(Continued from Beta Male I)
After William leaves, Fredrick turns around and stares out of the window. St. Monica is an impressive school, and Fredrick really wants to be the principal here. It would be the apex of his career. The idea of being a Governor or Deputy Governor is great, but it sounds like a distant dream. Being the head of St. Monica High is a more achievable dream. He has begged his boss to give him a couple of days to think things over. William has agreed, but has told him not to take too much time because he (William) feels that Alicia is already on the front foot, having spent the bulk of the last four years campaigning. William says that he already has a secretariat with a functional office, and that he has secured several campaign financiers. William wants to officially unveil his campaign secretariat when the entire team is on board, including a running mate.
Fredrick is not surprised at William’s level of organization. He admires his boss, and he genuinely believes that William, if elected, will be the best governor the county has had yet. William is the man who built St. Monica into the giant it is today. When William came here as a Deputy Principal seventeen years ago, the school was a far cry from what it is today. It had decaying structures, lazy teachers who were more interested in their side businesses than in teaching, and a principal who seemed to be on autopilot but who was looting the school dry to secure his retirement.
Before coming to St. Monica, William had taught at Alliance High School for twelve years, from the day he had been hired by TSC at the age of twenty six to the day he was promoted to Deputy Principal and posted to St. Monica. That is something they share. Fredrick had also taught at Alliance High before coming to St. Monica, where he is now one of the four deputy principals. In the twelve years that William taught at Alliance, he had observed how the proud old school operated. When he came to St. Monica as a Deputy Principal, he quickly realised that his new school had a rich history, just like Alliance. Founded in 1936, St. Monica seems to have excelled in the mid-1960s, right after independence. It enjoyed a glorious period all the way to the early ‘90s when the decline began. The school had been left to decay, academically and structurally, due to years of maladministration.
William understood that to get back to its glory days, the school simply needed to get its pride back with the help of an effective administrator. But he also knew that he couldn’t do anything that would make the 58 year-old principal feel threatened or disrespected, otherwise he would never rise to the helm. At the time, the school had only one deputy principal slot, so William did not have internal competition. He played sycophant to the principal for two years, massaging the older man’s ego and setting the stage for an endorsement. It worked. When the principal retired, he pulled the strings and got William appointed as the head. The retiring head felt certain that William would hide the skeletons that he would find in the closet.
But William had other ideas.
The forty year old newly installed principal did not waste time. The first thing he did was to document all the theft that had been taking place. As it happened, the principal and the board were supplying almost everything that the school used, from foodstuff to firewood, and at inflated prices. With the documents ready, he called the chairman of the board and asked for a meeting. These men and women were used to getting hefty sitting allowances during meetings, so the chairman readily agreed to schedule a meeting. But instead of getting the usual hundred thousand shillings each, William told them that the reason he had called them was because he wanted to tell them personally to resign within a week.
They fought back, as expected. These were local tycoons, wealthy and connected. Within three days, William got a suspension letter from TSC. But William had anticipated the backlash was ready. He called a press briefing, and flanked by local KUPPET officials and several education activists, he explained how he had gathered evidence of looting and how he was being punished for trying to save a “grand old school that has been sucked dry by leeches.” The story became headline news, and within a day TSC had rescinded his suspension. William handed over the copies of the documents to the Anti-Corruption Commission, and it didn’t take long for the former principal and the board members to get arrested. They were convicted three years later, sent to jail and had their property seized. A new Board of Management was constituted, and it was made up of old boys of the school who agreed to volunteer their time. William offered to be refunding their fuel every time there was a meeting, but they unanimously refused. They had bought into his vision of restoring the school to its past glory, and were willing to offer their time and money.
After vanquishing the former board, William turned to the teachers. He convinced the new board to approve the purchase of CCTV cameras which he installed in all the classes. He told the teachers that the days when they would skip classes to go to their businesses were over. Every evening he would review the CCTV footages to see which classes were not being taught. Every teacher who missed a lesson knew they would face disciplinary action. He also told the teachers to be submitting monthly reports of their teaching progress as well as targets for the next month. Any teacher who missed his or her target for the month would have to explain why. The teachers ran to their unions, and the local KUPPET and KNUT branches started making noise. But William laughed at them and told them to get lost. The teachers were simply being asked to do their job.
