Woman Over Board

CCOPYRIGHT 1998

Introduction

    In 1989, the ACLU came charging to my defense as a district teacher elected to the

local school board.  Marqueta Sims, representing ACLU, held the reigns, winning 5

cases in the local San Luis Obispo court.

      I wrote this play shortly thereafter …..but had to wait for those involved to either

move away or die before I could release it.  Almost everything that happened was

real….  except for the dramatic license and comedy.

       Marqueta eventually led us to Sacramento and the Educational Sub-committee ….,

who defeated us by a very slim margin. 

      After those first 4 years on the board, I retired, and of course ran again for

eight more years.

SETTING:  THE BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING ROOM. LEFT, TABLE, CHAIRS, WINDOW, DOOR. RIGHT, PODIUM, COFFEE TABLE WITH COFFEE POT, CUPS, ETC.

CAST:                                       

PATRICIA

SUPERINTENDENT EEL

BOARD PRESIDENT HYDE

CATHERINE BLOOM

MR. FETCH

MRS. ETTA PIM

MR. STEWS

MRS. BLAND

ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENT LIVERS

MR. FORT

CURRICULUM DIRECTOR

AUDIENCE MEMBERS

STUDENTS

TELEVISION CAMERA CREW AND NEWS REPORTER WITH CAMERAS, MICROPHONE, ETC.

TIME: THE PRESENT

ACT 1:

THE BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING ROOM. TWO WOMEN AT THE INFORMATION TABLE PICKING UP PACKETS FOR TONIGHT’S MEETING… END UP SITTING IN AUDIENCE.

CALLY

There’s nothing on this agenda about Catherine Bloom being seated on the school board tonight. I wonder what’s happening.

PATRICIA

There was a picture in Saturday’s paper showing her official “swearing in” at the Courthouse, so there is no way the superintendent can postpone her being seated again.

CALLY

Are you serious? Would you like to bet some money on that? Take a look at the board table.

PATRICIA

Oh I see there are only four places set for the board members… there is no seat for Catherine.

CALLY

Yeah. This should be the hottest entertainment in town tonight.

(THEY SIT. THE BOARD MEMBERS STRUT IN, CHATTING SOMEWHAT OBNOXIOUSLY WITH THE ADMINISTRATORS. DURING THE FOLLOWING SCENE, OTHER MEMBERS OF THE AUDIENCE ENTER AND TAKE SEATS.)

SUPERINTENDENT EEL

…Well, my wife said, “Dear, would you please think about taking the garbage out when you leave?” And of course I said yes.

(CATHERINE BLOOM HAS ENTERED QUIETLY DURING THIS AND STANDS TO THE SIDE)

BOARD PRESIDENT HYDE

And of course you did.

SUPT. EEL

No, I didn’t, but the point is that I said would think about it.

 (ALL LAUGH. AUDIENCE MEMBERS ALL LOOK AT EACHOTHER AND SHRUG.)

CALLY (MUTTERING TO PATRICIA)

What?

(ADMINISTRATORS AND MEMBERS TAKE SEATS; TALKING ESCALTES. CATHERINE MOVES FORWARD AND ALL FREEZE.FOR HER MONOLOGUE)

CATHERINE

Oh my God please give me the strength and courage so that I can survive this! Look at them… behaving like little children who have done a nasty trick by removing the fifth seat, MY seat. OK, now I am pissed. Their vindictive comments on TV, in the newspaper and at the last three board meetings I could have ignored, but this missing chair is a gross insult. This is war.

(SHE MOVES FORWARD AND ALL NOISE AND MOVEMENT ARE RESUMED.)

CATHERINE

Good evening, fellow board members, administrators and members of the public.

(SHE MOVES THE PACKET BELONGING TO THE CURRICULUM DIRECTOR—WHO IS GETTING A CUP OF COFFEE—AND SHE TAKES HIS SEAT. NO ONE GETS UP.)

Oh, gentlemen, please don’t get up. I need a microphone NOW, if you please, and a name plate by the next meeting.

(THE CURRICULUM DIRECTOR GETS HER A MIKE.)

SUPT. EEL (SPUTTERING)

I told you over the phone, Mrs. Bloom that I would call you when we were ready for you.

CATHERINE

Yes, you did. And I said I would think about it.

(SOME CHUCKLES FROM THE AUDIENCE.)

SUPT. EEL (COUGHS, CLEARS HIS THROAT)

Well, Mrs. Bloom, we are not sure that your election is legal, and until we confer with. our legal opinion, we cannot allow you to participate in the activities or the votes of this governing board.

(SOME MOANS AND BOOS FROM THE AUDIENCE.)

BOARD PRES. HYDE

Mrs. Bloom, we have invited our Roastfield lawyer to address this issue tonight.

CATHERINE

I have an obligation to the public that elected me, to be here.

BOARD PRES. HYDE

Your election is very controversial.  Mr. Fetch will try to clarify our situation.

(MR. FETCH COMES FROM THE AUDIENCE TO THE PODIUM)

MR. FETCH

Board members, administrators , ladies, and gentlemen of the audience. The situation we have here is a catastrophe.

(AUDIENCE STUNNED)

We have a high school teacher elected to HER OWN BOARD of education. ANY vote she casts would be a conflict of interest!

(MOANS FROM THE AUDIENCE)

In four months the board will be voting on teacher salaries…… certainly she can’t vote on her OWN salary.

