Orientation Day


marthe_icon.gif peyton_icon.gif wright_icon.gif

Scene Title Orientation Day
Synopsis Parents meet to discuss the possibilities for enrolling their daughter at Winslow Crawford Academy for the Gifted.
Date August 14, 2020

Winslow Crawford Academy for the Gifted

While it’s summertime, the living’s not too easy over at the Winslow-Crawford Academy on Roosevelt Island, mostly because there’s so much to do. The buildings are beautiful, inside and out, but the new campus means more students, more staff, more faculty, and all of these things mean interviews, tours, and paperwork.

Luckily Peyton Whitney has a fabulous staff. If she doesn’t know how to do something, she finds someone who does it, and does it well. Still, some things are best left to the dean, and prospective parents usually want to meet the person in charge.

As she awaits the next meeting, she smiles over at Jonah who’s sitting at the corner of her office meant for kids — bean bag chairs sit near bookshelves full of popular children’s books and a couple of charging tablets loaded with educational games. The color palette there matches the rest of her office — not childish, but warm with bronze tones, contrasted with blue highlights. “What are you working on?” she asks, just as her secretary peers into her office.

“Your next appointment,” the young man says, and Peyton looks over with a smile, nodding for Travis to show them in. “Come on in,” he says warmily, gesturing them from the waiting area outside.

A woman in a black and navy blue summer dress and wavy, bright ginger hair walks into the room with a smile to the secretary. She’s followed by a taller, short-haired blonde woman with wings of bright gold eyeliner wearing light blue, cuffed jeans and a short-sleeved black dress shirt patterned with thin white stripes and scattered starbursts. Marthe, responding to a job posting for another school nurse, carries herself with comfortable professionality. Wright, her tall wife, seems slightly out of place but happy with the bright, inviting colors of the room.

“Good afternoon!” Marthe says as she makes her way to the desk. Wright follows her with a nod and a kind of half-wave, as if to say yes, I am also here. She doesn’t seem nervous, she carries herself with the grace of someone who has mapped out a room and her place in it. Turns to nod in acknowledgement to the assistant who saw them in. “I’m Marthe, this is my wife Wright. We’re Ames’s moms.”

“She’s around here somewhere,” Wright adds, looking over her shoulder. In the doorway, a small girl with curly blonde hair leans into view and glances around. Wright waves her into the room.

Jonah mouths Duolingo to his mom to answer the question, before standing up and unplugging the tablet. The bean bag chair rustles as it resettles, the sound of a thousand tiny styrofoam pellets finding their way back to resting position. He grins at the two women with the smile of an eight-year-old; that is, new front teeth that look too big, and a couple Jack O’Lantern spaces still waiting their replacements. “I’ll go sit with Hollis,” he says as he heads out the door, clearly used to his mom kicking him out for her appointments.

Peyton’s risen from her seat and smiles at Jonah’s polite exit, before stepping forward to shake each of the women’s hands. “So nice to meet both of you! We’re thrilled to have you and Ames join our community,” she says, with a generous smile for each as she gestures to the chairs across from her desk. She points her finger to the door that Jonah just exited. “That one’s mine. I can’t believe he’s eight already.”

She settles back into her own chair. “Is Ames excited about starting school?”

But it’s then that Ames is announced to be present, and Jonah moves out of the way. “Hi, Ames! Once my mom’s done talking to you, I can show you the toys and stuff,” he says, with a nod to the kids’ corner he just vacated.

Peyton smiles at the little girl. “Welcome, Ames. It’s so nice to meet you. I’m Ms. Whitney.”

Ames’s attention is torn between the mention of toys and the restriction of later, but turns to look up at Ms. Whitney with a shy smile. “Hi,” she says, directing another, quieter, conspiratorial “Hi,” to Jonah. As the adults settle into chairs, Wright pats her leg and Ames allows herself to be placed in her mother’s lap without fuss.

“She is,” Wright answers for Ames, giving her a hug from behind, and Ames wiggles happily in the hug. “She’s usually more talkative but I’m sure she’ll be colliding with walls in her excitement to hold conversation in no time.” Ames turns to look Wright in the eye and holds an open hand. “Yes, and also she is five. That is important, sorry.”

