(Excerpt from Keeping Score, the precursor story to Capturing Captain America)
Ronan followed behind Kaja as they walked down the stairs towards her office on the west wing of Padua High School. Her pace was hurried with long strides on her suede boots. Ronan noticed the Latino and Asian art themes on the walls. There were was no trophy chest beside the gym or choir room. Just abstract and street inspired images from the students who made them for various events during the year. Padua High School was mediocre and ordinary. It was one of those schools that had a teenage mom program and on site daycare. Approximately one third of the underage girls were already mothers before the end of their junior year. The place just wasn’t good at anything.
Ronan watched Kaja as she shook her head in acknowledgment to the kids as they passed by. He noticed how comfortable she was but something about her presence there was a juxtaposition. Kaja was gifted and how she ended up in the Mission dealing with remedial learners was tragic. Ronan had thought she was one of those Teach for America recruits who would leverage their participation in the corps to end up at JP Morgan. Kaja took advantage of the program’s graduate school tuition benefit for a joint Masters in Mathematics and Public Policy where she finished with a 4.0 GPA. To her credit Kaja was fluent in German, Bosnian, and English. Why didn’t she go into banking or management consulting? Ronan felt like he wanted to ask this question every time he saw her. Kaja went straight to work at Padua after a year in New York working for IvyWise. She loved Manhattan and the company yet something brought her to the Mission. Something that not even a promotion and salary increase in New York could counteract. Kaja still recruited and screen low income families in the Mission to receive Pro-Bono services from IvyWise yet never desired to return to them full time. Then Ronan remembered that she turned down Teach for America for the Oakland Teaching Fellows because she had her pick of the school. A middle school on the Oakland/Berkeley border where she got to use Montessori methods whenever she wanted.
Kaja’s office was just passed the daycare and across from the home economics classrooms. Her door was the only one painted a teal green rather than the usual drab cement gray.
“Here is my office,” she said as she turned quickly to glance at him while clasping the doorknob.
The first thing about a person’s home or workspace that you feel tells you everything about them. Kaja’s interior design had the look of Japanese inspired feng shui. Her furnishing and decorations were straight from San Francisco’s Japantown. Ronan thought that her attempt at inviting Zen was pretty good. Minimal but fairly warm was the atmosphere of her office. Plenty of educational books neatly arranged by height. Kaja’s two degrees on the wall behind her desk. Cool neutral tones for the sofa and coffee table near the window overlooking the varsity running tracks. Ronan took a seat on the couch feeling like Kaja would stare him down for 10 minutes before conversing.
“So what’s your solution Ronan. Tell me what’s in that pristine pinstripe report of yours that the school board was so tickled about.”
“Aren’t you a little old for that tone? You’re not only a few years older than your students. Don’t pull a I’m in my prime statement like Miss Jean Brodie. The only prime you need to be intense on are the prime numbers on the nezt bell curve that your students fall in.”
“Tone? I’m being funny to break the ice. You know I’ve always been sarcastic.”
“My first solution is to increase the amount of timed logic quizzes and include 15 minute strategy sessions in a group exercise. This program will be implemented over modules of three to four weeks with brief evaluations at the end of a teaching sequence.”
Ronan handed Kaja a copy of a training manual for all math teachers in her department. Kaja had been right. The document looked like a binding of several annual reports into a leather cover.
“Is this for me?”
“Yes Kaja. You can keep that.”
“So what have you promised my superiors the next score results will be Ronan? If the kids go from 10th percentile to 90th like you did on your SATs and GMAT they may just be accused by the State of cheating. You do realize that?”
“I guaranteed they would be at the 50th percentile so the school and district don’t go on probation and you’re not suspended.”
“Well, thanks for thinking of me too”
“Focus Kaja. This is not about you. The kids are not a reflection of you stop internalizing.”
“Stop playing psychologist out to diagnose.”
Ronan reached for a copy of his analyst report in his dossier. His eyes caught Kaja standing up and walking towards the min fridge and bar across from the bookcase.
“I have organic ice tea. Do you want some?”
“How long are we meeting for?”
“An hour and then I need to leave for another client in North Beach.”
“Ok. I’ll listen to your numbers but you have 30 minutes because I have my own plans you need to hear.”
As she sat a coaster in front of him with a cold glass filled with large ice cubes Ronan noticed the branded design on the glass. The Ayn Rand Institute.