The Healing Horse, Ch. 22, Scene 3: Mama Visits Principal Stephie

image of Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra

After little Kitten sees her mother at school, Mama has a serious talk with the principal. She has always advocated for her daughter, but now she is beginning to think like an activist.

(Image of Elizabeth Taylor in her role as Cleopatra from Trailer screenshot, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Scene 3: Mama Visits Principal Stephie

Mama said hello to the school secretary and let her know that she had a meeting scheduled with the principal. Mama knew both women well, since she had been an officer in the PTA every year since Karen had enrolled. She sat and reviewed her notes, before the secretary called her into Stephie Sinclair’s office.

Stephanie Sinclair was a buxom middle-aged woman who always wore a suit to work. Today, it was red. She stood five and a half feet tall in matching red heels. Two wide silver streaks ran up from her forehead and through her beehive of black hair. She had adopted the fashionable Cleopatra-style eye makeup but kept her conservative red lipstick. Behind the heavy black eyeliner and blue eyeshadow, her warm brown eyes radiated warmth. As always, Mrs. Sinclair’s emotional warmth impressed Mama. After a brief greeting, Mama came to the point.

“Karen could use some extra help because of her learning disabilities, and she’s not the only student in the school who needs this. I see her struggling more and more as her homework becomes increasingly advanced. Most nights, she isn’t able to complete it on her own. She transposes letters and adds the letter s to the end of every word she reads, and her comprehension diminishes accordingly. She gets frustrated about not retaining the information she learns in class and at home, and she is showing signs of deep anxiety about school. Many nights, she goes to bed at seven-thirty, but she doesn’t get to sleep until midnight because of her worries about not learning. You’ve seen how tired she looks. You and I have talked for years about the school hiring a teacher with special training in learning disabilities, and I feel strongly that the time has come to act on this. I have discussed this with several other parents in the PTA, and we all agree that our children need help dealing with their learning disabilities. The teachers are good with the physical disabilities, but they don’t have the training for learning disabilities. I don’t want you to feel that I am pressuring you, but the other parents and I are willing to back you up if you have to request extra funding for an added staff position from the school board. We want a teacher on staff who can work directly with learning disabled students, and who can advise the classroom teachers too.”

The principal’s smile faded as she listened to Mama.

“You’re right, Katie. You’re absolutely right, but unless the school board approves hiring a specialist teacher, there’s nothing I can do. I ask every year, but so far, they have not seen enough of a need to justify the expense. You know I want to make this school a model for educational reform. In fact, I have already interviewed several candidates, so I will have one lined up if I can get approval. Maybe if you and the other parents speak with the board, you can change their minds. Meanwhile, I believe we have Karen studying on her own every afternoon, with one of the teachers looking in on her every hour.”

Mama took a deep breath and sighed. “I was afraid that was still the situation. I’ll speak with the other parents and try to get a group together to address the board.”

“There’s one other thing,” she continued. “Karen overheard some very disturbing conversations between Mrs. Pinzetti and Mrs. DeLuca. She said they were planning to talk Mrs. Beaumont into letting them put Tammy into a power wheelchair, even if Tammy might get hurt. They want the prestige of being the first therapists in the LA area to put a quadriplegic into a power chair. They also said that Dr. Lambert is demanding that they recommend more children for surgery so he can collect his surgical fees, even if the children don’t need surgery. I hope you have an explanation for why they would say these things.”

Principal Stephie went pale as she listened to Mama’s words.

“Katie, this is news to me. Let me see if I can get to the bottom of it, and let’s get together, again, in a few days.”

With those words, Mama left. The long years of devoting all of her spare time to the school and of advocating for disabled students might eventually pay off, but meanwhile she admitted to herself that she had not made much progress. The school board was more concerned about high school basketball than about disabled children with learning problems, and now there was another issue with the experts. Mama drove back to work, wondering if her efforts would ever pay off but as determined as ever to keep trying. She vowed to herself that she would never give up.

Original text ©2022 by Karen Lynn-Chlup. All rights reserved.


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