Marthe grins warmly at her family before turning toward Peyton. “We are all so grateful to be able to bring Ames here,” she says with relieved sincerity. “We’ve been worried about where she would attend school for years, this place is a godsend.”

With the air of a much older and wiser child, Jonah waits patiently to show Ames the toys if and when she is released from her mother’s hold. Without being told, he returns to the children’s area and puts on the noise-cancelling headphones that he’s told to where when meetings are in session, just in case there’s anything he shouldn’t here.

“Five! That is such an amazing age to be. I remember it quite fondly,” Peyton tells Ames with a toothy smile. “Don’t tell Jonah, but I wish he was five again. Eight is wonderful, too, but he’s not so much for laps these days,” she says with a sigh, before she turns her attention back to Wright and Marthe.

“I understand that completely. Really, it was having Jonah that led me into this position. He was still just a toddler when I decided to start the Winslow-Crawford Academy up in Toronto, but it was because I was thinking about what I would want for him when he was big enough to go to school. Somewhere safe and also enriching for expressive children and their allies,” she explains. A fond look for her son is thrown over the shoulders of the two women she sits across.

She gestures out the window, where the rest of Roosevelt Island can be seen. “I wasn’t a hundred percent sure about accepting such a gift from Yamagato, but I admit, I feel much better with SESA literally just a few blocks away. The biggest challenges we’ve faced, outside of normal school issues, have been a manifestation or two that we contained pretty quickly. Our staff is well equipped to handle such things.”

Peyton’s dark-eyed gaze returns to the parents. “Is there anything I can answer for you? Or for Ames?” The little girl is given another smile.

“Has there been any special consideration made for structural materials on the campus that can dampen sudden bursts of extreme kinetic force?” Wright asks sincerely, while Marthe closes her eyes and suppresses a laugh. Wright continues with diminishing seriousness, “We have no idea what Ames’s ability will be but she is literally, constantly running into things at terrifying speeds with absolutely no regard for her own safety.”

Ames squirms under the critique, sliding out of her mother’s arms and onto the floor in silent protest. Marthe giggles quietly, looking to Ames on the floor between their chairs and nodding permissively. Ames reemerges from the floor and makes her way with consternation toward the play area. “Love you, Boog,” Wright calls after her, receiving a half-hearted angry glare in return.

Marthe responds to Peyton’s question more seriously. “Ames has a talent for art, what types of art classes or activities would be available to her?” She takes Wright’s hand, now free from wrangling Ames. Ames takes a moment to turn back toward the conversation upon mention of art.

Brown eyes sparkling, Peyton laughs and nods. “Actually, yes. Given the fact we have so many young expressives in our care, the buildings are reinforced and made of materials resistant to extreme heat, ice, et cetera. As well as small children with more energy than ten adults put together.” That last category is a category unto itself.

She grins as Ames walks away. Jonah smiles widely and pulls off his headphones just in time to hear the question. “Oh, we have coloring stuff. Do you want to color?” he asks the younger child, rising from his bean bag to collect some paper and a box full of markers from the bookshelf.

“The kindergarten students have some form of art activities every day, and we also have a Meet the Masters program with an artist introducing the students to known artists and then doing a project that emulates their style; that happens about once a month,” Peyton explains, turning to indicate a few framed paintings, clearly done by children’s hands in the styles of Van Gogh, Haring, and Warhol. “These are Jonah’s. And then when they get a little older, third through sixth grade, we have rotating elective periods they can choose from, which include various forms of art — painting, ceramics, photography. The seventh through twelfth grades have several courses to select from, including art of course.”

She looks from parents to child and smiles. “What kind of art do you like to make most, Ames?”

Ames watches Jonas retrieve the coloring supplies with interest, nodding yes with a bounce of her curly blonde hair. “I like coloring with markers,” she says to Peyton, moving her pinched thumb and index finger as if holding a pen. “Not with lines, though.”

Wright clarifies, “Not a big fan of coloring books, our girl Ames. More of a free-range colorist.”

“It sounds like you’ll have a lot of art activities, Ames,” Marthe says, leaning to the side in her chair “That’s pretty exciting!” Ames merely nods in agreement as she transitions her full attention to the coloring materials Jonah has produced. She sits down and paws through the box of markers, taking inventory and arranging them in groups by prerequisites she keeps to herself.

