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Chapter 5

The next morning, Sherri was unable to make anything happen, as there wasn’t enough warning to have everyone together. What she did do was arrange a meeting that afternoon with Lilly’s caseworker, a school counselor and the principal. However, before she left that morning, Sherri demanded access to all of Lilly’s school records, which were reluctantly provided. She studied them the entire day and that afternoon, stunned at what she saw. The girl really was a phenomenal student, in spite of the hardships she had suffered. There were mentions of drug use, and believed sexual incidents, but there was no proof of anything. There was never even any disciplinary issues.

When she arrived that afternoon, she made sure to take Lilly aside before the meeting. “Lilly, I want to try and get you into a more advanced regular class, if I can, but I want to make sure you’re alright with that. If you’d prefer to stay in the class you’re currently in, I’ll understand and will only aim for the special math session. This is your future, so you decide,” she said.

“I’d like the advanced class, I think,” she said.

“Are you sure? It’s a lot more work,” Sherri said. Lilly thought for only a moment before nodding, her certainty clear in her expression. They then went into the office, and were led into a conference room, where the other three were already gathered.

“To begin, I want Priscilla put back in the advanced math session she had been intended for at the start of the school year,” she said, before anyone else spoke.

“I’m afraid we can’t do that,” the counselor replied.

“You can, and you will,” Sherri told her.

“You cannot come here and force her into a class she is ill equipped to be in,” the principal said, backing the counselor.

“Surely you aren’t this incompetent,” Sherri said, but continued on before they could counter. Her initial rebuttal had brought about immediate and intense reactions.

“I’ve studied her academic record, going back to first grade. She has managed to maintain almost straight A’s every year, but one. And that year she had a single B. What justification do you have to say she is ill equipped?” she asked, in a very accusatory tone.

“Mrs. Bazemore, I know you don’t understand the education system, but she is a troubled child. Her behavior issues will impede her ability to participate in a class with the demands required in such an advanced setting,” the counselor said, not realizing who she was dealing with. The principal knew very well who Sherri was, and almost groaned out loud, in spite of her original support of the counselor.

“First, I understand the education system very well, having been a teacher, an assistant high school principal, a principal at every level of the school system and a school board member. Second, if she had a behavior issue, which I see absolutely no evidence of in her file, it has been documented that many behavior issues stem from a lack of stimulation in the class. Those children statistically do much better when placed in classes that truly challenge them, or are you unaware of modern educational theory,” she rebuked the counselor.

“She has been accused of using drug, as well as sexual indiscretions, not to mention gang affiliation,” the counselor said, trying to continue her unfounded argument.

“The accusations you’re making have no evidence to back them. They are all rumor and innuendo, nothing more,” Sherri said.

“Nancy, your arguments are not valid, and Sherri has proven her point, quite thoroughly,” the principal said to the counselor.

“Mrs. Rafferty, as Priscilla’s caseworker, what is your say in this matter?” the principal asked.

“Mrs. Bazemore, aside from being Priscilla’s guardian, has made a very well reasoned argument, and to be honest, I think she is right. As far as DFCS is concerned, we will back her recommendations,” the caseworker replied.

“Sherri, what do you want for Priscilla?” she then asked Sherri.

“I want her in the advanced placement class she had been originally intended for, and also in any advanced placement sessions that are offered, which I also believe she had originally been placed in. She informed us that she’s bored with math in her class, because she already knows all of the material being taught, but in only a matter of a few days, it is already clear to us that she is bored in school generally,” she replied.

“Sherri, we have an advanced reading session, as well as the pre-Algebra session, but there is nothing else. She will be placed in the more advanced class, as well. Is that satisfactory?” the principal asked.

“It is, and thank you,” Sherri replied, with a friendly smile.

“Nancy, make the appropriate changes, and set up a meeting with us and the affected teachers as quickly as possible. We need to inform them of their new student, so they can make any necessary adjustments,” the principal said. Although Sherri was concerned about that meeting, she wasn’t going to worry about it too much. She’d achieved the goals she’d set out for.

“Lilly, if you have any trouble, of any kind, let us know and we’ll make it right,” she told Lilly, once the meeting was over, and they were about to get in the car.

“Yes, ma’am,” Lilly replied, giving Sherri a small smile, and then a quick hug.

Sherri and Leonard got me back into an advanced class, and also pre-Algebra and the advanced reading and writing class. The school people didn’t like it, but Sherri made them. Sherri actually asked me before she did it if I was sure I wanted it. She is AWESOME!! And Leonard is AWESOME!! I absolutely love having them as foster parents, and I’ve only been in their house a few days! I hope I get to stay here for a long time.

“We have an unexpected change in a student’s class placement. Priscilla Pimlott has been moved from Pamela’s class to James’. She will also attend the advanced reading and the pre-Algebra sessions for the sixth graders,” the counselor began.

“I’ve heard that name,” James Clyburn, Lilly’s new teacher said.

