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 18 of 25
Dr. Trowbridge shows up wit her whole, ah, entourage, her, and about 12 young kids who I guess was college students studying to become teachers, and this other middle aged broad, Dr. Rosen-Greenberg, the Chair of Baumgartner’s School of Education. Dr. Rosen-Greenberg, who I take it was married cause she had the double last names, was actually kinda attractive, tall and thin, wit this sexy long brown hair. The only thing was, though, her face wasn’t that good, at least not her eyes, cause they was like a foot apart. She looked kinda like Jackie Kennedy, I guess—like a squid, that’s what Dom said to me after the visit was over. The Kid was right; she had the squid eyes.
So Dr. Trowbridge and Dr. Rosen-Squid and the college kids is all there standing in the empty main office, wit their notebooks and cellphone cameras, and they is all kinda looking around at everything like they was at the zoo or something, pointing, whispering to each other and nodding their heads. Every now and then they’d snap a picture, God only knows what of, cause there wasn’t nothing in the main office except some plants, a few wooden tables, a phone that wasn’t hooked up, and a big banner hanging across the wall that said, Welcome to World Peace Charter High School! There was no secretary there, neither. There wasn’t even a single light on in the whole room, cause there wasn’t no electricity. The sun was shining through two big windows, so you could see pretty good, but not good enough; the Kid had a buncha candles lit on the tables and counter.
I’m standing there wit these people not knowing what to say, just smiling and asking how their trip was down from Connecticut, where they was from. The Gorilla was in his office pretending to be the C.F.O. again, and the Kid was still setting things up wit World Peace Charter’s science teacher Ms. Julie Su, being played by none other than Ms. Julie Su herself, the 24-year-old Asian knockout exotic dancer who not only worked at Tony’s world renowned Straight A’s . . . which was raking in cash friggin hand over fist, by the way . . . but who also had a master’s degree in Political Science to boot. Ms. Julie Su was freakin hot, and smart. Now, in over 40 years, I never once cheated on my wife Linda, not one time; I’m very proud a that. But if I was gonna, if I had one free pass to roll around in the sack wit another gal, it would be Julie Su, hands down. Sheesh, would I ever.
One a the college students standing next to me in the office says something to me I don’t hear.
“Scuze me?” I says to her.
“I said I think it’s great that you have an energy conservation day here at World Peace Charter.”
“An energy conservation day. If every public school did this once a month like you do, we’d not only save a ton a money, but would reduce our carbon footprint by a mile.”
I ain’t gonna lie, but I had no friggin idear what this little girl was talking about. “A carbon fingerprint?” I says, and looked at my hands to see if I had dirt on them or something. “Do I need to wash my hands?”
The girl laughs. “No, a carbon footprint. Pollution, you know? The ozone layer. You’re trying to reduce waste and pollution, right? Save energy? That’s why your school is having a ‘power down day’ today?”
“Oh yeah, right, the ‘power down day,’ I see now. You gotta forgive me, I’m getting old, and I’s got potatoes in my ears and don’t hear so good sometimes.”
“Sheesh, yeah, the power down day,” I says. “Yeah, we do it once a month, to save energy. We keep all the lights off and whatnot, and power everything down, the computers, everything. The vacuum, the refrigerator, it’s all powered down. It stops pollution, and makes our school—whatdoyacallit, green. The Kid . . . ah, Mr. Rossetti, it was his idear. He’s the boss, I’m just the principal.”
“Well it’s a great idea,” the girl says.
The Kid was finally done setting things up wit Ms. Su and came back into the main office, thank Christ. He introduced hisself again and welcomed everybody and said that he was real proud to have Dr. Trowbridge there for another visit, and also proud to have Dr. Rosen-Squid there, the Chair of the Baumgartner School of Education, and proud to have all the college students visiting, and that he hoped their experience today would make their dream a becoming a teacher even stronger. The Kid explained about the power down day, again, and thanked everybody for their patience wit this, wit the fact that all the lights was cut off to save energy and protect the ozone, which was part a World Peace Charter’s mission—to be green and stop violence. He gave everyone a candle, too, and had them light it, and explained that it was really dark in the hallways where there was no windows, but that once they got around the corner to Ms. Su’s room, the science teacher, things would be just fine, cause her room, see, her room had windows.
