At 5pm the day before school starts, they post the class lists in the front window of the office.
I still remember my days at Happy Valley. The excitement of going by the school to look at the class list to find out your teacher and classmates. I remember seeing a girl named Gretel was going to be in my class. I had never come across anyone with a fairytale name. She turned out to have a fairytale singing voice. Years later we cast her as Anita in my high school directing debut production of West Side Story. She was perfect.
So on August twelfth, I show-up at 6pm to find out whose class Jacob will be in. There’s a crowd in front of the doors and a reunion-esque atmosphere. And I look at the two Spanish immersion class lists and I don’t see Jake’s name anywhere. For a second I have that feeling you have when you show-up on time for something and there is no one there and you think, “Do I have the right date? Is this the right place?” But instead I’m thinking, “Did I enroll him in kindergarten? I didn’t dream that, did I?” After a split-second, I regain my senses and check the other kindergarten class lists and there he is. On the list for the teacher with the unpronounceable name. The name James starts shortening to Mrs. Ganja.
“Daddy, what’s ganja?”
That night I go through every piece of kindergarten paper we’ve received since January. Do I have a scrap of paper to prove we won the bilingual lottery? What proof do I have? Not a shred of evidence. All I have is a paper saying we didn’t win the science school lottery and that we’re 109th on the waiting list.
How did I know?… think Jaimie, THINK. Voicemail. It must have been a voicemail. I start pushing buttons on my iPhone. What’s this? My deleted voicemails since the beginning of time? Hallelujah, ¡Gracias a Dios! And there it is, on April 28th I have a voicemail from the bilingual coordinator letting me know we had won the immersion class lottery and that there was nothing else I needed to do. Undelete.
Armed with my proof, the next day we get all dressed up and head to school early so I can try to get things straightened out.
We get to the office and it is being run by Grammy Lani. Not actually Jacob’s great-grandmother, but possibly her long lost twin sister. She looks at me like a deer in headlights and gives me a “Parent Complaint Form.” I have a feeling this is her go-to form. The dad behind me gets one, too.
So we head to the “Kinderworld” playground to find out what happens next.
While we’re there, a really friendly woman speaking Spanish asks Jacob his name and if he will be in the Spanish class. Turns out she is one of the two immersion teachers and is so well-prepared, she has time to hang-out and socialize with the kids on the playground. Meanwhile our assigned teacher is frantically trying to pull things together in her class and chases us away until the designated “starting time.” As we’re milling about, I also find the bilingual coordinator, whom I’m told is my best bet at getting this little problem solved. If not her then I may need to escalate straight to the principal.
I find the bilingual coordinator and explain the situation. She tells me she couldn’t have called me in April as she was working in the classroom. Then I whip out my proof and in my best Perry Mason voice, “Is this your voice on my iPhone saying we had a spot in the bilingual program?” I wonder how you say backpedaling in Spanish.
So James, Jacob, and I sit through orientation. The first day of school is essentially a 90-minute-long Wednesday and then you’re supposed to take your kid home. I think this deserves a future blog post of its very own.
Meanwhile I have to catch a plane to LA and so I jet from kindergarten orientation, but not before I see the principal poking her head in to sniff around Mrs. Ganja’s class. I gently corner her outside as I think I’ve cracked the secretive, complex “Parent Complaint Form” process: They get dumped on the principal’s desk.
I get the same deer in headlights look. The program is completely enrolled.
I decide it’s the first day. This school has 1,000 students— a far cry from my 100 person Happy Valley days. I have a plane to catch. My strategy is to fight bureaucracy with my friendly, daily physical presence. Hasta mañana.
That afternoon I get a voicemail on my phone from the school but it says it is zero seconds long. Mysterious.
The next morning, Jakey and I set out early again. Friendly, daily physical presence. As we’re walking to school, my cell phone rings. The April lady has good news… their records indicate he should be in the program and there was an error. Someone has dropped-out and we’re in. And his teacher is Maestra Patiño, the friendly, well-prepared teacher from the playground.
Problem solved! I practically skip to school with JJ in tow. And to her credit, during the night, the zero second voicemail overcomes it’s technical glitch and was actually a nicely worded and encouraging voicemail the evening before admitting the mistake and taking responsibility for solving it as soon as a spot opened up. She also sent an apology e-mail copying the principal and our new teacher. Skillfully handled. Happy kindergarten parent.
That evening we pick Nate up at school and there’s an “Outbreak Notice” on his classroom door: Lice.