“Yeah, her name is on the gang list,” Pamela Townsend, agreed. Although she looked a little surprised by the change, she didn’t seem upset by it.

“Yes, she has been associated with some gang activity, including drugs and sex. However, her academic record supports this move, in spite of potential behavioral issues. Should there be any issues, report them immediately, and don’t hesitate to refer her to the office. I don’t want one student to bring down the rest,” the counselor said, still not relenting on the believed behavior problem.

“And why are you agreeing to move this child into our special classes, if she’s a known problem?” Kristi Lewis asked, who was about to be Lilly’s pre-Algebra teacher.

“Because the current foster mother, along with her caseworker, want this,” Nancy replied. “However, as I said, if there are any problems, report them immediately, and we’ll have grounds to remove her.”

As the meeting ended, Kristi Lewis headed to her room, somewhat troubled. There was too much animosity toward this girl, regardless of what she might be involved in. By the time she walked into her classroom, she hadn’t figured anything out, other than she was uncomfortable with the situation. If there really were problems with this girl, why was there grounds to force her into classes she wasn’t able to perform in? The other question was almost more concerning. Why was everyone against this child, if she was able to perform?

The next day, Priscilla Pimlott came into her class when the advanced math session began. The somewhat petite girl immediately went toward the back. She was very quiet, and kept to herself. It seemed as if she was embarrassed, but Kristi couldn’t see anything for her to be embarrassed about. She was dressed in what seemed like nice new clothes, if not the nicest choices. Her backpack also looked new, but there was a wariness to her.

Not able to think any further on the matter, she began the class. She considered trying to give the girl some special attention, but decided against it. She wanted to see what the girl was capable of, or if she’d even ask for help.

As the class ended, Priscilla Pimlott packed her belongings very quickly, and left, never having even looked at her. She never spoke to any other student, and no one made any attempt to speak with her, almost seeming to actively avoid her. Apparently, the kids knew her reputation and these kids didn’t like it, and as a result, her.

She was curious how Priscilla would do on the homework she had assigned them. She’d already missed the first two months of the class, so she was incredibly far behind.

From the time she got home until bedtime, Leonard sat with Lilly, teaching her everything up to where the class was. His methods were a little different, but they made sense to her, and she caught on very quickly. Leonard was actually surprised at how fast Lilly understood it, and told Sherri as much.

Doing something very unusual for her, the next afternoon, Kristi Lewis collected homework. A number of students hadn’t finished it, and she looked at every student’s work as she collected it. Finally, she got to Priscilla, who pulled out two neatly written pages of work. Not only had the girl apparently done the homework, an initial cursory glance at it showed her that it looked good.

“Did you get help with the homework?” she asked.

“Yes, ma’am. My foster father explained it to me,” she answered. Her show of respect, and decent speech further mystified Kristi with the reputation the girl had. Sure, she had a very deep southern accent, but they were in the deep south. Things simply didn’t add up for her, with regard to this girl.

What really bothered her, was how easy the adults around her, the ones that should be trying to help and protect her, were key in beating her down. Although she wasn’t certain, in any way, she was beginning to believe that the rumors were just that, and nothing more.

With her already abnormal collecting of homework, another idea sprung into her mind. She quickly scanned through the papers in her hand, finding what she wanted. She called out, “Stacy, can you do problem one?”

“I didn’t understand it, Mrs. Lewis,” the girl replied.

“What about you, Robbie?” she then asked.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Lewis. I didn’t finish my homework,” he said.

“But that was the first problem. Surely, if you began it, you’d have at least done that one,” she said. She was embarrassing these two students, who were actually two of her better students, but she had decided to make a point, and they were the victims of this scheme.

“Sarah,” she asked, and again got a negative response.

“Priscilla, you are new to the class, and are probably still trying to get caught up, but can you do this problem?” she asked, knowing Priscilla had done it, and done it right.

“I guess,” she replied, looking nervous. Although the answer wasn’t as respectful as she’d been the day before, it wasn’t disrespectful, either.

“Please go to the board and show everyone how it’s done, then,” Kristi told her, giving her back her homework.

The girl walked to the front of the class, almost shaking. She wrote the problem first, then began working her way through it, having set the homework on the desk once the problem was written on the board. Although her technique was slightly different than what had been taught, it worked, and her answer was correct.

“Very good. Please return to your seat,” she said, then turned to the class.

“Do you all know why I just did this?” she asked the class, knowing she might possibly increase the girl’s isolation, rather than help it. But, she had to take the chance.

She saw a lot of embarrassed looks, but no one made a sound. They now knew this was a lecture on not doing homework.

“You have been in my class for almost two months. I don’t require most of the homework I assign to be turned in, because I want you to take the responsibility to do it, and insure your own success. If you don’t work, you will not succeed. We have a brand new student, one who has not sat through the last two months of lectures, yet she not only made the effort to learn this in one night, she completed the homework, and from what I saw, she got it right,” she said, pausing for effect.