(PAUSE)

Certainly she can’t vote on administrative raises, because, one: they are her bosses; and two, those raises would take away from teachers’ salaries. Naturally she would vote against new buses, additional supplies, building expansions or anything else, because these would take away from teacher salaries.

Until we can investigate the legality of Mrs. Bloom’s election as a board member, we request that she step down and not vote on any of the board issues. Thank you.

(HE SITS DOWN)

BOARD PRES. HYDE

Mrs. Bloom, we would like you to leave the board until we have looked at all the legal ramifications of your recent election.

(A QUIET FALLS OVER THE ROOM)

MRS. PIM (RISES AND COMES TO THE PODIUM)

Good evening. I am Mrs. Bloom’s American Civil Liberties Union lawyer, and I would like to speak to the board.

(ADMINISTRATORS AND BOARD MEMBERS MUTTER TO EACH OTHER. MRS. PIM WAITS UNTIL THEY ARE QUIET. MRS. PIM THEN CONTINUES.)

Last Thursday the Attorney General issued his “Opinion,” at the ACLU’s request, on the legality of Mrs. Bloom’s election. I believe you all received copies in your pre-meeting packets, yes?

(SHE WAITS UNTIL THERE ARE SOME MUMBLED “YEARS” FROM THE MEMBERS AND SEVERAL ADMINISTRATORS)

I have some extra copies here for the members of the public. The Attorney General clearly stated that Mrs. Bloom’s election was and is LEGAL because there is no law against it, and the public has the right to choose. There are NO areas on which she cannot vote. He does state that since teachers receive raises according to a specific and prearranged scale, she could also vote on these raises–but since there could be a “perceived” conflict here, he recommended that she abstain on this specific issue. Mrs. Bloom has already agreed to this abstention. She is free to vote on all other areas.

SUPT. EEL

Mrs. Pim, we have had word from some members of the public that they will sue the board if we allow this teacher to vote on any issues. Therefore we would like to have our lawyers clarify the situation before Mrs. Bloom is seated.

MRS. PIM

The letter from the Attorney General does just that, Mr. Eel.

BOARD PRES. HYDE

This is absolutely improper, Mrs. Pim! In two weeks we will be doing the yearly evaluation of the superintendent. Certainly a district teacher, working UNDER the superintendent, should NOT be allowed to evaluate her boss!

MRS. PIM

But who better, Mr. Hyde?

SUPT. EEL

That’s preposterous! She’s nothing but a teacher. How dare she be allowed to evaluate me!

MRS. PIM

But it seems that this is the wish of the public, Mr. Eel. And who better to evaluate your ability to lead this school district than the teachers?

MR. FETCH (SNEERINGLY)

Mrs. Pim, without maligning you or the ACLU, perhaps there are some problems that need to be worked out. May I suggest that Mrs. Bloom wait three or four months while we work out the legality of her involvement on this board.

MRS. PIM

No, Mr. Fetch. There nothing  illegal about her election. She’s broken no laws, and the “public will” is more important than the administration’s frustration.

(SHE TURNS TO CATHERINE)

Mrs. Bloom, welcome to the board of education!

(SHE CLAPS, AS DOES THE AUDIENCE)

CATHERINE

Thank you, Mrs. Pim

(MR. FETCH STORMS OUT, AND ADMINISTRATORS MUTTER AMONG THEMSELVES)

CATHERINE (ADDRESSES THE AUDIENCE)

And thank YOU.

SUPT. EEL

We’ll see about this.

(RISES AND GETS COFFEE)

BOARD PRES. HYDE (HITS THE GAVEL)

Well, uh, to business. Are there any changes or additions to the last board minutes?

MR. STEWS

I move we accept the minutes.

MRS. BLAND

I second.

BOARD PRES. HYDE

Are there any nays or abstentions?

CATHERINE

I will abstain because I wasn’t officially seated at that meeting.

BOARD PRES. HYDE

Uh, well, then the minutes are accepted. The first item on tonight’s agenda deals with the overcrowding of the elementary schools in Shoreline. This will be presented by Assistant Superintendent Livers.

(ALL LOOK AT THIS ITEM IN THE PACKET)

Mr. LIVERS

You can see that we propose to eliminate the elementary overcrowding in Shoreline by busing students both south twelve miles and north eight miles where there are empty seats available in our other elementary schools. This is the administrative recommendation for the Shoreline overcrowding.

MRS. BLAND

Thank you, Mr. Livers. I certainly support your recommendation. I hope we’re not going to spend any money buying new buses?

LIVERS

We haven’t looked into that yet, but we will have that information for the next meeting.

CATHERINE

Please excuse me, but I would like some background on this problem, Mr. Livers

SUPT. EEL (TERSELY)

(BACK TO HIS SEAT)

This is NOT the time for that, Mrs. Bloom. You should have gotten that information before the meeting.

(SITS)

CATHERINE

I am sorry, Mr. Eel, but I did call Mr. Livers on Friday–let me see—I noted the times down—at three o’clock, but he wasn’t  available. On Monday I called at nine AM but again he wasn’t around. I even called your office at eleven AM and asked for a return call. But I guess you are still thinking about it?

BOARD PRES. HYDE

Oh, see here, Mrs. Bloom, I see no reason to blame the superintendent for your lack of information.

MRS. BLAND

I agree, Mrs. Bloom. Since you are just a teacher, certainly you should have more respect for administration.

