Allen looked at Frank with a skeptical eye. “Who’s watching?”
Frank answered carefully, “At the retreat Ralph Hanby asked me to keep an eye on things. He wanted to know stuff about the high school.”
“Ralph Hanby? The same Ralph Hanby who…” started Allen.
“Who what, Allen?”
Sometimes our mouths get ahead of our judgment. Allen’s mouth had rushed far ahead of his thinking. He nearly said that Ralph Hanby had been the board member who forced Allen to send Frank to counseling. Because of his position on the school board, Hanby had access and authority to get what he wanted from the school district. Most board members respect their position, but Hanby recognized opportunity and felt emboldened by his power.
Allen decided to tell Frank. “It was Hanby who complained about you to Dr. Russell. He wanted you to be fired, but Dr. Russell stuck by your side.”
“Stuck by my side? Right. A girl makes up a story and I end up going to counseling. It was humiliating.”
“Better than getting fired,” joked Allen.
“Allen, I swear to you, I never asked her about her birth control. She offered up that she was using it so that she could miss class. I let her go to study hall and then I asked her guidance counselor what was going on. Her guidance counselor was the one who called the parents. Not me. I did nothing wrong.”
“I believe you, Frank, but Hanby was putting the clamps on Dr. Russell because his daughter who is a friend with the girl said you asked her if she was taking birth control. Dr. Russell had to do something to get Hanby to back down.”
Frank shook his head. For all the talk of the school district being a community and family, Frank’s experience had been that of a disowned child. The experience felt like a chunky rock being dropped on his foot. The pain radiated, but eventually went away. The memory, however, was recorded deeply in his ability to believe anything that was said about how the teachers, administration, and community were all in this education thing together. Hanby was a roadblock to Frank feeling trust in school again.
“Well, it would seem to me that if he didn’t get me fired and that’s what he really wanted, revenge might be on his mind. You and Dr. Russell let him down. Since he probably thinks I would rat you guys out, he came to me for dirt to use against you. I’d say his is doing more than watching.”
Allen was used to being the conniving one. Being on the defensive was something knew for him. He liked to think that he was the offensive person in most social situations, something Frank would have agreed to, but in this case he was caught off guard. There had been rumblings that the board was dissatisfied with the achievement gap between the lower socioeconomic groups and the upper crust kids. There was also a growing frustration in the community about the lack of success with the sports teams. He wondered if these could be reasons for Hanby to approach Frank. He also wondered if it was worth engaging Hanby at all.
“So what are you going to do, Allen,” asked Frank.
“Are you going to say something to your girlfriend?”
“I don’t have a girlfriend?”
Frank chuckled, “I mean, Dr. Russell.”
“Do you think Hanby would go after her? Should I say something to her?”
“Allen, you do what you want, but I think Hanby is only thinking about Hanby. He wants to present himself as a community minded person. He has shown that he only thinks for the things that benefit his kids or his close friends. You need to make sure you account for every invoice, keep all of the chrome polished, and figure out how to make this PIOUS thing seem like a true innovation.”
“Or what?” asked Allen.
“Looks like counseling for you, son. I know a place with great rates.”
“Yes you do,” said Allen. “Will you keep me in the loop if Hanby gets back to you?”
“Sure, but I’m playing both sides. I may even talk to the union just in case. I don’t feel good about this.”
Allen extended his hand to Frank, “Deal and I agree with you. Something isn’t right.”
Frank shook Allen’s hand and said, “I wish I could just teach.”