On the way to Ms. Su’s room, I heard Dr. Trowbridge discussing stuff wit the students and wit Dr. Rosen-Squid, discussing how impressed she was last time she was here wit the curriculum at World Peace, how themes a tolerance and multiculturalism was, ah, embedded in the math lesson, how cleverly Egyptian culture was howdoyasayit—intertwined wit geometric theorems. Course, she was really looking forward to the Israeli Science, and so was Dr. Rosen-Squid, being that she was Jewish, and a supporter of Israel. Well, she was a supporter of Israel and she wasn’t, she told Dr. Trowbridge, it was tricky. She believed that the Jews needed a homeland, by all means, but the way the Palestinians was being treated . . . that was an, um, abomination. But let’s just see how the science lesson goes, she said.
So we get to Ms. Su’s room and the first thing I think is, wow, Ms. Su is so friggin beautiful; as soon as we was done wit the visit, I was gonna go back to Straight A’s wit her, buy a nice big juicy New York strip and a glass a good beer, and watch her get naked and shake that freakin grade A ass on stage till the cows came the frig home. Yeah, forgetaboutit. So Ms. Su’s in her classroom, standing at the blackboard in a short black skirt and tight red V-neck sweater—her cleavage just busting outta it—a pair a black horn-rimmed glasses on, ready to start her science lesson. There was no World Peace Charter students in the room, so she was gonna present her lesson to us—me and the Kid and Dr. Trowbridge and all of us.
“Good morning class,” Ms. Su says, and for a minute I hadda remind myself that I was watching a real lesson and not a friggin porno on the Internet. “How are you doing today?”
“Just fine, Ms. Su,” I says. Dr. Trowbridge and Dr. Rosen-Squid wasn’t doing as good, though. I heard Trowbridge say to Rosen-Squid that Ms. Su was inappropriately dressed, and the two seemed offended by it. They even wrote something about it down on their clipboards.
“Okay class,” Ms. Su continues, “today we’re going to learn about free fall and air resistance by doing an experiment using two dreidels, one wood, one plastic. I have them both right here, see? Okay, can anybody tell me what a dreidel is? Okay, Dr. Rosen-Greenberg?”
“Dreidels are tops that you spin. They have four sides, with a different Yiddish word on each. You use them to play Hanukkah games.”
“Very good!” Ms. Su says. “They are tops. The Hebrew word for dreidel is sevivon, which in Yiddish means ‘to turn around.’ Now, we’re going to use them to do a science experiment that measures free fall and air resistance. I’m going to hold each dreidel exactly four feet above the ground and then drop them, seeing which one will hit the ground first. Does anybody want to make a prediction about which one will hit the ground first? The plastic dreidel or the wooden one?”
“The plastic,” I says.
“Okay . . . thank you for your participation, Principal Bradshaw . . . Principal Bradshaw says the plastic dreidel will hit the ground first. Now, before I drop each, it’s important to understand the principles of physics in regards to mass, gravity, and air resistance. Do you guys remember our lesson about the acceleration of gravity, which is represented by the letter g?”
“Yes,” someone in the back says.
“Wonderful. So you know that all objects, regardless of mass, free fall at the same acceleration, which is 9.8 meters per second squared. That means if we were on the moon, and there was no wind resistance and not much gravity, I could drop both dreidels from a height of four feet, and both would hit the ground at the same time.”
“They would?” I says.
“Yes, they would. But when I drop both dreidels, this bulky wooden one, and this light plastic one, they won’t hit at the same time. Why? Because of wind resistance and gravity. Here, let’s give it a try . . .”
Dr. Trowbridge is shaking her head, like she doesn’t agree wit something Ms. Su is saying. Ms. Su sees this, and asks if something is wrong.
“I’m sorry,” Dr. Trowbridge says, “but I think you’re moving too fast here. You’re throwing all this information at us without building up to it, without activating any prior background knowledge.”