MR. STEWS

If you had a question, Mrs. Bloom, you should have gone to the superintendent’s office, as I do. Now you are just wasting our time and causing problems.

CATHERINE

Well, Mr. Hyde and Mr. Stews, maybe you can give me the answers?

(PAUSES)

One, and the most immediate question is, why are we being asked to approve the administrative recommendation with such limited information? Example: Mr. Livers just said that they haven’t looked into the transportation situation, but we are being asked to approve the recommendation without any research.

Two, we have no choices! What else might we consider to alleviate the overcrowded elementary schools in Shoreline?

(LIVERS JUMPS UP, KNOCKS OVER HIS CHAIR AND YELLS)

MR. LIVERS

This is incredible! She only attends one board meeting and she’s trying to take over my job! Is that it? Do you want my job, Mrs. Bloom? Do you think you could do it better?

CATHERINE

Anyone who offers more than ONE alternative could do a better job.

(LIVERS STORMS OUT)

SUPT. EEL (RISES)

Mrs. Bloom, you’ve been here less than thirty minutes and you have already caused a major problem.

CATHERINE

I didn’t cause the problem, sir, your staff did.

MRS. BLAND

Catherine, you should just spend a little time observing how nicely we work together before you jump to conclusions.

CATHERINE

But Mrs. Bland, I’m not the one doing the “jumping” here!

MR. STEWS

This is unbelievable! She has attacked the credibility of the administration within a half hour of joining the board. Now we have Board Member Bloom who knows more than we do.

CATHERINE (IGNORING HIM)

Mr. Stews and Mrs. Bland, what are your reactions to the Shoreline elementary situation?

STEWS

I’ll vote for whatever the superintendent recommends. We pay him to take charge of the district, and we should support him.

CATHERINE

Mrs. Bland?

MRS. BLAND

Well, I’m not sure. Short of building another elementary school in Shoreline, busing the kids elsewhere is the only alternative, as the administration has so wisely proposed.

(MUTTERING FROM THE AUDIENCE WITH HER STATEMENT)

CATHERINE

You mentioned a new elementary school. What are the pros and cons of that?

MR. FORT

Being newly elected to the board myself, Mrs. Bloom, I would be interested in the growth projections in Shoreline and the cost of building a new school. Maybe we could get Mr. Livers to return, Mr. Eel?

SUPT. EEL

If Mrs. Bloom would refrain from insulting the staff, I’ll see if he’s calmed down.

(GOES AFTER HIM)

(MUTTERING FROM THE AUDIENCE)

BOARD PRES. HYDE

Maybe we should take a ten-minute coffee break. (BANGS GAVEL)

(SOME PEOPLE MOVE TO THE COFFEE TABLE AND SOME LEAVE STAGE. AUDIENCE MEMBERS NO. 1 AND NO. 2 MOVE TO CATHERINE, AND ALL THREE MOVE TO FRONT)

CALLY

We wanted to welcome you to the board, Mrs. Bloom. My name is Cally and this is a Shoreline parent, Patricia.

PATRICIA

Oh, Mrs. Bloom, we parents in Shoreline have been trying to get a new school built for eight years now. There are only a few of us here tonight because we’ve been ignored and/or insulted by the administration and the principals at our two overcrowded schools, and we’ve lost faith in the system.

CALLY

If you could possibly get the new school back as a future agenda item we could get a bunch of parents to stand up and fight for it again. When we met with Superintendent Eel several years ago, he talked about a District Strategic Plan for the schools. We have asked repeatedly to see this plan, and we were ignored.

CATHERINE

I remember a newspaper article last year about Shoreline PTA requesting a new school–what happened?

CALLY

It was to be “taken under advisement” and it simply died. That’s the way this administration works. They keep tabling the item until everyone eventually just gets tired and goes home.

PATRICIA

Both of our elementary schools have been crammed for the last eight years. NOW Livers comes up with busing! Over two hundred kids will be bused daily to another site either eight or twelve miles away. They will spend two hours daily on the bus, not to mention being uprooted from their original, local school and friends. What kind of solution is that? Livers ignored the demographic plan we paid for—he said that the district hadn’t approved it.

CALLY

We have been checking the district budget for a long time. Spread among different accounts, we’ve found a surplus of seven million dollars. Mrs. Bland claims they need this money for emergency.

CATHERINE

It sure seems as though insuring good, local education is an emergency, doesn’t it? I don’t know if I can help.

(HYDE GAVELS FOR THE MEETING TO RESUME)

CATHERINE

But I will try.

BOARD PRES. HYDE

Everybody, please sit down; the meeting will continue. Mr. Livers has consented to continue his interrupted presentation.

MR. LIVERS (SHUFFLING PAPERS)

We have room for extra shoreline students at three different sites, two here in town and one in the other direction. We’re looking into the transportation costs now.

SUPT. EEL

There are no other choices for Shoreline, so getting the board’s approval is merely a formality. Staff will continue to explore costs and the redistribution of buses.  We are working on a Strategic Plan as our vision for the future. This plan is a precursor to any definition of site-based management, and therefore we need to move carefully.

(ALL LOOK PUZZLED AT HIS STATEMENT)

CATHERINE

How will you determine which students and what grade levels will be bused? Move students from all levels? Move an entire grade? Could you tell us the specifics of your bus plan for Shoreline?

