Uncle Tony’s Charter School: Part 6

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 6 of 25

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE AUDIO OF PART 6: 

The next day the Kid tried to put all this horrible mess behind him.  He dove head first back into his work at Eisenhower, working a 12 hour day and not letting hisself even think about Atlantic Shitty for one single second.  In his journal he said his arrest and his, um, relapse was the best thing that coulda happened to him.  He said he’d hit rock bottom and had a brush wit catastrophe and that this made him appreciate how lucky he was, how good his life really was; he said that in that jail cell he’d made a pact wit God that if he somehow kept his job, he’d never, ever, gamble or set foot in A.C. again.  Coming so close to getting canned from his job made his break-up wit that Chastity O’Connell twit seem not so bad anymore, took the sting outta it.  The Kid even went to a meeting that Monday night and told the story a his relapse and break-up to our group, leaving out the parts where he hocked his Porsche, went up to the room wit the prostitute and got locked up.  He kept the rest, though, telling everybody just how much it hurt to get lied to by some broad you is in love wit, how much of a piece a shit you feel like when you gotta eat a diamond engagement ring for dinner, washing it down wit an ice cold vodka tonic.

Gordon W., the Kid’s sponsor, was especially broken-up about the Kid’s slip, and after the meeting, the two went to the Starbucks at 10th and Washington and drank a buncha coffees and went back over the twelve steps, starting at step one, which is admitting that you’s got a problem and is powerless over your addiction; just like he always did, the Kid wrote all about it in his journal.  Dom admitted that he was powerless over gambling, and that the reason why he prob’ly screwed up was cause one—he was angry and lonely, and two—cause he was drunk and not thinking straight.  The Kid’s behavior a had a pattern, see, and Gordon showed the Kid how a broad breaking up wit him was a . . . what’s the word . . . a trigger for his gambling.  No more screwing around wit kooky broads, Gordon told Dom.  And no more drinking, neither.  The two are a recipe for disaster.

A coupla weeks went by and the Kid was starting to get back to his old self.  He was scarred, no freakin doubt, but it was a good scar, a scar that he could rub his fingers on when he needed a reminder that he was a gambling addict and basically born bearing the cross a having an addictive personality.  Course, the Kid knew deep down that it wasn’t really that simple, that he couldn’t just go to a coupla meetings and start over at step one wit Gordon W. and get away scot friggin free—not a chance; the Kid owed his uncle Tony, and there was no getting around that fact.  And not too long after the whole A.C. disaster, like right around Halloween, I think, Tony sent for the Kid so he could cash in on his favor.

I was sent to pick the Kid up and take him to Tony’s place out in a suburb of Filthy-delphia, a place I’m not gonna give you jerks the address to, not just yet; I might use it as collateral for the future.  Anyways, I bring the Kid to Tony’s mansion, drive through the remote controlled iron gate and all the way up the driveway, and park in the garage on the left . . . the one on the right had a speedboat in it . . . where the Gorilla is standing wit this big friggin machine gun like Chewbacca from that goofy space movie.  We get out and the Gorilla actually searches the Kid, pats him down real quick, just to make sure the pigs didn’t get to him first—put a wire on him—which they didn’t.  He takes us inside and up to Tony’s office where Tony’s sitting in this big cherry-red leather chair behind this huge desk smoking a cigar and laughing at something he’s watching on his big plasma TV that was the size a the entire wall, like ten friggin feet, I swear to friggin Christ.  Tony keeps laughing real loud and chewing on the lit cigar and pointing at the screen.  He was watching the Three Stooges episode where Curly is a boxer and goes bananas and starts punching everything whenever Larry plays “Pop Goes the Weasel” on the violin.  Friggin classic episode, by the way.

“Hey Tony,” I says.  “The kid’s here to see ya, just like you asked.”

Tony just keeps laughing at the screen and chewing his cigar.

I clear my throat.  “Tony, hey, I went and got the kid for ya.”

“Huh?” Tony says, and finally sees that we’re standing there waiting for him.  He clicks off the TV wit his remote.  He doesn’t even acknowledge me or the Gorilla but stands up and goes right over to the Kid and says, “Hey, Dominic, look at you!”  Tony hugs the Kid and kisses him hard on the cheek.  “Look at you, I haven’t seen you in so long.  You got those big blue eyes, just like your mother.”

“Hi, uncle Tony,” the Kid says.

“How’s your mother doing, anyways?  I never get to see you’s guys.”

“She’s fine,” the Kid says.  “Still playing bingo, and going to her art classes once a week at the community center.”

“Still not remarried, though, right?”

“Nope.  She still loves my dad, says a Rosary for him every morning.”