So Ms. Su says, “Oh, okay, what should I start with, then?”
And Trowbridge says that Ms. Su needs to bring more a the cultural aspect into the lesson, more a the Israeli background stuff. After all, Trowbridge says, it’s called Israeli Science. The bit about the dreidel was clever, she said, but it needed to go deeper. To do a solid lesson about physics, you needed to bring in the conflict in the Middle East, between the Jews and the Arabs; that was going deep and getting at the more important, um, cultural aspect. Maybe you could start wit a discussion about how after World War II, the Jews just kinda went in and took over land that wasn’t theirs. Sure, the Jews needed a homeland, but maybe they could think about the Palestinians for five seconds?
“Israeli belonged to the Jews since the beginning,” Ms. Su says.
“Pardon?” Dr. Trowbridge says, this shocked expression coming over her. “Excuse me?” Dr. Trowbridge stands up, walks over to Ms. Su. “Do you think all Muslims are terrorists, Ms. Su? Is that was this is about?”
“I know you’re a doctor of education and everything,” Ms. Su says, “but I actually have a degree in Political Science, and your version of the history of the Middle East isn’t exactly, um, accurate.”
Well, that did it; Julie Su opened up the friggin biggest can a worms ever. Trowbridge and Su started arguing real loud, then, trying to talk over each other like on that one TV show . . . Jerry Springer, I think it’s called . . . and even Dr. Rosen-Squid got in it, saying that she was Jewish, and if anybody knew what was best for the Jews, it was her. The Israelis, Rosen-Squid said, needed to stop being so greedy and just go back to the pre-1967 boarders. Exactly, Dr. Trowbridge added, exactly. That was the way to create background for a science class, to make sure you incorporated the need for Israel to stop taking over Arab land, and for the United States ta stop their, um, imperialistic ways.
“I guess you’s think the Holocaust was staged in Hollywood!” Ms. Su says, and starts carrying on about how the Israelis are doing all they can to keep the peace but it’s the Palestinians who are the bullies. What kinda person blows up a night club filled wit innocent people? What kinda person teaches their kid to strap explosives on their bodies so they can get on a bus and—
Just then, there is this loud crash that shakes the whole building, and for a minute, I actually thought somebody was trying to blow up the school, I swear to friggin God.
“What the hell?” the Kid says, and runs outta the classroom. We all follow him, through the dark hallway and past the main office and out through the main doors. And there it is, the Gorilla’s windmill, smashed through the roof a Dr. Trowbridge’s BMW.
“Oh my God!” Dr. Trowbridge says. “My car!”
“The wind must have blown it off the roof,” Dr. Rosen-Squid says.
Yeah, it musta.
The Kid spent the Christmas holidays at Gina and Ashley’s house in South Philly. Gina was really into Christmas, Dom wrote in his journal, and spent lots a time decorating to celebrate the season. Outside she strung red and blue lights on the railing and around the frame a the door—or should I say Dom did—put one a those big inflatable Santa Clauses on the front steps, and hung a wreath on the door. Inside, she put an electric candle in every window and sprayed the panes wit artificial snow, and over the doorway in the dining room, stuck some mistletoe. She hung stockings on the mantle, too, three a them—one for little Ashley, one for Gina, and even one for Dom—and their names was sown right on the front in big red letters. Course, the center of it all was the Christmas tree, a fat Douglas Fir, which the Kid bought from a guy in a gray hoodie and fingerless gloves on Washington Ave., haggling over the price in the freezing rain while Gina and Ashley waited in Gina’s car wit the heat running. Gina threw a small party to trim the tree, the Kid said in his journal, and they had eggnog and burned cinnamon incense and played Christmas music . . . Jingle Bells, Frosty the Snowman, and that one song about mommy getting caught blowing Santa Claus or some such foolishness.
On Christmas Eve, though, it was just the three a them. Gina made a nice ham dinner and served it in the dining room wit her good dishes and silverware. Dom helped wit the rice, boiling the water and stirring it, and Ashley folded the napkins and put out the expensive crystal glasses. She asked to light the dinner candles and so Dom helped her do it, and they lit more incense and played more Christmas music and finally sat to eat, Gina raising her glass a wine in a toast—to the three of us on this wonderful night!—and Dom and Ashley raised their glasses a cola and they all clinked them together, all at once. Dom wrote that he’d never felt so content inside, so complete.