MR. LIVERS (SCRATCHING HIS PRIVATES)

We haven’t had time to determine the process. We’ll need to confer with the principals of the two Shoreline elementary schools and make our conclusions.

CATHERINE

Then I move we table this discussion and vote until the next meeting, when the staff will present more information. Do I have a second?

MR. FORT

I second.

CATHERINE

Since staff will be doing more research, I would like to see information on the cost and possible location of a new school in Shoreline.

SUPT. EEL

You are out of line! The staff does not work FOR YOU, Mrs. Bloom.

CATHERINE

I assume the staff works for the benefit of the students in our community? And the board was elected for this same purpose?

MR. LIVERS

Here she goes again telling us how to do our jobs. She will destroy this district!

BOARD PRES. HYDE

Mrs. Bloom, we work together here in support of the administration—the people whom we hired to run this district.

MRS. BLAND

Oh, really, this is just too stressful. I can’t continue working with this conflict!

MR. S TEWS

You cannot keep attacking our superintendent and the staff! You are out of order…

(OTHERS INCLUDING THE AUDIENCE, BEGIN YELLING OUT COMMENTS, RISING IN VOLUME UNTIL BLACKOUT.)

(BLACKOUT)

[END OF ACT 1]

ACT 2 TWO WEEKS LATER

(CATHERINE ENTERS AND FINDS CALLY AND PATRICIA AT THE INFORMATION TABLE )

CALLY

What are you doing out of closed session so early?

CATHERINE

They said it had to do with “administrative personnel,” and that I could not be privy to the discussion. I’ll be talking about this with Etta Pim.

PATRICIA

Catherine, we wanted to thank you for getting a new school proposal for Shoreline on last week’s agenda.

CALLY

I am sorry it got tabled, again… are we surprised? But at least it pumped up the parents who were here. They are connecting with others and rallying individual administrators to find out when it will be “untabled.”

CATHERINE

Lovely. Public pressure is an enormous help.  Speaking of pressure, would you like to support me in court next week?

CALLY

Sure.

PATRICIA

What’s happening?

CATHERINE

The district is beginning their legal attack. They are petitioning the judge for my resignation as a teacher if I want to remain on the board. Mrs. Pim is not worried about the case, but she’s concerned about the viciousness of the attack.

CALLY

We’ll be there, Catherine, and we’ll bring others. Call me with the time and date.

(MRS. PIM ENTERS)

MRS. PIM

There are some weird people around here.

(HEADS TO ONE SIDE)

I just saw a man in the parking lot holding an umbrella and wiping the rain off his car with a handkerchief.

PATRICIA (LAUGHING)

That’s the superintendent fondling his new Mercedes. He requested a special parking place at the last meeting—so his new car wouldn’t get dinged. Catherine managed to get his request tabled.

(ALL LAUGH)

MRS. PIM (LOOKING OUT THE SIDE WINDOW)

What’s going on now?

PATRICIA

Oh, my God, would you look at that!

CALLY

I don’t believe it. Board members Stews and Hyde are putting sawhorses on either side of the superintendent’s car—with “No Parking” signs on them!

(ALL LAUGH)

(OTHER MEMBERS ENTER TALKING AND GIVE A COLD SHOULDER TO THE WOMEN.)

MRS. PIM  (MOVES CATHERINE DOWN FRONT)

I thought I’d stay for the meeting tonight and see if there’s been any attitude improvement.  Otherwise, I’ll see you in court next week. We’re going to win, so hang tough, Catherine. I have to add that these people you are working with…. are strange.

(SUPT. EEL, BOARD PRES. HYDE AND STEWS COME IN, SEAKING OFF RAIN.  EEL SETS HIS UMBRELLA AT SIDE)

CATHERINE

Thanks, Etta.

(BOARD PRES. HYDE HITS THE GAVEL TO START THE MEETING. ALL TAKE THEIR SEATS. CALLY, PATRICIA AND OTHERS SIT IN THE FRONT ROWS OF THE AUDIENCE )

BOARD PRES. HYDE

The meeting will come to order. You’ve all read the minutes in your packets. Are there any changes or additions?

CATHERINE

Yes, Mr. Hyde. On page four, section C, we voted to table the discussion on a new school at Shoreline.

(MUTTERS AMONG SOME BOARD MEMBERS AND ADMINISTRATORS)

I have had a number of phone calls, as I’m sure some of you did, from Shoreline parents who would like to attend that discussion. I wonder if Mr. Livers could set a specific date for his presentation.

SUPT. EEL

You are out of order, Mrs. Bloom! You can’t put pressure on staff to prepare the items you want. They have other duties too.

MR. STEWS

Are you trying to take over the meeting again Mrs. Bloom?

CATHERINE

Mr. Eel, I fully realize that we all work for the public. Although we board members are not paid, certainly you and the administration are well compensated. It would seem that our first priority is to deal with those items that deal with the students.

(MURMURS OF APPROVAL FROM THE AUDIENCE)

Would you not agree that a new school discussion takes precedence over your new “protected” parking space?

BOARD PRES. HYDE (HAMMERS HIS GAVEL)

There is no reason to get nasty, Mrs. Bloom. The most important person in this room is our superintendent, and you need to remember that.

MRS. BLAND

Catherine, you are not following established protocol! We simply listen to the administration’s presentations and then vote to support them. We need to keep these meeting dignified and unstressful.

MR. FORT

I would like to have a response to Catherine’s request for a date on the discussion. Mr. Livers?

