Woman Overboard: Act I

This is my reaction to the impeachment hearings… If you do not like it you can close the page…

COPYRIGHT 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]

To be continued… (and cheap)

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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