They finished dinner and all three helped clean up, Gina washing the dishes, Ashley drying them, and Dom putting the plates and glasses back into the cabinets. The three moved into the living room, then, to watch “The Polar Express,” a long standing tradition at Gina’s house. Gina and Dom sat on the couch together, Gina sipping her wine and Dom drinking a cup a tea, Ashley sitting Indian style on the floor right in front a the TV. At the part in the movie when Santa is stuffing all the toys in the big gigantic bag to take on his sleigh, Ashley paused the movie, cause that was also part a the tradition at Gina’s.
“Can I mom?” Ashley asks. “Please? Just one?”
“I don’t know,” Gina says, “Dom here’s now. Why don’t we finish the movie first, okay?”
“Please? Just one?”
“Well, let me ask Dom, since he’s our guest. Dom, would you mind if—”
“Go for it,” Dom says.
“You didn’t let me finish my sentence.”
“A present, right? Ashley wants to open a present? Absolutely. Do it up, Ash. Be my guest. Let’s see what you got there under the tree.”
“Can I mom?”
Ashley goes over to the tree and tries to decided which present to open . . . Dom wrote about this in detail . . . and she puts her hand on one but Dom says no, not that one, you should open the one right there, the one wit the red and green wrapping paper. This one? Yeah, that one. So she picks it up and holds it, shakes it and tries to figure out what it is, but she’s got no idear. She knows it’s from the Kid, though, cause he’s smiling like a friggin madman, and so she opens it real slow, a little bit at a time, just to mess wit him, or so he thought.
“Snorkel gear!” Ashley says, and it was—a whole set, the snorkel, the mask, the swim fins. She rips it outta the plastic box and puts it on and now Gina’s gotta get pictures, cause it’s Ashley’s first snorkel set, and she just looks so friggin cute. The Kid goes over and shows her the right way to use it, how to adjust the mask so it can fit snug on her face, how to step into the swim fins and strap them on tight, and how to put the snorkel in her mouth so she can breathe wit it under water.
Gina’s getting her cellphone outta her purse. “What do you say?”
“Thank you,” Ashley says wit the snorkel still in her mouth, and now Gina is trying to get the two a them together to get a picture—Dom and Ashley—right in front a the Christmas tree wit Dom’s great present, a present that Ashley says she can’t wait until summer to use, especially now that her casts are off. The next time her girlfriend has a pool party, well, you better freakin believe she is gonna show up wit Dom’s fabulous snorkel gear, swimming around a like a fish, making everybody, even Tina, jealous.
Gina cleans up the wrapping paper and the shredded plastic box, and tells Ashley to put the snorkel gear away then, back under the tree, so they all could finish the movie. Gina hits play and they all go back to their places, Ashley on the floor, Dom and Gina on the couch wit Gina’s legs in Dom’s lap, Dom massaging her feet. The movie played but Dom wasn’t watching, he wrote, he was drunk on the moment, overcome wit love. It was friggin cheesy, sure, but the Kid wrote it and I know he meant it.
It was official now, see, they’d said the word earlier that day, the “L” word—love. Gina said it first, first thing in the morning, right after the two made love. I love you Dominic, she said, just like that, laying next to him in her bed, naked except for her socks, her body half covered wit the sheet; I ain’t no pervert, I’m just repeating what he wrote in his journal. She rolled over and kissed him then, got back on top a him, as if she was afraid to let him answer her. Dom said she was looking right in his eyes, that there was an uncertainty there, that there was a howdoyasayit, a vulnerability, that if Dom said he didn’t lover her or refused to answer her, she’d be crushed—the life would run outta her. This made the Kid love her even more, cause he still couldn’t believe that she chose him, that she loved him, and took the risk of saying it first.