MR. LIVERS

(SCRATCHING HIMSELF AND GOING THROUGH HIS PAPERS. AS HE DOES WHENEVER HE HAS A REQUEST)

Ah, well, uh, we are waiting for a response from one of our Shoreline principals. Who is attending a computer conference this week. Maybe at the next board meeting?

CATHERINE

Forgive me, Mr. Livers, but we need a definite date. These parents drive an hour round trip to attend a two- to three-hour meeting. I think we have a responsibility to them.

(MUCH APPROVAL FROM THE AUDIENCE)

SUPT. EEL

Oh, I see what you are doing here, Mrs. Bloom. You want to be popular with the audience and curry their favor.

CATHERINE

If that’s what being a board member entails, then  yes, you bet I am.

MR. STEWS (SPUTTERS)

Pulling all this crap! Where do you come off, lady?

CATHERINE (CHECKS ARMS, HEAD)

Nowhere, everything seems to be attached.

MR. STEWS (JUMPS UP, KNOCKS OVER HIS CHAIR)

I can’t take this irresponsibility this…this…undermining of the administration!

(STORMS OUT)

MR. FORT (COOLLY, LOOKING AT HIS CALENDAR)

 I am looking at our next meeting in two weeks Can you prepare for then, Mr. Livers? Or when?

MR. LIVERS (FLIPPING PAPERS, CONFERS WITH THE SUPERINTENDENT)

Well, yes, I guess we can shoot for that.

MR. FORT

All right. Let’s put that down as the first item on the agenda two weeks from now, and we can give that date to the Shoreline parents.

(APPROBATION FROM THE AUDIENCE)

BOARD PRES. HYDE

Now, can we have a motion and second for the last meeting’s minutes?

MRS. BLAND

 I move we accept the minutes of the last meeting.

MR. FORT

I second.

BOARD PRES. HYDE

Any nays? Then the minutes are accepted. Our next  item on the agenda is the budget. Mr. Livers?

MR. LIVERS

The preliminary budget is number three in your packet. The final budget will be due in six weeks. Are there any questions?

CATHERINE

Yes, Mr. Livers. There are a couple of areas that I find confusing. We agreed on two new school buses at the last meeting, costing approximately 85,000 dollars each, or 170,000 dollars total. Why do we have almost a million dollars in that account?

MR. LIVERS (SHUFFLING PAPERS)

Well, we always keep a reserve for “Economic Uncertainty.” This is normal practice for most districts

CATHERINE

“Economic Uncertainty”?

MR. FORT

Could you please explain what that means?

SUPT. EEL

Yes, Mr. Fort, can explain that. The state recommends that we keep about five per cent of our overall budget for “backup” in case of any kind of emergency. Let’s say we lost one or two of our buses during some flooding this year. We’d have to be prepared to immediately replace them.

MR. FORT

I believe in being conservative, Superintendent Eel, but we pay heavy insurance for the kinds of accidents that most schools have.

MR. LIVERS (SCRATCHING AND RUMMAGING THROUGH PAPERS)

I think the state just wants to know where the districts are economically.

(MR. STEWS COMES BACK WITH COFFEE)

MRS. BLAND

Catherine, this is the way we have always done it. By spreading the money throughout the various funds, we not only conserve it, but keep the teachers from trying to take it for raises.

(MUTTERING FROM THE AUDIENCE)

CATHERINE

Well, I can understand the need for a small reserve…but, overall, I found six million in padding throughout the budget.

(GASPS FROM THE AUDIENCE AND MUTTERS FROM THE ADMINISTRATION)

With our annual budget of forty million, a five per cent reserve would be two million.

(PAUSE)

Perhaps we can find a better use for the remaining four million perhaps a new school in Shoreline.

(CHEERS FROM AUDIENCE)

SUPT. EEL AND LIVERS (TOGETHER)

 YOU ARE OUT OF LINE!

LIVERS

Now wait just a minute….

SUPT. EEL (INTERRUPTS HIM)

You are forgetting, Mrs. Bloom, that you are just a teacher—and one we will have off this board in one week!

(HE STANDS UP AND YELLS)

You have no right to come in here and disrupt our normal process! You don’t know what you are talking about.

BOARD PRES. HYDE (BOARD PRES. HYDE HITS THE GAVEL)

We will come to order, please! Superintendent Eel, please sit down and calm down. Mrs. Bloom, you will refrain from disrupting this board meeting and from insisting the administration.

CATHERINE

Forgive me, that was not my intent.

MRS. PIM (RISES FROM THE AUDIENCE)

Excuse me, Mr. President, I wonder if I might say a few words.

(MUTTERING AMONG THE ADMINISTRATORS)

BOARD PRES. HYDE

I, uh, well….

MRS. PIM (TO THE PUBLIC PODIUM)

It relates to something the superintendent said.

BOARD PRES. HYDE

OK. Please be brief.

MRS. PIM

Thank you.

(LOOKS AT THE AUDIENCE)

I am Etta Pim, Mrs Bloom’s ACLU lawyer Mr. Eel just mentioned that Mrs. Bloom would “be off the board in one week” and I felt that statement needed some clarification. The administration, and the board, have hired a top-flight San Francisco legal firm-and I might add, a very expensive one-to take Mrs. Bloom to court next Tuesday. They have asked the judge to force her to either resign her teaching in order to remain on the board, or to resign her position on the board.

