave,

and I struggle to keep from drowning,

the thought of you pulls me to the surface.


Many times I’ve lain on my mattress

convinced you were a dream.  After all,

I’ve waited a lifetime to find you.

I’ve walked a million miles on barren roads,

climbed the peaks of dusty mountains

searching for a woman to unlock me.


Then you appeared.  Like a golden sun

blazing on the horizon, you give me warmth.

You bring beauty to my being, endow me with

the power to love; when I kiss you

the earth quakes and flowers blossom.


So give me your hand, I’m on one knee,

asking the question, “Will you marry me?”

That’s what the Kid had planned, see.  That’s how he was gonna propose to Gina, sweetie pie Gina.

Shericka finishes the paperwork and hands the Kid a receipt.  He put down a $500 deposit on the ring, which would be sized and set and ready to be picked up in three days; when Dom came to get it, Shericka told him, he’d have to have a certified bank wit the balance.

“So you’re all set here,” Shericka says, and reaches out and shakes Dom’s hand.  “Thanks,” Dom says, smiles, and walks outta the store.

Part 22

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Filed under Uncle Tony's Charter School

Uncle Tony’s Charter School: Part 20

Illustration by Sean Wanga satire by Christopher Paslay

When beloved high school principal Dominic Rossetti is forced to open a charter school so his uncle Tony, an organized crime boss, can embezzle the money to fund a strip club, Dom is thrown into a humorous yet tragic situation: he is compelled to run his uncle’s bogus charter school while trying to educate Philadelphia’s children.

Part 20 of 25

There was no state test monitor at Eisenhower High School on exam day, but the Kid had his hands full anyways.  He wasn’t the test administrator—Mrs. Lankford, the Assistant Principal was—so Dom only hadda walk around every once in a while to see how things was going.  He spent most a his time in his office catching up on work, answering emails, reviewing his teachers’ lesson plans.  During lunch, to his surprise, Tamarra knocked on his door and asked if he had a minute to talk wit her, cause there was a problem she really needed to deal wit.  Dom explained that she was still welcome in his office for their daily therapy session, that she’d always be welcome there.  Tamarra came in and the first thing Dom noticed was that she had a bruise on her forehead and a cut on her lip.  Before he could ask her how this happened Tamarra just jumped into this frantic, um, dialogue about how she was sick a her life and the way things was going, how she still missed the track team and Coach Reed, and how she still wasn’t getting along wit her father, who now had a new girlfriend.

The Kid just sat at his desk and listened, really listened, like I says before . . . he underlined the word listened in his journal . . . and allowed Tamarra to just get it all out, to get it all off her chest, finally; the Kid could sense that Tamarra was holding stuff back the last few times they talked.  She just talked and talked, without taking a breath.  After she went over the drama wit her dad and how she was mad that she couldn’t run in track meets no more, she got to her point, why she was there in the first place.  There was something real important she wanted Dom to help her wit, but she was embarrassed to say what it was.  She said she didn’t wanna hurt Dom’s feelings.

“It’s okay,” Dom says.  “I promise I won’t be offended.”

So Tamarra tells Dom that she wants to transfer to another school, that there’s this private school called Cheltenham Preparatory Academy for Girls, and that they sent her a letter in the mail asking if she’d think about going there.  It was from the track coach, Tamarra says, and pulls out the letter to show Dom.  He looks at it, all impressed, and tells Tamarra that she doesn’t have to be worried about hurting his feelings, cause getting a letter from that school is a big deal.  Cheltenham Prep is a whatdoyacallit, a boarding school, which means you live there during the school year.  According to the Kid, the school was a really big deal, and won all these awards and blue ribbons and whatnot for graduating students and sending them to good colleges and all that.

Dom wrote in his journal that he had a good idear about why Tamarra had gotten a letter from the school.  First, the track coach was interested in getting Tamarra on the team, cause she was a talented runner and could prob’ly come right in and win the league championship in the mile, hands down.  Second, Tamarra was colored, and schools like Cheltenham Prep was all concerned wit, um, diversity, wit making sure that not just the white kids got a chance to have a good education.  Plus, the school didn’t want the people who donated money to them to think that they was racist, neither.  I guess you could say this made sense.  You didn’t wanna be called a racist—not in today’s world—and plus, girls like Tamarra did deserve to have a shot at going to a school like Cheltenham Prep.  From what Dom said at meetings she was a great kid and good in school, and she was also a hard worker, I seen it wit my own eyes; I’ll never forget that workout I saw her run in the halls that day, how she stayed up wit the boys, pushing so hard she broke down in tears.