He sat up and kissed her mouth, softly, and said, I love you too, Gina, and it was so powerful, it was such a release for the Kid and the girl that the two ended up crying right in the bed, tears a joy, holding each other and crying tears a joy; the Kid underlined the word joy in his journal.
The credits was rolling on the movie, and it was time for Ashley to go to bed. Gina put down her empty wine glass, got up off Dom’s lap. She shut off the TV wit the remote, and asked Dom if he was ready for bed, and he said he was. They turned off the Christmas tree . . . they don’t need the house burning down in no fire, that’s for sure . . . but kept the outside lights on, cause it was Christmas Eve, and that was the tradition.
Both Gina and Dom tucked Ashley in, together, like a famb’ly. Gina told her to go right to sleep, no fooling around, cause Santa would be coming soon wit the presents.
“Mom,” Ashley says, “enough with the Santa talk. It’s okay, I know you and Dom want to be alone together.”
“Santa doesn’t like girls who talk back,” Gina says.
“Sure mom, whatever. I’m tired anyway. Goodnight, Dom. Thanks for my snorkel set.”
Ashley yawns. “Night, mom.”
Dom and Gina closed Ashley’s door, and went to their own room to make more love.
After the holidays, in the New Year, the Kid got a call at Eisenhower from Dr. Trowbridge. She was all pissy and moody, the Kid wrote, prob’ly on her period or something, if she still had one. The first thing she tells the Kid is that her BMW is totaled, that when the windmill flew down off the top a the building and smashed through her roof, it frigged up the frame a the car so bad it was beyond repair. She still didn’t know what the hell had happened, how a windmill could just fall outta the sky like that, it didn’t make no kinda sense. The Kid said at first he made a joke to try to lighten the mood, said something like It was prob’ly Snowball, making a reference to the pig in that book . . . what’s it called . . . Animal Farm, but I guess Trowbridge didn’t think it was funny. She kept moaning and belly-aching about how the Philadelphia Unified School District’s insurance wasn’t gonna cover it, that even though they owned the building and that their policy was up to date, it was technically considered an “act a God,” that wind blowing the windmill off the roof and down onto her BMW was an “act a God,” and they wouldn’t pay. Now Trowbridge’s insurance rates, like the windmill, was gonna go through the roof, and she was super pissed; she was talking to her lawyer and planning a lawsuit against the District for a cool $100,000, the price a her car plus emotional damages.
Trowbridge was also unhappy wit the way things went during her walk through at World Peace in December, and there was a lot a things—a lot a things—that needed to be addressed in a performance improvement plan, which the Kid was told he needed to write based on the, um, recommendations of Trowbridge, which she wrote down on her clipboard during her last visit; Dom showed me all a these the day he got them. For one, Trowbridge didn’t like the way the instructional objectives in Ms. Su’s lesson plan was worded. One a her objectives for her lesson said, Students will be able to complete a science lab using dreidels in order to understand the principle of free fall. That was no good, Trowbridge said, cause Su used the wrong verb, see. Ms. Su said students will understand the principle of free fall. The word “understand” was wrong, all wrong. What did “understand” mean? Trowbridge said. Ms. Su shoulda used one a the verbs from whatdoyacallit, from Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Domains. Instead a “understand,” Ms. Su shoulda wrote “comprehend” or “explain,” which was more correct.
There was other things that needed improvement, too, like the fact that Ms. Su’s lesson didn’t have no hook—no, ah, anticipatory set. She just jumped right in talking about free fall and gravity and whatnot, and dreidels. She shoulda set up the lesson wit something interesting, to grab the students’ attention, like maybe bringing in something colorful, a puppet or a toy or something, so the students coulda held it in their hands and felt it, got excited about. Or, she coulda started the lesson wit a cool video clip from the Internet, something like that. Just jumping in and talking about the principals a free fall and gravity, well, that was not solid instruction and was a sure fire way to lose the students, Trowbridge told Dom.