(MUTTERING FROM THE AUDIENCE)

I felt, since Mr. Eel mentioned it, that the public should know.  These plans were made in “closed session” from which they excluded Mrs. Bloom. Thank  you, Mr. President

(A HEAVY SILENCE ENSUES)

BOARD PRES. HYDE (BANGS THE GAVEL SEVERAL TIMES)

All right, this meeting will come to order. Let’s discuss the next item on the agenda.

MRS. BLAND

Oh, I just can’t take this anymore much stress. There’s too stress.

(SHE RISES)

I can’t handle stress or anxiety at all… my hands are shaking . Please  excuse me, I have to Leave. I have to resign this job…it’s just too stressful.

(SHE LEAVES)

LIVERS

You’ve done it again, Mrs. Bloom.

SUPT. EEL

This is all your fault.  You are now truly destroying this board by driving off the members.

(SUPPORTIVE REACTIONS FROM THE ADMINISTRATION, NEGATIVE FROM THE AUDIENCE)

CATHERINE

That’s not what I understood at the election celebration, Mr. Eel. Mrs. Bland’s husband was very unhappy that she ran for the board again and he made no bones about it. He said that you and Mr. Livers put undue pressure on her to run again, saying that she was “vital” to this administration. Certainly you are as much a part of her stress as I am.

MR. STEWS

Oh, that’s a crock, Mrs. Bloom! You’re making that up to exonerate yourself from the problems your election has caused this school district.

MR. FORT

I overheard Mr. Bland’s comments, Mr. Stews.

 (A QUIET CHANTING BEGINS OUTSIDE AND GETS LOUDER DURING; THIS NEXT SCENE)

BOARD PRES. HYDE

We are getting nowhere with tonight’s agenda, Could we please get back to item three, the Preliminary Budget?

MR. FORT

Yes, I would like to see this budget spread over a three-year period so that we can see how much money was spent, in each category, two years ago, last year, and this year. Since I am newly elected to this position, _it would be easier to get a handle on the expenses.

BOARD PRES. HYDE

We have talked about this before, Ms, Fort, and personally think that’s a good idea. Mr. Livers, is it possible for your staff to redo this budget for the next meeting?

Well, uh…

MR. LIVERS (SHUFFLES PAPERS)

I think the staff can do that.

(CHANTING GETS LOUDER)

BOARD PRES. HYDE

Mr. Fort, would you like to make this a proposal?

MR. FORT

Yes, I would.

CATHERINE

 I second.

BOARD PRES. HYDE

Any nays? All right. We will have the new format for the next meeting.

SUPT. EEL (RISES AND GOES TO THE WINDOW)

What is all that noise outside?

(SOME PEOPLE GO OVER TO THE WINDOW. STEWS AND HYDE GO OUT THE DOOR.)

Look at those students, they’ve got picket signs and they’re brushing against my car! What treachery is this? Why are they doing that? Mrs. Bloom, this is all your fault.

(HE RUNS OUT. CATHERINE MOVES DOWNSTAGE TO PATRICIA AND CALLY, WHILE OTHERS WATCH OUT THE WINDOW AND THE DOOR)

CATHERINE

Do you know anything about this?

CALLY (LAUGHING)

Yes. There was a board meeting about three months ago—before you were elected, and I think you were out of town at the time—where the administration asked the members to expand the secondary school day.

PATRICIA

That’s right.Eel felt “more is better” so he requested the junior and senior high students attend seven periods of classes a day instead of six. There was no consultation with parents, teachers, or, God forbid, students. The students only learned of this last month.

CALLY

And I say good for them! These kids are standing up for their rights.

SUPT. EEL (COMES BACK IN VERY AGITATED)

I need everybody to get outside and send these students home! Threaten them with expulsion if they don’t immediately disperse­­- Oh, and get their posters and signs.

(LOOKS OUT THE WINDOW)

Oh, my, they are touching my car again!

(RUSHES OUT) (CALLY GOES TO GET COFFEE. SOME OTHERS GO TO WINDOW, THEN GO OUT.)

CATHERINE

 I don’t believe this.

(GOES TO THE WINDOW, LAUGHS)

Where’s a camera!

CALLY

 What’s happening?

PATRICIA

Eel is spread-eagled over the hood of his car and yelling at the students.

(CHANTING GETS LOUDER)

[END OF ACT 2]

[ACT 3 TWO WEEKS LATER]

(CATHERINE AND ETTA PIM ARE SITTING NEAR THE AUDIENCE, DRINKING COFFEE.)

CATHERINE

Oh my God, Etta, where did you find the courage to stand alone, a female, in front of those five  snarling lawyers representing the district?

MRS. PIM

(LAUGHS, RISES TO GET MORE COFFEE, AND ENDS UP SITTING ON EDGE OF BOARD TABLE)

You simply concentrate on what has to be done.

Everything they’re doing to you is wrong, and that’s what I keep presenting to the Judge Also, Catherine, when the Judge looks at me, one female surrounded by these five howling wolves, it reflects your situation with the “Good Ol’ Boy” club here.

CATHERINE

I will never forget the comment made by the lawyer representing the Commission for School Administrators.

(SHE MOVES UP NEAR ETTA AND PANTOMIMES)

Judge Frick lowered his glasses, looked at lawyer Smith, and said, “Since you support retired teachers being on the board, Mr. Smith, why oppose Mrs. Bloom just because she’ still teaching?”