Wright adjusts herself in her chair. “How interactive is the curriculum?” she asks. “On a scale of ‘individually tailored to each child’s needs’ to ‘standardized testing is its own reward’?”

“Lines are just guidelines, not actual rules,” Jonah says sagely, no doubt quoting something Bradley Russo told to him when he was Ames’ age. “I like just drawing my own things, too, unless maybe it’s a dinosaur coloring book that also has facts in it. Do you like dinosaurs?”

Peyton glances over at the two children, then to the two women across from her. “Dinosaurs are his thing. If someone had told me ten years ago I would one day be an expert able to tell you the difference between a byronosaurus and a velociraptor,” she says with a shake of her head.

The question, though, draws a laugh and she shakes her head. “We do very little standardized testing, especially in the lower grades. At the high school level, we do some in order to help them prepare for things like the SAT and ACT, AP tests, that sort of thing, but it’s something people can opt out of.”

She pulls a pair of brochures from a stand on her desk and hands them to each woman. “Many of our activities, especially for the younger children, are very hands-on. We have a community garden and greenhouse up on the roof that they help to care for and every elementary teacher does a couple of project-based learning activities a year. Things like running a little cafe where the students plan the menu, make a budget, shop for, cook, and serve the food, or curating items for a pop-up museum and planning the social media campaign and giving the tours.”

Peyton picks up a pen, twiddling it with her fingers as she speaks. “That isn’t to say we don’t still do good old-fashioned reading, writing, and arithmetic as they used to say — only it’s not so old fashioned anymore. Our teachers have amazing technology to work with and are extremely innovative in using it. They honestly blow me away with how creative they are and the work they get out of our students is inspiring.”

“I like the ankylosaurus because their tails are hammers,” Ames says quietly, looking to her mothers to make sure she isn’t distracting. “I can show you how I draw them,” she says to Jonah. “I usually make them orange even though they probably weren’t orange.” She sets to her task, pulling an orange marker from the box and inspecting the tip before beginning.

Marthe opens her brochure briefly, but then closes it to address Peyton. “That sounds amazing,” she says, “Ames can seem pretty chaotic, but usually most of her rushing is to get from one activity to another. She’s actually very good at focusing on something she’s interested in.” Wright looks up from her brochure to nod in agreement.

“Though with all the energy she has,” Wright says, “If you do have a kindergarten football team she’d make a great linebacker.” Marthe playfully swats her with the brochure. Wright has the decency to look a little embarrassed.

“What are your language studies like?,” she asks, focusing on more serious topics. “Ames knows American Sign Language. She was fascinated when she saw my partner Elliot and I signing, and demanded to know for herself. Are there ongoing sign classes?”

Jonah’s eyes widen with appreciation for the child who knows what an ankylosaurus and he all but beams at her. “It’s okay. I know most of them were probably not that interesting when it comes to colors, but we can use our imaginations and make them pretty colors. I bet some of them were, though, like the ones in rainforests and stuff, because parrots are super colorful so they blend in with flowers and plants, and it would make perfect sense for dinosaurs who lived in areas with colorful fauna to have good camouflage,” he says.

He might be showing off.

“No kindergarten football team yet but if you’re willing to coach…” Peyton says with a grin, before continuing with a more serious answer. “We have a couple of options for immersive classes for the kindergartens that we hope to expand. Currently we have Chinese, French, or Spanish immersion classes, or one non-immersion class for the Ks. We just added the Chinese this year, so that would be the first group. They continue with immersion classes through elementary, and then have other options for languages at the middle and high school level. ASL is one of those choices, but that is wonderful she already knows it! We do have a couple students who speak it in the elementary classes, so they’ll be thrilled, I’m sure.”

Her eyes dart back over to the children coloring. Jonah’s wielding a purple marker as he discusses the finer points of the Incisivosaurus.

“Jonah’s in the French immersion class, as we started that one up in Canada, but he’s working through Duolingo in his spare time on Spanish for fun.” She smiles fondly. “French was actually the only class I liked in school when I was still a troublemaker, so I guess he gets the love of language from me.”

“Excellent,” Marthe says, pausing before turning to Wright with a smirk, “And honestly you’d probably be a great kindergarten football coach if it’s anything like squad combat.”

