“Look Kathryn, I don’t like putting you in this position any more than I am sure you like being put into it.” Superintendent Owen Paris equivocated, “But the truth is that we are in a pretty bad situation right now and unless we get our enrollment numbers up we are going to have to cut programs… possibly even close down a school site.”
Kathryn Janeway, Voyager High School’s principal, rested her forehead against her palm. She knew the bleed out to charter schools was bad; however, she was still shocked that the school board was willing to grant seniority and years of service credit to teaching staff from Maquis Academy, just to add their numbers to Federation Unified’s own. They were one of the worst offenders of de-facto resegregation and avoidance of ed code mandates under the loopholes afforded to charter schools.
“It is a lot to think about.” She replied cautiously, “I worry that the tension between the two staffs will be high, not to mention the students…”
“Do you remember when I first hired you to teach Biology and AP Chemistry at VHS?” Owen asks, drawing on the memory of when she’d first started teaching and he’d held the position she had now, “Some people thought you wouldn’t fit in to the department, but I knew right away that you were the right person for the job. It was the same way when you became my vice principal and again when you stepped into my shoes as principal. You always find a way to make things work, and I think you can do just that with this Maquis situation… if you decide it is something worth doing.”
“It doesn’t seem like I have much of a choice.” Kathryn replied, knowing that to her staff, students, and the community members she would have to put on a very different face, “I suppose it will be an adventure.”
“That’s the Ms. Janeway I remember.” Owen relaxed visibly. He’d obviously been worried that she would fight him on this, “The good news is our retirement incentive was extremely effective and we should actually have room to add on all of the Maquis faculty without laying anyone off. In fact, if the governor’s new budget comes through the way it is looking right now, we might even be able to restore some elective programs on a limited basis.”
“We need some more vocational classes, not to mention more foreign language sections and some arts courses.” Kathryn conceded. The economic downturn and resulting cut to the state’s education budget had hit them all hard, the students most of all.
“About that…” Owen Paris interjected and Kathryn realized that he had another agenda, “You remember my son, Tom, right?”
“Sure. He taught briefly… US History, wasn’t it?”
He didn’t even make it a full year before resigning. She didn’t say. He left the district to work at Maquis but even they couldn’t stand him for more than a semester.
She was pretty sure she knew where this was going.
“Precisely. Well, the thing is he’s just gotten back from spending some time in Latin America, and I just thought he might be able to help you out with one of those spots at Voyager. He’s also authorized to teach Drama, and John just turned in his retirement paperwork last week.”
“I’m sure he’d be a great addition to the VHS family.” Kathryn demured with more conviction than she felt. Tom Paris was bright with a natural gift for teaching and the students adored him, but he was lazy and sometimes unprofessional. Hopefully, the last three years had changed the latter part; because, it wasn’t like she could tell the superintendent she wasn’t going to hire his son.
“I’ll make sure he drops by your office.” Owen Paris’ smile was that of a bureaucrat. Kathryn wondered when the man committed to the school had sold out, “In the meantime, here are the Maquis personnel files. Do your best to find a way to work them into the master schedule.”
Kathryn took the proffered stack of files and stood up. She was already running through possible scenarios in her head. She was going to have to talk to Tuvok, she needed his advice but she also was pretty sure she was going to have to give him some bad news. She’d been planning to offer him the vice principal spot, but in order for her plan to work that wasn’t going to be in the cards. Hopefully, Tuvok would be as rational about it as his calculus students’ characterization of him as a robot would suggest, or he’d have some better idea.
“Before I go.” Kathryn added, heading towards the door, “Can you let this… Chakotay know I want to meet with him tomorrow, at his convenience of course.”
If this was going to work, she was going to need the cooperation of Maquis’ soon to be former principal. She made a mental note to start with his file first.
Getting the AC started in her car before she pulled out of the district office parking lot, Kathryn hit the voice control button on her steering wheel and ordered it to call Tuvok.
“Tuvok, do you mind if I stop by on my way home from the district office? Paris sprung some pretty big news on me today and I need your help working through it.”
“Of course, Kathryn. You are very welcome to stay for dinner. T’Pel would be gratified in fact.”
“I’d love to.” She replied, already feeling comforted by the calm soothing voice of her closest work friend. They’d get through this. If they could get through class sizes in the forties and the year where there hadn’t been any janitorial service in the classrooms, they could get through this.
By the time Tuvok’s wife, T’Pel, came in to let them know dinner was ready, Kathryn’s plan was already well on its way. It turned out that Tuvok had actually been exposed to some of the Maquis staff at a professional development conference, and he was able to fill in some of the blanks left by the official files.