Tony spits a piece a tobacco off his tongue.  “Yeah, well, your father was never any good in my book.  God bless Theresa, but she shoulda known better than to get involved wit that little jerk.  See, you gotta have priorities in life, know what’s a matter of importance.  Now, your father, see, he didn’t know what was important.  It was an easy choice: your famb’ly, or your, ah, principles.  He deserved what he got.  I’m sorry for your loss and for my sister’s pain, but your father turned his back on the famb’ly.”

The Kid doesn’t say nothing.  He just keeps a poker face and stares out in space.

“You know why you’s here?” Tony asks the Kid.

“I think so,” the Kid says, “and I just want to thank you, uncle Tony.  I have a certified check for you, so I can pay you back.  Every cent, wit interest, in fact.  I took out some money from my 403B . . . took a penalty, actually . . . but the way I see it, you saved my job and basically my life so it wasn’t a big deal.  Here, let me give this to you . . .”

Tony waives his hand.  “Put that friggin check away, kid.  I don’t want your money.”

“But uncle Tony, seriously.  It’s not that big of a—”

Put it away!” Tony shouts, rage in his eyes, and I swear to friggin Christ, even the Gorilla jumped.

The Kid nods and stuffs the check in his pocket.

Tony smiles and his eyes clear and he is calm again.  “You’re father, see, he turned his back on the famb’ly.  He made a choice, a clear choice.  We all make choices in life, and we gotta stand by them, sometimes even live or die by them.  You’s gonna have to make a choice, too.  But you, you look smarter than your old man, who was a big disappointment to everybody.”

The Kid just stood and nodded and listened.  I could see it was tough for Dom to listen, cause he knew his mother loved his father and if his mother loved Dom Sr. than Dom Sr. musta been a good man, no doubt about it.  And as far as I could remember, Dom Sr. was a good man, just a bit too straight for his own good, a bit too ready to be a martyr.  He thought being good and believing in God and having principles was enough to protect and support his famb’ly, but course it wasn’t, never is.  Famb’ly, Tony’s idear a Famb’ly at least, came first, see.  That’s what Tony was saying to the Kid in his office.  Now that the famb’ly had done something for Dom, Dom hadda do something for the famb’ly—that’s just the way it worked.

“That’s why you’s gonna open a charter school,” Tony tells the Kid.  “So you can show me your appreciation.”

And that was it—end of conversation.

Famb’ly came first and there was no way around it.

_______

Tony gave the Kid instructions about the charter school only in bits and pieces.  Now me, see, I knew the whole racket from the beginning.  Just like the Kid was good at what he did, at being a principal and teacher and all that, Tony was good at what he did, and still is; talent must run in the famb’ly.  Tony Genitaglia, as I’m sure you’s guys know, is an organized crime boss in the Greater Philadelphia Area and beyond . . . how far I’m not gonna tell, cause I ain’t trying to give you pricks all my cards at once.  But Tony’s reach is far, and he’s connected and got guys in New York and Jersey and even down in Miami, but this is common knowledge.  He runs all kinda scams—robs people all over the goddamn place, but like I just says, I ain’t gonna get into specifics, not unless I have to.  Now, for the longest time, Tony was trying to open this strip club down in Baltimore called “Straight A’s” . . . obviously you’s guys have heard of it . . . but he was worried about where he was gonna get the start-up cash, and didn’t wanna screw-up any a his regular scams or risk taking a hit on his own bank account.  So for a long time he kept thinking and thinking about where he could get a pile a cash—about a million bucks—so he could take it and pump it into this titty bar in downtown Baltimore that would have the best looking broads around and would also be a steak house where you could get a nice dinner and drink a good beer and just relax after a hard day’s work.

You’s guys know what Straight A’s became; it was way bigger than even Tony imagined.  Before you jag-offs went and shut it down, it was doing insane business, attracting all these rich Wall Street types and even celebrities and professional athletes.  Charlie Sheen supposedly went there . . . I never seen him but someone said there was a story about it in the tabloids . . . and rumor had it so did Charles Barkley.  Course, there was Tony’s guys running the books, and on the third floor, in the VIP room, there was a whole buncha other stuff going on, but you pricks don’t need to know about that yet, neither.

To start the club up, though, to get it off the ground, Tony needed cash.  And for what seemed like eternity, Tony couldn’t get together enough liquid start-up money.  Til that one day when he was in Miami at the track talking to this real estate developer who just happened to mention that he was renting property to this charter school operator called Knowledge House, Inc., and how easy it was to steal boat-loads a dough as long as you knew the proper people and had the proper connections.  As a matter a fact, if I recall correctly, this guy even said he was running his own charter school . . . I forget the name of it . . . and making a killing cause the school was in a building he already owned, and by putting his nephew’s name on the lease, he was able to rent the property to hisself for something like $120,000 a year, plus make a ton off the city-funded tuition, and I ain’t exaggerating one bit.