“I wanna go there really bad, Mista Rossetti,” Tamarra says to the Kid.  “I wanna live there and go to school, and be back on the track team, too.  I’m sick of all this.  Not you, Mista Rossetti.  You’re a really good principal, and I ain’t just saying that.  You care about us, all a us.”

“Thank you, Tamarra,” the Kid says.  “That means a lot to hear that.”

“It’s true.  Eisenhower’s a pretty good school, and it’s getting better, but . . .”

“But you want to get out of your house and go to a new school, meet new people.”

“Yeah, I do.”

“And you want to start running track again.”

“Yeah, I wanna get back in shape.  I’m tired a just hanging out wit Crystal and all a them up at the Plat.  All they do is smoke weed and drink beer and act stupid.  Listen to music and try and act hard and all that . . . get in fights.  If you is a girl they try and grab on you.  Last night, these boys . . . they grabbed me, and . . .”

Tamarra starts tearing up, and Dom told her it was okay, that she could just tell him what happened, it would stay between him and her; when Dom wrote about this part in his journal, he underlined the part do not tell anyone.  Course, I’m telling you’s F.B.I. pricks on this tape, so I guess the girl’s privacy is all shot to hell.  Maybe you’s guys will just keep it a secret?  Yeah, forgetaboutit.  Anyways, according to Dom’s journal, Tamarra took a deep breath and wiped her eyes and told about how last night, up at the Plat, her and Crystal and Crystal’s boyfriend was leaning on the hood of Crystal’s boyfriend’s car smoking a blunt.  This other girl, Jasmine, was there, too.  They kept smoking and smoking, and Tamarra said she was tired and getting a headache, and that the music was too loud, and that she wanted to go home.  It used to be fun, she said, smoking and cracking up laughing, but now it was just stupid and she was really tired of it.  Jasmine didn’t wanna leave, and told her to just, um, chill out.  See, Jasmine was busy talking to these three boys, smoking the weed wit them, too, and was trying to get one a their phone numbers.  After a while, the boy gave it to her, and they started talking about going to this college party down in North Philly, near Temple.

Jasmine started dancing wit the boy who gave her his number, right there next to Crystal’s boyfriend’s car.  They started dancing real close, grinding on each other, and the two other boys looked at Tamarra and started dancing wit her, too.  Tamarra didn’t wanna dance, see, and told them that, told them to just leave her alone, cause she had a headache and was tired.  They kept dancing wit her, though.  Tamarra said she looked around and nobody was really paying attention to them.  The boys got on both sides a her, and made this circle around her wit their arms, and started to just kinda push her around, inside the circle like.  Tamarra told them to stop but they didn’t, they was all high and thought it was funny, and kept pushing her between them, banging into her wit their bodies.  Tamarra shouted then, but the music was loud and nobody heard.  The two boys was laughing and pushing her, and then they started grabbing her, she said, grabbing her chest and butt, ripping her shirt, and she screamed for them to stop but they didn’t, they just kept grabbing her.  Finally, she lost her balance and fell down on the ground, and they kicked gravel on her and cracked up laughing and walked away.

“Is that how you got the marks on your face?” Dom asks her.

“Yeah,” Tamarra says.

“Are you okay, besides your face?  Did they hurt you at all?”

“I’m okay,” Tamarra says.

“Did you tell the police?  Did you report this?”

“No.  Louis, Crystal’s boyfriend, he was friends wit them.  I didn’t wanna snitch on them.”

“Tamarra, you have to report this, honey.  Did you tell your dad?”

“No.  He was sleep when I got home.”

The Kid wrote that he was really upset by this, and offered to report the incident right then, call the school security into his office and have them contact the Philadelphia Police Department so Tamarra could give an official report.  This was serious business, Dom told her, but Tamarra wanted no parts of it, see.  She didn’t wanna snitch on Louis’s friends.

The Kid tried to reason wit her, but Tamarra got very . . . what’s the word . . . standoffish and upset, and so the Kid backed off.