“I’m sure it’s not but either way I didn’t do a lot of coaching in the squad combat days,” Wright clarifies for good measure, “So at best I would make a great kindergarten football quarterback. And I’m tall so I’d definitely get picked first whenever the kids were picking teams.”

After a shared chuckle, Wright turns in her seat and unzips a messenger bag, withdrawing a manilla envelope and handing it to Marthe. “Here comes the bribe,” she says.

“Oh my god stop,” Marthe says. She turns back to face Peyton and places the envelope on the desk, trying to rein in her flustered smile. “I’ve put together my qualifications and recommendations for the school nurse position, if that is still open. My resume has a war-shaped hole in it, but I have brushed up on my classes and have a current nursing license.” By the time she’s reached the end of her pitch she is calm and composed.

The banter between the wives makes Peyton grin, and then her brows lift with interest for the job application she suddenly finds in her hands. “Oh, wonderful! And honestly, most people I trust do have a hole in their resume after 2011,” she says, opening the envelope and flipping through the files within.

“Honestly, you’re overqualified, probably,” she says, “but I’m not going to let that keep me from snatching you up if you’re interested. We’ll of course need to call the references and check into things, but we’d be doing that anyway as part of your student application, since we vet all of our families rigorously, for the kids’ safety of course. Not for gatekeeping purposes.”

She puts the folder in the top shelf of a three-shelf inbox marked priority. “Were you interested in full-time or part-time? We’re happy to accommodate either way. We do have two part-timers but with the expansion of the school, we’d be happy to have a full-timer.”

“One can never be too qualified to care for children,” Marthe says with a smile. “And I’m hoping for a full-time position. With Ames starting up school, it would certainly simplify things to drive her here and back to Phoenix Heights with me. I’m flexible on the schedule, of course. Oh, and I’ve included contact information for Wright and her partner Elliot to simplify the background check requirements.” She looks toward Ames and gives a quiet smile as the girl goes about her calm scribbling.

“Elliot is included for the ‘allow to pick up from school’ list,” Wright says. “If Wolfhound gives you any hassle about his and my previous employment there, let me know. They can be stingy with personnel info but that’s mainly because they’re terrible book-keepers.”

“That sounds perfect,” Peyton says, in regards to a full-time position. She chuckles a little at the description of Wolfhound, and shakes her head slightly. “I’m sure it’ll be fine. I have a few connections there so it’s easy enough to confirm, even if it’s not the most official of routes. Lucille Ryans is practically family.”

Her dark eyes follow the gaze over to Ames and Jonah, the latter of which is sitting on his heels and biting his lower lip in concentration as he tries to draw a perfect dinosaur.

“I think that’s everything on this end, except the registration packet, which you can fill out at your leisure of course,” she says, returning her attention to the parents and picking up a glossy, navy blue folder with the school’s coat of arms embossed in gold to hand to them. “Welcome aboard. We’re really glad to have you — unofficially of course, but the paperwork and references are formalities, I’m sure.”

“That’s good to hear,” Wright says as she reaches for the registration packet and tucks into her messenger bag. “I trust Lucille’s judgement.” She keeps the shoulder strap in her hand, but doesn’t stand as she looks to Marthe.

Marthe keeps her excitement mostly well contained, telling Peyton, “Thank you so much for this opportunity! We’ll get you the registration packet back ASAP.” She turns to Ames, studies her warmly for a moment before calling to get her attention. “You ready to go, Ames?” she asks.

Ames continues coloring as she looks back over her shoulder and nods. She looks over the drawing and adds a few hasty last-minute touches with a green marker. Satisfied, she beams to Jonah, saying, “You did a good job!” She stands and brings the drawing to Wright, but shyly tries to stuff the picture straight into her mother’s messenger bag before she can look at it.

The couple stands, shaking Peyton’s hand and offering their thanks again. “Really,” Wright says, “Thank you so much.” As the family makes their way toward the door, Wright asks Ames, “Can I look at it yet? I’m gonna look.” Ames merely frowns and shakes her head. She places her hands against the bag so it can’t be opened, pushing her mother out of the room with a final glance back into the office.

“Okay,” Wright says, “Can I see it now?.”

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