They’d made some initial progress in sorting the Maquis staff into categories: those whom they weren’t sure about, those whom seemed like good educators, and the ones who were likely to be trouble. All the Marquis teachers were going to be considered probationary employees, regardless of seniority, and Kathryn wanted to make sure she didn’t miss any problems that might later come back to haunt her once they had been made permanent. At the same time, she wanted to make sure she gave them all a fair chance.
“It is a solid plan, Kathryn.” Tuvok told her, his eyes meeting hers as he placed one dark long fingered hand against her pale small one. “Inviting Chakotay to be your vice principal will send a strong message that you intend to make a serious effort with the Maquis staff, and from what I have observed he believes he’s doing the right thing for the students. He will either genuinely try to make it work or openly refuse the position.”
“I wish it could be you, Tuvok.” She admitted, part of her hoping he’d tell her to make that choice instead.
“I will continue to support you as department chair and WASC coordinator, but I agree with your assessment that Chakotay will be more useful to you in an admin role with the Maquis staff.”
Chakotay. The name stuck in her throat and she wondered about the man behind it. If Tuvok didn’t have anything particularly judgmental to say about him, he couldn’t be that bad, right? Tuvok had never been one to shy away from harsh truths in her experience, a reality Kathryn had experienced more than once when he thought she was approaching some teaching situation the wrong way. Still, she wondered what this man was like, and slept poorly, wishing Mark wasn’t in the remote reaches of the other side of the globe, where there wasn’t any cell phone reception or wifi.
Kathryn was only on her second cup of coffee, still sifting through email chains in which site administrators failed to show basic etiquette and not reply all every time they had the slightest opinion on anything, when her secretary poked her head in the door to let her know that Chakotay had arrived.
She stood and walked out to the reception area to find him, pressing her hands against her hair to make sure all the pins had remained in place. The first thing she noticed as she walked up behind him was his broad shoulders, probably he’d played football when he was younger, maybe been in wrestling or on the swim team. Then he turned, and she was struck by his intense eyes (perfect she was sure for making students feel terrible about their choices without saying a word), strong jaw, sensuous mouth, and his skin which she had to resist the urge to describe poetically as bronze. Above his left eyebrow was some sort of intricate pattern tattooed into that skin. He was probably about her age, late 30s or early 40s, and he radiated a quiet power.
“You must be Chakotay.” She smiled, doing her best to radiate friendliness and confidence as she held out her hand, “I’m Kathryn Janeway.”
“Principal Janeway, I hope this is an alright time.” He replied with a subtle inclination of his head, as they shook hands.
“Perfect, and please… call me Kathryn. We can talk in my office.”
He allowed himself to be led back to her office, where she intentionally gestured him to a chair next to instead of across from the desk. She wanted to be non-confrontational if possible.
“Coffee?” She offered, pouring herself another cup.
“No thank you. I am more of a tea man myself.” He replied, watching her carefully as if trying to figure her out. I suppose he is. She realized, just as she was sizing him up.
“I’ll have to make sure I am stocked with a supply in the future.” She promised, not sure why.
“Then I take it this meeting isn’t a pretext to get me to agree it would be better if I just bowed out and didn’t take a position at Voyager?” He observed, eyes still scrutinizing her face.
“I assure you, that is nowhere near my intention. I’m rather hoping that we can find some common ground. After all, if the two of us can’t what does that say for our staffs’ ability to do it?”
“Common ground.” He repeated, clearly mulling it over, “What does that look like?”
Kathryn watched him rub his ear pensively and felt surprised as a strong sense that she could trust this man came over her.
“I hope we can both agree that in order for this school to serve its students, both the existing Voyager staff and the former Maquis employees need to work together. That’s my priority: the students.”
“Mine as well, but what does working together look like in your vision? Do you just want me to lay low and tell my people to agree with whatever you say… be your pet Maquis teacher?”
She thought she was beginning to understand where he was coming from and wanted to set him straight, “Actually, I was hoping you’d agree to be Voyager’s vice principal. You are certainly qualified.”
His gaze continued to assess her and she felt his scrutiny on her skin.
“Is this coming from you or from the district office?”
“Me. Superintendent Paris doesn’t even know that I am making it. I know that this situation isn’t ideal for either side, but I believe that we can make it work because we need to.”
“Is this a symbolic offer?” He finally asked, “Am I going to be trusted to weigh in on real decisions or is it just a pretense to seem like you are taking Maquis concerns seriously?”
“I’m deadly serious.” She assured him, “I do need a fully functional vice principal, budget constraints mean you will be the only one I have, and I know I will need your insight to unite this new staff of ours.”
“Ours?” He asked softly.
“I am hoping. I would understand if you decided to turn my offer down, I know it would be hard for me to go back to playing second fiddle.”
“I’ll stay.” His voice was quiet but firm.
Kathryn found her eyes drifting across his mouth for a moment before she caught herself. There was something magnetic about this man; she realized, even more strongly, that she was going to need him on her side in order to succeed.