This got Tony all interested about charter schools and whatnot, and was where he first got the idear to open one up.  Now, I already talked about how me and the Kid had an addictive personality.  Yeah, well, so did Tony; this too ran in the famb’ly.  When Tony came back from Miami . . . this was maybe in 2010, I guess . . . he was all obsessed wit this charter school idear, and wouldn’t shut the frig up about it.  He had me and the Gorilla surf the Internet for information and make phones calls to all these education people, and even join the Pennsylvania Organization of Charter Schools under a phony name.  Soon, after a coupla weeks, Tony had all the information he thought he needed and decided to start the application process to open a charter school.  Course, Tony never graduated high school and couldn’t write so good, and neither could me or the Gorilla; I dropped outta high school in 9th grade and so did Petie.  So Tony was stuck.  He had all these big idears and even knew the right people to get the charter approved, but couldn’t make the application—the mounds and mounds a paperwork—work.  And when I says to Tony, “Hey, Tony, just have somebody else do the application and all the stupid friggin paperwork,” he got all insulted and upset and offended, and says, “What?  You think I’m stupid or something?  Go frig yourself!” and that was the end a that.  Plus, Tony was all paranoid that somebody else was gonna steal his charter school idear, as if everybody and their friggin mother wasn’t running charter school rackets already.

So the charter school scam was put on hold for a while.  Til Tony hadda get the Kid outta jail, that is.  That’s when his beautiful master plan came back to life like that dead guy in the Bible—bang, back in action.  That’s when Tony had me bring the Kid to his mansion and explain to him that he was gonna open the charter school under his name—Dominic Rossetti, Jr., which was a million times better than Tony Genitaglia—and do all the paperwork and make all the phone calls and get the whole damned thing off the ground.  Me and the Gorilla was ordered to help, and we did, well, actually, I did; the Gorilla just busted a few heads every now and then.  And like I says, Tony just gave the Kid bits and pieces of information.  In the beginning, in the very beginning, the Kid actually thought that we was opening a real charter, a school wit desks and books and teachers—just like Eisenhower.  The Kid was actually secretly excited about this, or so he wrote in his journal.

That was in the beginning, though.  Before he realized his uncle Tony was gonna steal every red cent from the charter and pump it into the fancy titty bar in downtown Baltimore.

_______

The Kid began to realize the charter school was just a scam pretty early on, though.  This was cause the Kid was smart, and also cause my brother Tony, when it came to being, what’s the word . . . subtle, was a friggin nincompoop.  Course, Tony didn’t need to be subtle, cause he had people like me and the Gorilla and Jerry D’Alessandro throwing people around like midgets in one a those midget tossing bars.  As the Kid was preparing the official PA State charter school application, Tony kept having me call up Dom and bug him about money stuff, asking questions like When will we make the first million bucks?, and Can we get an advance on the money?, and Do we have to submit a budget?  Like I says before, I ain’t the sharpest knife in the shed—I never even graduated high school—but even someone like me who can’t write a lick knows that you need to submit a budget for something like this.  I mean, what did Tony think?  That you could just ask the city and state for a million bucks and not have to show where it was going?

The Kid caught on quick, and when he did, all the air went right outta his balloon.  I could tell he was upset by the way he talked to me on the phone, and also by the stuff he wrote in his journal.  The Kid was disappointed, plain as day, and wrote that he even considered going to Tony and telling him he didn’t wanna help him no more—it was taking too much a his time away from being the principal of Eisenhower—but every time he went to call me up and tell me he was bailing out, he thought a that time in Tony’s office and lost his nerve; the Kid also thought a his father and where his “principles” got him.  It was pretty clear the Kid couldn’t back outta his obligation wit Tony directly, no; he hadda find some way to escape through the back door and hamstring the operation before it even got started.  If it looked like the Kid was really trying to make the whole thing work, if it looked like Dom was putting his whole heart and soul into the thing and staying up late and burning the midnight oil, Tony would be satisfied whether the charter was approved or not . . . at least that’s what the Kid figured.

The question was, how could the Kid whatdoyacallit . . . sabotage the charter school before it got off the ground?  Well, the Kid had an idear.  He’d write the most outrageous charter school proposal he could think of without Tony figuring it out, and when the State Department of Education and the Philadelphia Unified School District read it, they’d laugh so hard they’d bust a gut—laugh the proposal right off the table and into the friggin trash can.  Course, the Kid would blame the School Board and say they was prejudice against Italians, shift the blame to them and get Tony all worked up and distracted at the same time.  That’s what the Kid wrote he was gonna do, and that’s just what he did.