“Please don’t make me report this, Mista Rossetti,” she says.  “Please.  It’s okay, they was just joking around, I’m fine.”

“Did they hurt you at all?  Besides the bump on your head, and the cut on your lip?”

“No, I’m fine,” Tamarra says.

“Well,” the Kid says, “we should really report this.  It didn’t happen here at school, but still . . .”

Tamarra said it didn’t matter, cause even if she reported it, nothing would happen, nothing would really change.  What she wanted, really, was to get into that new school, Cheltenham Prep, so she could leave all a that friggin ghetto junk behind and start over, wit new friends, a new neighborhood, and most importantly, be on the track team.  She could do it, she insisted.  She could make it, she really believed this.

Dom wrote in his journal that he just sat for a minute at his desk, sat and thought about things.  Tamarra wanted to go to Cheltenham Preparatory Academy for Girls, did she?  That was great, wonderful.  Dom was excited for her.  His gut reaction, though, was that it was a bit, um, ambitious, that it might not be very realistic.  That was his first reaction, see.  But the more he forced hisself to consider the idear, the more he looked at Tamarra and saw in her face that drive and determination—and thought about how hard she’d run those track practices and races—he wrote that he had this feeling that she might just be able to actually do it, to not only get accepted there, but to make it there; it was Tamarra’s sheer will and belief in herself that convinced him a this.

He wrote that he quickly tried to figure out how this might be possible to get her into Cheltenham Prep.  She did have a letter from the school, signed by the track coach, asking her if she’d be interested in transferring there, and that was a good start.  It wasn’t any guarantee, but it was something.  Tamarra would still need to take the admissions tests, and deal wit all the craziness a filling out the application—she’d need reference letters, and to complete a buncha essays, and to have copies of all her, ah, transcripts—but the Kid could help her wit this.  The biggest problem, though, was paying for the school.  The Kid said the tuition at Cheltenham Prep was outta friggin control, something like $25,000 a year, and that didn’t include the room and meals and all that.  That kinda cash would be tough to come up wit, especially for Tamarra; Cheltenham Prep didn’t give out any athletic scholarships, so Tamarra couldn’t get one a those.  Course, there was a buncha academic scholarships Tamarra might be able to get, and the Kid wrote he’d look into them ASAP.

“We have to get an application,” the Kid says to Tamarra.  “The application deadline is probably coming up soon.  Here, let me try and find their website.”  The Kid started typing on his computer.  “Ah, here it is, Cheltenham Preparatory Academy for Girls.”

“You think you can get me into that school, Mista Rossetti?”

“I’m gonna try.  Hmm, where is it . . . ah, admissions.  Right here.  Let me just print out this application packet . . .”

The Kid printed out the packet, got Tamarra started wit filling the stuff out.

“Here,” the Kid says, “start with the first page, and write as much as you know.  Skip the parts that you don’t know, I’ll help you with these.  I’m gonna make you an application file, put it right here in my desk, and we’ll work on this together, okay?  We’ll chip away at this, little by little.  Sound good?  Sound like a plan?”

“Okay,” Tamarra says, and stood up and walked over and gave the Kid a hug, a big hug, even though it was the Kid’s policy not to give hugs to students, cause he didn’t wanna get sued or nothing.  “Thank you soooo much, Mista Rossetti.”

“I’m just doing my job,” the Kid says, hugging her tight.  “I’m just doing my job.”


On Valentine’s Day, the Kid took Gina to this hip restaurant in Center City Philly called Bodhi Dharma, some kinda . . . fusion place, whatever the frig fusion means . . . and they had a real good time; yes, you’s guys guessed it—he wrote about the whole night in detail in his journal.  The Kid, see, he liked all kinda crazy foods, like Indian, and Thai, and Japanese, but Gina, well, according to what he wrote, she just liked normal stuff, like lasagna, and chicken fettuccine, and bruschetta, and broccoli rabe.  Now, to impress the girl, the Kid figured he’d show her how to eat the fancy foods, and that’s just what he did; apparently, the Kid learned all about fine dining from that other broad he was seeing, that married chick who dumped him right before he was about to propose to her.