There was also the matter a the school walls, which was plain and boring. Now, on the last visit, Dr. Trowbridge had specifically told Dom to have his teachers put up more student work, drawings and artwork and such, but there still wasn’t none there. She also told him to put up copies a the state academic standards on all the walls, and inside the classrooms, too, every classroom. Did Dom do this? Not, um, adequately enough. He had the state standards posted in only four a the 11 classrooms, Trowbridge counted them herself. Oh, and what about the data binders that was required to be in every classroom on every teacher’s desk? Dom argued wit Dr. Trowbridge that there was a data binder on all the teachers’ desks, and there was, but there was only like six or seven pages a data in each, and that was not nearly enough. A good data binder has at least 175 to 200 hundred pages of data in it, Trowbridge told the Kid, didn’t he know this? Wasn’t he paying attention at the last professional development meeting held by Dr. Trowbridge’s colleague, Dr. Majmudar, on data driven instruction? Apparently not, she said.
“The state tests will reveal a lot,” Trowbridge says, “I’m assuming you’re ready for them?”
“Absolutely,” the Kid says, and he was ready for them, ready to fail them. Big time. It was the perfect plan, he wrote. He’d have his students, his fake students, fail the test horribly, tell them to just bubble in any answers or simply leave the questions blank if they chose, and that would be it—he’d finally be free. It was the best way outta the whole mess, cause it wouldn’t totally kill his reputation . . . Dom was still doing a good job at Eisenhower, after all . . . and it would shut Tony up, too. What could Tony say, anyways? Dom did everything he was supposed to, let Tony steal a bundle a cash, and this was the end a the road. World Peace Charter’s freshmen class would fail the math and science tests miserably, proving that his fancy new Egyptian Math and Israeli Science wasn’t working so good, and the School Board would close World Peace down, game over. According to Dom, it happened all the time, neighborhood schools and charters was getting closed, just look at the 30 schools the School District shut down last year there in the city.
“Yeah, our students are ready for the tests,” the Kid says.
“I hope so. Who is your testing administrator, by the way?”
“Ah, Mr. Bradshaw.”
“That’s correct, yes.”
“That’s a lot for Roger Bradshaw to take on, to be your testing administrator, as well as your principal.”
“For some people, maybe,” the Kid says. “Not for Roger, though. He’s up to it. He’s a real team player.”
“Let me just warn you to be extra careful with testing security. We’re going to have a state testing monitor there, making sure there are no violations or breeches in security. I’m assuming that Roger already held a staff meeting about this with your teachers who are going to proctor the tests?”
“He had the meeting yesterday, as a matter of fact.”
“Is everything square, then? You’re all set to go?”
“Did Roger receive your tests Friday in the mail from the State?”
“Did you count them yet?”
“Roger did, yes.”
“Is everything there that’s supposed to be. Do the numbers check out?”
“Down to the nostril,” the Kid says, or something like that.
“Any trouble with the bar codes?”
“Okay,” Trowbridge says. “What are your plans for storing the tests in a secure location? Do you have a safe, secure place picked out?”
“We’re going to store the tests in a locket cabinet in Roger’s office.”
“Where are the tests now?”
“In a cabinet in Roger’s office.”
“Are they locked?”
“With a deadbolt,” the Kid says.
“Just make sure the teachers who are proctoring the tests count the booklets both before and after they give the tests to the students. They should count them in front of the testing administrator. If a booklet is missing—”
“Dr. Trowbridge,” the Kid says, “please. Everything’s being taken care of.”
“I’m just telling you,” Dr. Trowbridge says. “You’ve heard about the recent cheating scandals, and the State is cracking down. If there is a security violation at World Peace, anyone involved could lose their professional license. You, Mr. Bradshaw, or any of the teachers who are proctoring the test.”
“I won’t be at World Peace on the day of the exams,” the Kid says, “I’ll be at Eisenhower, dealing with our school’s state tests. Mr. Bradshaw will be running the show on testing day at World Peace.”
“Very well. These are high stakes tests, Mr. Rossetti. We take them very seriously. Oh, and make sure you have World Peace’s school improvement plan to me by the 25th, like we talked about. Roger Bradshaw can write it, but you need to make sure he addresses the issues I mentioned. Understand?”
“Yes, Dr. Trowbridge.”
“Great. I’ll be in touch. Just know the State has its eye on you.”