Now, before I get into all the details about that, I gotta tell you’s guys a little bit about the charter school application process, which I actually learnt a lot about cause I was there helping the Kid wit the whole thing for months.  See, there is five things you gotta have on the application in order to get your charter proposal approved in PA: a school design wit goals and objectives; a needs assessment which shows that the school is needed in the neighborhood; a description a the funding and the ah, management team; a start-up operating budget and a facility for the school; and something called implementation and administration, which is all the day-to-day stuff like the admissions policy, recruiting plan, code a conduct, food service, safety, and a timetable for all this to take place.

Dom did all this perfect, right down to the nostril.  He did so good that he actually fooled me along wit Tony when he was writing that charter proposal, cause I honestly thought it was friggin brilliant until I read about his plan in his journal to throw a monkey wrench into the whole thing.  Matter a fact, I still think the proposal was brilliant, but what the frig do I know?  Anyways, I got a copy a the charter application right here wit the Kid’s journal, and I just wanna read some of it so you’s guys can decide for yourselves if you think it’s frigged up or not.  I’m gonna start wit the “mission statement” which the Kid actually read to me a buncha times, so I know all the words.  It goes like this: World Peace Charter High School’s mission is to prepare our students for a 21st century multicultural society through a rigorous curriculum rooted in social justice, tolerance for diversity, and high academic and behavioral standards.  Through a commitment to green energy and nonviolence, our school strives to bring world peace and end world hunger, reduce our carbon footprint and bring the world’s temperature down one degree Celsius each year we are in operation.

Now, I don’t know about you’s guys, but that mission statement sounds pretty good to me.  So does the educational program that the Kid wrote, which he also taught me how to read: World Peace Charter High School’s educational program is centered on a progressive, cutting edge multicultural academic program rooted in Egyptian Math and Israeli Science, a new, data-driven curriculum that increases rigor while promoting peace among feuding cultures, tribes and clans.

Genius, I tell ya.  All sophisticated and whatnot.  Like Word Peace Charter’s extra-curricular activities.  Here, let me read this to you’s guys:  Because World Peace Charter High School is 100 % green, WPCHS’s extra-curricular activities are as follows: 1.  The Wind Farm Awareness Club, which meets for one hour after school daily to create, promote, and celebrate awareness for wind energy and wind farms of all varieties among staff, students and members of the WPCHS community.  2.  The Solar Panel Awareness Team, which also meets for one hour after school daily to create, promote, and celebrate awareness for solar energy and solar panels of all varieties among staff, students and members of the WPCHS community.  3.  The Electric Car Awareness Association, which, like the Wind Farm Awareness Club and the Solar Panel Awareness Team, meets for one hour after school daily to create, promote, and celebrate awareness for electric cars and electric car batteries of all varieties among staff, students and members of the WPCHS community.

There is a whole buncha other stuff on this application, as you’s guys will see when you open this package; the proposal is like an inch thick.  Course, I don’t wanna bore you’s guys wit all this, um, rhetoric, so let me just tell about the budget stuff, and how all that worked.  Basically, Tony told the Kid that he wanted exactly one million dollars to “fund” the school, and the Kid answered by saying that it didn’t work like that, that the money for the school—which came from the city and state taxpayers and hadda be approved by the Philadelphia Unified School Board—was based on the number a kids enrolled in the school.

“I don’t give a friggin goddamn about that,” Tony says to the Kid, right in front a me.  “Figure it the frig out and make it work.  You owe me, kid.  You understand?  Don’t you never forget that.”

The Kid hadda figure it out, then, but it wasn’t hard; it was just numbers.  Now, I’m just estimating here, but during the 2011-12 school year, the time the Kid was applying for charter approval, the School District paid about $10,000 . . . give or take . . . for every student that went to a charter in their district.  Which meant that the Kid’s charter school would have to enroll at least 100 students to get the one million dollars Tony was asking for.  Course, every dollar the Kid hadda spend on stuff like teachers, books, computers, rent on a building, utilities, transportation, and all a that, the less cash would go to Tony’s real project—which was the Straight A’s titty and ass club in Baltimore, Maryland.

This would prove to be a difficult situation for the Kid, cause Tony wasn’t planning on parting wit one single penny a his strip club money, not one single cent.  Dom, though, found a way around this, if you can believe that.  He’d make World Peace a cyber charter, which meant that most a the learning would take place in cyber space in the comfort a the students’ own homes, which was a lot more cost effective to say the least.  Course, PA state test scores showed that kids in cyber charters didn’t learn a damn thing and finished dead last in math and reading in comparison to regular public schools, but that, of all things, wasn’t a problem for the Kid.  How did the Philadelphia Unified School District react to low state test scores in cyber charters, you’s guys might ask?  Well, they decided to open up five a them in the coming school year.  It’s true.  My hand on a stack a Bibles.

Part 7:  

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