Dom’s new favorite food was sushi, and that’s just what the two a them was eating at Bodhi Dharma.  Dom ordered the miso soup, and the vegetable tempura, and of course sushi, too—a buncha pieces a salmon, and tuna, and yellow tail, even some eel and squid—in honor a Dr. Rosen-Squid, the Kid said to Gina as a joke.  Course, Gina didn’t get it, and wanted to know who Dr. Rosen-Squid was.  The Kid told her—that she was an education professor from the Baumgartner College of Arts and Humanities, and that she’d come to visit World Peace Charter in December wit a buncha students and whatnot.

“Is that her real name, Dr. Rosen-Squid?”

“No, that’s just what we call her.”


“Cause she looks like a squid.  Her eyes are like a foot apart.”

Dominic,” Gina says, “that’s not nice.”

It wasn’t nice, but that’s how God made the broad, ya know?  Don’t get me wrong, I woulda thrown her one back in my younger single days, believe me.  Maybe did her from behind, so I wouldn’t have to look at her squid eyes; maybe I woulda just had her put a bag over her head or something like that.  The world wasn’t always a nice place, no sir.  Richard Applegarth, the douchebag state test monitor who the Gorilla threw in the trunk a his Cadillac, knew this better than anybody.  You shoulda seen his face when we finally went and got him.  He had a squid face, all white and jiggly looking.  It got even whiter when me and Petie drove him to the Ben Franklin Bridge, pulled over to the side and grabbed him by the back a the head and told him, You say one friggin word to anybody about anything, off this friggin bridge you is going!  One word about anything!  Got it?  Got it?  He got it, alright.

Anyways, the Kid was having a beautiful evening wit Gina, real romantic.  There was candles on the table, and the lights was dimmed down, and the waitress came over wit a basket fulla hot towels and asked if either a them wanted one, and they both said yes, and they giggled and put them on each other’s necks, and after a minute the towels got cold, wet and cold, and then the waitress came back over and put them back in the basket.  When the food came, the Kid showed Gina how to hold the chopsticks, and how to put the, um, wasabi in the soy sauce.  Gina liked the tuna and the salmon, she said, but not the eel, and especially not the squid, which she told the Kid was too squishy and tasted nasty.  But the other stuff, she liked it, and said eating it made her feel, whatdoyacallit, cultured.

The subject a Gina’s ex-husband came up, the Kid wrote in his journal.  Gina and the Kid kinda had this unwritten rule not to ask questions about their romantic past, but they was getting pretty serious—was now using the L-word constantly—and it was a natural part of getting to know somebody, I guess you could say, of airing out the dirty laundry and whatnot.  The Kid didn’t say in his journal exactly how the topic came up, it just did, so Gina says to the Kid, she says, “What do you wanna know about him?”

“What is his name again?”

“Andrew.  Andrew McClintock.  Pretty common name, actually.  There’s a buncha people named Andrew McClintock on Facebook.”

“And you were Gina McClintock?”

“Yeah, for about three years.  Three long years.”

“You didn’t hyphenate your name?”

“God no . . . I’m a traditional gal.  I couldn’t imagine being Regina Grasso-McClintock.  Yuck.  Just being Gina McClintock was enough.  Now, Gina Rossetti, that has a nice ring to it . . .”

“Yes, it does.”  The Kid leaned forward and French kissed the girl, in front a the whole restaurant like a friggin sap, putting on a real show, or so he wrote.  Then he says, “Why don’t you parents call him by name?”

“Cause they hate him.  They think he’s a bad influence on Ashley.”

“Is he?”

“Not really.  Not anymore.  I guess he was in the beginning, back when we were married, and Ashley was real little.”

“What happened when Ashley was little?”

So Gina tells him, lets out all the skeletons in her closet, as they say.  First, she tells how Andrew couldn’t keep his thing in his pants, that even when they was newlyweds, he was fooling around on her.  She didn’t know about it, not at first.  One day, though, when she was like six months pregnant wit little Ashley and was at her doctor getting her check up, she found out she had one a those STDs . . . the Clap.  She was having pain in her stomach, but not from the baby.  It was her lower stomach, the Kid wrote.  Plus, it was burning when she went to pee.  She told her doctor this, and he said it sounded like she may have had whatdoyacallit—Gonorrhea, and she said no friggin way, I’m married, I haven’t had sex wit another guy in years.  The doc tested her anyways, and wouldn’t ya know it, the test came back positive—she had the freakin Clap.