MRS. PIM (SPUTTERS AND CHOKES ON HER COFFEE)

That comment should be cast in gold!

(RISES)

“Because everyone knows, your Honor, that within a year, a retired teacher becomes pro-administration.”

CATHERINE

Judge Frick looked at me, removed his glasses, and shook while he was cleaning them.

MRS. PIM

I knew then that we had won the case.

(CALLY AND PATRICIA ENTER AND ALTERNATE GETTING COFFEE)

CALLY

Congratulations, Mrs. Pim, You did a hell of a job in court.

MRS. PIM

Thanks to you all for being there to support Mrs. Bloom.

PATRICIA

I wouldn’t have missed it. Hey, I really liked those picketing students behind Catherine when the TV crew was interviewing her.

CALLY

I think it was their chanting, “We shall overcome”  that inspired the national news to run it at 11:00 o’clock and again for two days.

PATRICIA

What’ s the present situation on the “more is better” seven-period day? Some of the students interviewed on TV came off sounding a lot more articulate than either our superintendent or board president.

CATHERINE

Tonight the board is going to vote on a commission to meet with parents, teachers, and students, and reevaluate the seven-period-day decision. But that process may be moot with the tremendous media coverage these students are getting

MRS. PIM

The American Civil Liberties Union is ready to help the students. Personally, I’ve never seen better organized rallies and protests. They are pursuing their rights in a very controlled and non-aggressive manner, and the national news made this district administration look like fools!

CALLY

I thought the TV close-up of Eel spread-eagled on his car did that!

(ALL LAUGH)

MRS. PIM

Catherine, on the downside, I just got notice from my office that the district has filed another suit against you.

CATHERINE

Oh, no.

MRS. PIM

This one is a double-edged sword. They are going to stop your paychecks while they ask the court to define what you can and cannot vote on at the board meetings.

PATRICIA

But I thought the Attorney general’s opinion did just that. He said she could vote on everything, but it would look better not to vote on teacher salaries.

MRS. PIM

And the Attorney General’s opinion will be my “gold card” in this next trial. Catherine, can you live without a paycheck this month if the case isn’t settled by the first?

CATHERINE

Yes.

CALLY

I just don’t believe these guys. I head through a friend in another school district that Superintendent Eel promised the Commission of School Superintendents that he, and he alone, would “stomp out this infamy of a teacher daring to confront the administration.”

(ALL LOOK AT HER AND GROAN.)

CATHERINE

A brave statement by a man who cries over “dings” on his car.

(LAUGHTER)

PATRICIA

Catherine, what do you think is going to happen with Shoreline tonight? I understand that the parents plan to pack the audience—and some of them are looking for blood.

(NOISE OF PEOPLE ENTERING)

Whoops, here they come. See you all after the meeting.

(BOARD MEMBERS AND ADMINISTRATORS ENTER. SOME GO FOR COFFEE, SOME TALK, AND SOME SIT AT THEIR SEATS.)

BOARD PRES. HYDE

If you all would sit down, we would like to begin the meeting.

(POUNDS THE GAVEL)

Thank you. Do we have anyone who wishes to make an “unscheduled public appearance”?

MRS. PIM

Yes, sir, I do.

(SHE GOES TO THE PUBLIC PODIUM.)

I am Mrs. Etta Pim, Mrs. Bloom’s ACLU lawyer. I would like to announce both to the board and to the public that, last Tuesday, Mrs. Bloom won the case that the district filed against her.

(CHEERS FROM THE PUBLIC AND MUTTERS FROM THE ADMINISTRATORS)

I would also like to announce that the District has filed another suit against Mrs. Bloom that will freeze her salary.

(ABSOLUTE QUIET)

This forth coming trial will be in Judge Frick’s courtroom, 10:00 AM next Tuesday, and you are all welcome to attend. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE FROM THE AUDIENCE AND NEGATIVE COMMENTS TOWARD THE DISTRICT)

BOARD PRES. HYDE

Uh, well, if there are no other “unscheduled appearances,” I will entertain a motion to pass the minutes of the last meeting.

MR. FORT

I move we accept the minutes.

CATHERINE

I second.

BOARD PRES. HYDE

Anyone opposed? All right, the minutes stand as written. Our first item on the agenda tonight is the overcrowded Shoreline situation, and it will be presented by Mr. Livers.

MR. LIVERS (SCRATCHING, AS USUAL)

Uh, if you will turn to page seven of the board book, you will see that staff did an excellent job of gathering all the information requested by various board members. You will see in A-1 that we could get by with transferring as few as 50 students. Our recommendation is to bus all the first grade students to two other district schools where they can be absorbed. Our only cost would be two new school buses.

MR. STEWS

Good recommendation,   Mr. Livers, and I applaud the administration for its effort in bringing this information to us so quickly.

(GROANS FROM AUDIENCE)

CATHERINE

Since this is your recommendation for next year, Mr. Livers, what is the plan for the following year? If the population grows, as is predicted, will we then bus the first and second grades? And the year after, the first three grades?

MR. LIVERS (ANGRY)

Mrs. Bloom, you are micro-managing again. I do believe that my staff knows more than you.

(A GROWLING FROM THE AUDIENCE CAUSES MR. EEL HAS TO GRAB LIVER’S ARM AND PULL HIM DOWN.)