“But her foster father probably did it for her,” Robbie said.

“I wondered that myself, which is why I had her come up and do that problem. Not only did she do it, she did it differently than I taught it, and she didn’t copy it from her homework paper. Her ability to do it, when put on the spot, shows that she understands it. I have no reason, based on that small demonstration, to believe that she didn’t do this homework herself. However, I don’t have a problem with any of you getting help with your homework. Homework is given to help you improve your knowledge and skill with what has been taught in the class. I don’t want someone else doing it for you, but please, get help, if you need it,” she told them.

“Now that I have hopefully gotten all of you to understand the importance of actually doing your homework, we will continue our lesson from yesterday,” she began.

As class finally ended, she knew her effort wasn’t going to have a good result. The other kids looked at Priscilla with a mix of embarrassment and anger. Lilly glanced at Sarah, but her eyes moved away as fast as they’d gone to the girl. There seemed to be some history there, but that wasn’t a concern for Kristi.

“Priscilla, would you come here a moment, please,” she asked the girl, just before she got to the door.

“What,” she asked, and there was a definite wariness to her.

“You did very well with your homework. Frankly, I’m impressed that you were able to catch up that fast,” she said.

“I don’t understand some of the stuff, but most of it’s easy,” Priscilla said.

“Are you good at math?” Kristi asked.

“Yeah,” she replied.

“I would like to ask you a question that really isn’t any of my business, so feel free to not answer,” she began, and paused, trying to decide if she really wanted to do this. Finally, she asked, “Have you ever taken any illegal drugs?”

If looks could have killed, Kristi was certain she’d have been dead. There was an intense flash of anger on Priscilla’s face, and she simply turned and left. What really bothered her was that moisture had formed in the girl’s eyes, whether from anger, embarrassment, or something else, she had no idea.

In a moment of regret, she darted down the hall. Although she was larger and faster, she had trouble catching Priscilla, but she did. She gently led the girl to a side room, which was empty at the moment. The girl before her had tears on her cheeks, but anger in her eyes.

“I’m very sorry for asking that, and you’re right to be mad at me. There are a lot of rumors about you, and I wanted to prove to myself that they weren’t true. I’m sorry,” she said.

“I don’t care what everyone thinks about me. You can all go to hell!” Priscilla almost screamed.

“From now on, I’ll teach you pre-Algebra, and not worry about anything else. You are clearly a very intelligent girl, and deserve to be taught to the best of my ability,” Kristi said, and turned to walk out of the room. She stopped just before she did, however, and got a piece of paper off the desk. Quickly, she wrote up a hall pass for Priscilla, and set it on the desk beside her, where she was still standing with tears streaming down her face.

“Since you’re going to be later than expected getting back to class, and I don’t want you to get in trouble because of me,” she said, then left.

“Mrs. Lewis,” she heard, and stopped, just as she was about to turn the corner.

“Yes, Priscilla?” she asked.

“No,” Priscilla said, then all but ran the opposite direction. It took Kristi a moment to understand the answer, then it hit her. She’d already suspected that to be the case, but to have it said, and with that much emotion surrounding the simple answer, showed that the rumors very much impacted the poor girl. She knew very well what people said about her, and she was embarrassed, and they weren’t true.

Kristi almost smiled as she returned to her room. That little girl, although somewhat timid, had some serious spunk. Priscilla had very definitely put her in her place, in that last exchange.

“Nancy, can I speak with you?” Kristi asked that afternoon, as she entered Nancy’s office.

“Sure. What’s up?” Nancy asked.

“What is the real story with Priscilla Pimlott?” she asked.

“I don’t understand,” Nancy replied.

“I’ve had her in my class a few days now, and I see no signs of any trouble, with or from her. In fact, she’s very intelligent, and quiet,” Kristi said.

“She has a history, though, which is well documented. She went through a rehab center, which seems to have cleaned her up. We’ll see if it sticks,” Nancy said.

“I asked her outright, if she’d ever used any illegal drugs, and she said no,” Kristi said.

“That’s not your place,” Nancy stated, looking very displeased.

“No, it’s not, but something’s not right with the story I was given, and what I’ve heard. She’s too sharp to be on, or probably to have ever been on drugs. They mess your mind up, and there’s no way around that. She’s impressive, and I couldn’t help but ask her,” she said, but Nancy cut in, before she could continue.

“You could get in a lot of trouble for getting into matters that aren’t your business,” she said, the warning note of her voice impossible to miss. “However, people that are addicted, will do and say anything to hide their problem,” Nancy concluded.

“Well, for what it’s worth, I absolutely believe her. There was too much emotion in her response to have been faked,” Kristi said, and left.

My stupid math teacher actually asked me if I used drugs. Why does everyone believe this shit??? She did apologize, though. Maybe she isn’t that bad, and she promised to treat me like any other kid and only teach me math. It’ll be interesting to see if she keeps her promise.

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