But William faced a new challenge: student unrest. The students were unruly to begin with, and William had already started cracking the whip on them as he was disciplining the teachers. But when the strike happened, William believed that teachers and non-teaching staff were involved. It was the first major strike in the history of the school, and it was a major one. The students torched all the three dormitories. William called in the CID, as it was then called, to investigate. Five teachers out of twenty one were implicated, including the deputy principal. Seven members of the non-teaching staff were also involved and one hundred and two students were also implicated. All of them were arrested. William expelled the students and fired the non-teaching staff. The teachers were interdicted by TSC. All of them were later convicted of arson, since the students had torched three dormitories.
The school had a population of five hundred students then, so by expelling a hundred and two, William reduced the population by a fifth. The teaching staff was reduced by a quarter. But most importantly, the teachers and students realised that he meant business.
That strike marked the beginning the St. Monica’s reconstruction. William constructed temporary shelters with wood and iron sheets to allow the students to return to school. But after that he and the board tracked down alumni of the school and invited them to a fundraiser. The board members, themselves alumni of the school, helped to form an alumni association and to evoke the memories of the school’s glorious past. Many of the older alumni were prominent men in government and business, and they tagged their friends to the fundraiser. They raised enough for the construction of a modern, storied dormitory that accommodated all the students with plenty of space to spare. The modern dormitory, just as the others that were constructed later, has facilities that allow students to live in dignity. The old boys agreed to be holding a fundraiser every two years to raise money for development, and that is how William constructed a school with modern facilities without burdening parents with increased fees.
But the best thing that happened was the improvement in results. A year after William took charge, the school mean improved from 6.23 to 7.01. Six years later, St. Monica became the best school nationally with mean of 11.03, beating Alliance High, William’s former school. St. Monica was elevated to a national school two years later. As the results of the school improved, more and more pupils wanted to join. William responded by building more classrooms, dormitories, laboratories, an ultra-modern dining hall and other facilities. He also kept petitioning TSC for more teachers, prompting the construction of a modern, storied administration block.
Schools are no longer ranked in terms of mean grades, but no one doubts that St. Monica’s Boys High School is one of the finest in the country.
Fredrick is convinced that if William gets elected Governor, he will transform the county because he is a visionary and has a way of getting people to support his vision. And if he is elected as Governor and he delivers, his deputy (Fredrick) will be on course to succeed him, riding on that success. The question is whether he will win next year. Fredrick knows that politics is a dirty game, and Alicia will not be sparing any dirty tricks in the election.
William doesn’t have much to lose. He is fifty six, meaning that he only has four years left to serve at TSC. He has already proven himself at St. Monica, so he has some level of career fulfilment. His age also means that he doesn’t have to resign: he can seek early retirement and secure his pension. But Fredrick is 44. He still has so much to prove, career wise. He still needs his salary to survive. If he resigns and they lose, he is doomed.
Fredrick turns away from the window and decides that he needs a sounding board. He needs someone to help him process his thoughts. But there are few people he can trust. In fact, the only person he completely trusts is Becky. He takes out his cell phone and calls her, asking her out for lunch. He knows he will have to take a mobile loan to pay for the food, but he is persuaded that it is worth it.
“Where do you want us to dine at?” she asks.
“I am thinking Harold’s Grove. It is quiet there so we can talk in peace.”
“Okay. What time do we leave?”
“Do you have a class right now?”
“No. My next class is at 2.30.”
“It is 12.30 so I believe we can leave right away so that we are back in time for you to go and prepare for class.”
They leave the school in Fredrick’s car because Becky doesn’t have one. Fredrick knows that that will get tongues wagging, but he doesn’t care. The restaurant is not far, and they get there within ten minutes. They place their orders and take juice as they wait for their food to be prepared. As they wait, Fredrick tells Becky all about his conversation with William.
“Take it,” Becky says without hesitation, catching Fredrick by surprise.
“Take the job.”
“It is not an assured job, Becky.”
“Nothing is certain in this life, Fred. To be great you have to take your chances.”
“Did you hear what I said about Alicia?”
Becky can see that Fredrick is scared of his wife. That is the one thing that really frustrates her about this man, who she still loves. She cups Fredrick’s face in her hands, and strokes his cheeks gently with her thumbs.
“Forget about Alicia. This is about you and what you want.”
“Forget about Alicia,” another female voice says sarcastically. The anger in the tone is unmistakable. Becky takes off her hands from Fredrick’s face and both of them turn to face the person, whose voice they have already identified.
It is Alicia, Fredrick’s wife and the County Deputy Governor.
Image by StockSnap from from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/man-woman-couple-dinner-date-2557408/
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