At first, Gina told the doc she didn’t understand how this had happened, and wondered if she coulda got it from sitting on a dirty toilet seat, but the doc said no, no way Jose, that never happened in real life, it was one a those urban legends.  If she hadn’t had sex wit a strange man, then there was only one real way she’d gotten Gonorrhea, and that was from her husband.  Which meant he musta been screwing around, unless he’d had it before they met, which was pretty much impossible, cause Gina woulda noticed.  Course, Gonorrhea was easily fixed, all you hadda do was get an injection and take a pill, but that wasn’t the point.  The point was, see, that Andrew had cheated on Gina, and even worse, put the baby at risk.  The Clap could really frig things up on a chick who’s pregnant, could cause them to have one a those, ah, miscarriages, and could make the baby come out wit eye infections and low birth weight and whatnot; that’s what the doc told Gina that day in his office.

Gina was furious, but also embarrassed.  She tried not to tell her parents but her father opened her doctor bill by mistake cause her and Andrew was living at their place till the baby was born, and he said, “Who has the Clap?” and Gina tried to lie but she was a horrible liar, and then the truth came out.  Her father flipped the frig out, and wanted to throw Andrew outta his house, but Gina cried, and Andrew said he was sorry and promised that something like that would never, ever, happen again, and so they all put it behind them as best they could.  And three months later, little Ashley was born, and everybody was happy for a while.  The Gonorrhea didn’t give her no eye infections or nothing, and no birth defects; course, Ashley was born wit the club feet, but the doctors said this didn’t have nothing to do wit Gina having the Clap.

Gina, Andrew, and Ashley got their own place, and things was good for a bit.  Ashley had her first birthday, then her second.  Her feet was a problem, and so she got an operation, but the doctors frigged this up—damaged a nerve in her left foot—and Gina’s father got a lawyer and sued, but the doctor settled outta court, and gave Gina and Andrew something like $50,000, which went into an account for a whatchamacallit, a college fund for little Ashley.  Or, it was supposed to go into a college fund for her.  Turns out, Andrew was taking the money out and spending it at strip clubs, cause he had some kinda sex addiction or something.  It was horrible, but true.  He’d go out at night and drop like one or two grand in one shot at a high class gentleman’s club, getting private dances and whatnot, and more.  When Gina finally found out, when all the money in the college fund was gone and Gina’s father got another lawyer for Gina’s divorce, Andrew came clean about everything, came clean and promised he’d get help, but it was too late for that, way too late.

“I mean, what kinda person steals money from a child?” Gina says, stirring the ice in her glass at the table.  “You know?  Takes money from a child’s education fund and blows it in some strip club?  Who does this?”

The Kid wrote in his journal that right then, right at the table, he had an anxiety attack, that all of a sudden he was dizzy and the room was spinning, and that he felt his right arm go numb.  He thought he was having a stroke, he wrote, and told Gina she might need to call 911.

“Oh my God,” Gina says, “are you serious?”

But then it went away, the Kid started breathing deep and it went away, the room settled and he could feel his arm again.

“I’m okay, I think,” he says.

“Are you sure.”  She had her cellphone out.  “I should call anyway, just in case.”

“No, really,” the Kid says.  “False alarm.  Just a panic attack.  It happens to me sometimes, when I get too hot.  Are you hot?  Is it too warm in here?”

“It’s a little warm,” Gina says.

“Here, let me just drink some water.”

The two just sat there for a while, not saying nothing.  Finally, Gina says, “I shouldn’t have told you any of this.  I’m sorry.  I guess I got carried away.  I didn’t mean to ruin the night.”

“No,” the Kid says, “you didn’t ruin anything.  Seriously.”

“Are you sure?  I’m probably scaring you, aren’t I?  You probably think I’m damaged goods now, don’t you?”

“No, Gina.  No way.”

“Do you still love me, even though I told you about my screwed up past?”

“Absolutely.  Gina, I love you more than anything.”

“You sure?”


“You still wanna be my Valentine?”

“My God, yes.  Yes, yes, yes.”

“Okay,” she said.  “I believe you.”

But the Kid knew Gina could sense something was wrong, cause she said that he looked scared, and white as a ghost.

Part 21

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