MR. FORT

A one-year plan is unacceptable. We this board of trustees, are concerned about a long-range plan, and one that can benefit-our students. A 160 thousand dollar expense for two school buses for a single year’s plan doesn’t make any sense.

(CHEERS FROM THE AUDIENCE)

SUPT. EEL (EYEING THE AUDIENCE)

Now, Mr. Fort, You know that we are working on a long-range plan that should be agreeable to most everyone,

BOARD PRES. HYDE

Uh, maybe this would be a good time to hear from members of the audience.

PATRICIA (GOES TO THE PODIUM)

I would like to speak to the Shoreline issue. As PTA President for one of Shoreline’s elementary schools, I represent a large number of the parents. If you remember, our PTA met with the board last year, and, for the seven years prior to that, we continually met with the administration, asking, then begging, for another elementary school. Three years ago, Superintendent Eel said, and I quote, “We are working on a Strategic Plan as a precursor to any definitive educational plans.” We have asked frequently to see that “plan” and were ignored. You rejected our demographic study because the district hadn’t pre-approved it. Therefore, your recommendation tonight is totally unacceptable.

(CHEERS)

We don’t want any of our students bused when you have the money available to build another school. Your job is not to save money for “economic uncertainty,” but to do what is best for the students of this district. And that is to build another school.

Thank you.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS FROM THE AUDIENCE; ADMINISTRATORS NERVOUSLY CONFER WITH EACH OTHER.)

(CALLY GOES TO THE PUBLIC PODIUM. SHE HAS THE BUDGET WITH HER AND USES IT AS NECESSARY. A BRIGHT LIGHT COMES ON HER AS A TV CREW BEGINS TO FILM HER)

CALLY

I would also like to speak to the Shoreline issue. After studying the most recent budget, we found over six million dollars tucked away in various accounts.

(REACTION FROM THE AUDIENCE)

 If any board member so desires, I can tell you the pages and item numbers of these accounts.

(ADMINISTRATORS NERVOUSLY CONFER TOGETHER WHILE BOARD MEMBERS, OTHER THAN CATHERINE AND FORT LOOK FRIGHTENED. MR. STEWS STANDS UP AND YELLS.)

MR. STEWS

This is totally unacceptable!

(UNTIL TV LIGHT SHINES ON HIM AND HE ABRUPTLY SITS.)

(BOARD PRESIDENT HYDE KEEPS LOOKING AT THE ADMINISTRATION BUT GETS NO SUPPORT FROM THEM.)

BOARD PRES. HYDE

Well, OK, if none of you requires that information, I’ll come to the point. Maybe we could take four and a half million dollars from these accounts, still leaving the district two per cent for “economic uncertainty,” and build a new school in Shoreline.

(PAUSES. HUSH FALLS OVER THE AUDIENCE.)

CATHERINE

I move that we take four and a half million dollars from the budget and build a new school in Shoreline.

MR. FORT

I second the motion.

BOARD PRES. HYDE

Well, I, uh, Superintendent Eel?

SUPT. EEL (RISES, AND THE TV LIGHT SHINES ON HIM)

This, of course, was our long range plan, and provided for in our wonderful Strategic Plan. Under the circumstances, I don’t see why we can’t move it up.

CATHERINE

I call the question.

BOARD PRES. HYDE (TV LIGHTS ON HIM)

The question has been called. We will do a roll call vote on the motion to build a new school at Shoreline. I will call for the vote alphabetically. Mrs. Bloom?

CATHERINE

Yes.

BOARD PRES. HYDE

Mr. Fort?

MR. FORT

Yes.

BOARD PRES. HYDE

 I vote “yes,” and Mr. Stews?

MR. STEWS

Yeah.

BOARD PRES. HYDE

The motion passes.

(CHEERS AND DISTURBANCE FROM THE AUDIENCE, CALLY AND PATRICIA DANCING IN THE AISLE.)

BOARD PRES. HYDE (SHOUTS)

We will take a ten-minute break.

(SUPT EEL STARTS GLAD-HANDING THE AUDIENCE AS THOUGH THIS WERE HIS IDEA.)

MRS. PIM (COMES UP TO CATHERINE AND HUGS HER)

I can see why they so desperately want to get rid of you, Catherine!

CATHERINE

When people have had enough, they become very powerful.

(PATRICIA AND CALLY JOIN THEM)

Good job, you guys… and well done.

(A FEW HIGH-FIVES OR HANDSHAKES)

MRS. PIM

What’s next on the agenda tonight?

(A LOW CHANT OF “WE SHALL OVERCOME” BEGINS AND RAPIDLY ESCALATES)

Oh, no. The students are picketing this meeting?

CATHERINE

Absolutely.  What better time? If you really want to see something funny—watch Superintendent Eel.

SUPT. EEL (HEARS TRE CHANTING)

Oh, my God, they’re back, and they are going to “ding” my car! Stews, Hyde help me protect my car.

(AND THEY RUN OUT SIDE DOOR. ALL FREEZE.)

END

About carolinebotwin

Caroline Botwin and her husband Mike are retired educators who have always had a yen for travelling: he with a PH.D and teaching Architectural Engineering plus California wine education, and she having taught high school English, speech and drama. Both wanted to learn first hand about other cultures. While Mike predominately studied buildings and structures and met with winemakers, Caroline hunted for ancient sites and peoples. And kept journals of all their travels. Kevin Klimczak, extraordinaire, is the website designer and editor of the blogs.
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