Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.

31.7.09

The meeting.

A COLD, STERILE MEETING ROOM IN A LARGE INNER CITY PRIMARY SCHOOL. EVENING. SIX PEOPLE AROUND A TABLE, A SHEET OF A4 IN FRONT OF EACH: THE AGENDA. IN THE MIDDLE OF THE TABLE IS A RUBBLE OF PUBLICATIONS AND DEPARTMENTAL REPORTS. AN ELECTRIC CLOCK ON THE WALL HAS JUST WHIRRED PAST EIGHT.

HAROLD (COMMITTEE CHAIR AND PRINCIPAL): Thanks for coming, everyone.

GEORGETTE (COMMITTEE SECRETARY): Thanks, Harold, but most of us didn’t actually come; we’ve been here since the last class of the day writing reports.

HAROLD (LAUGHS): Me too! Now. Where do we start?

GEORGETTE: The motto, I think.

ANNE (NEW COMMITTEE MEMBER): Is that the mission statement?

GEORGETTE: No, the mission statement is the ten paragraphs in the inside front cover of the school annual.

ANNE (PICKING UP AND FLICKING THROUGH A HEAVY PAPERBACK A4 PUBLICATION): Oh, that one. I thought that was our five-year plan.

HAROLD: That’s something else again. The five-year plan is essentially the strategy to implement the mission statement. All going well, that is! It’s in here. (HOLDS UP ANOTHER PUBLICATION WITH A PICTURE OF THE SCHOOL’S FRONT GATE ON THE COVER WITH THE WORD ‘SCHOOL PROSPECTUS 2009’ AT THE TOP IN LIME GREEN CAPITALS WITH A YELLOW DROP SHADOW OUTLINED BY A BLACK KEYLINE)

ANNE: Of course. I do get confused.

PETER (LONG-TIME COMMITTEE MEMBER): Lot of nonsense.

HAROLD (LOOKS UP SHARPLY): What?

GEORGETTE (LOOKS UP SHARPLY): What?

PETER: Spend more time writing all this stuff than teaching children.

HAROLD: Got to be done. The Department insists on it. The inspectors are coming next week.

PETER: Never taught a child in their lives. Will they get to see any actual classrooms or just spend all day auditing mission statements?

HAROLD: Up to them, I guess. So. The motto. Where do we start?

ROBERT (TEACHER AND COMMITTEE MEMBER): Well, we like to do things differently. How about ‘innovation’ as a starting point?

HAROLD: Brilliant, Robert. No wonder you’re the English teacher. What else?

WENDY: We do things as a team. ‘Together’?

GEORGETTE: Excellent, Wendy. Innovation and Togetherness.

HAROLD: Innovating Together.

ROBERT: Together We Innovate.

PETER TRIES NOT VERY HARD TO SUPPRESS A LAUGH.

ANNE: Something funny, Pete?

PETER: Just imagining that motto plastered all over the shelter shed. Plenty of togetherness and innovation there over the years.

HAROLD (AFTER A SHORT PAUSE): Hmm.

GEORGETTE: Hmm. Maybe we can say it in a different way. What other words can we use? Something different. Something no other school has used.

PENNY: Discere et Agere worked for me when I was at school.

THEY ALL LOOK AT HER.

PENNY CONTINUES: Latin is classic, timeless, elegant and succinct. And we always took pride in learning – and explaining to others - its meaning.

HAROLD BREAKS A SHORT SILENCE: Latin is elitist, Penny. And it is not a good idea to have your marketing tool in another language. Especially a dead language. People won’t get it.

PENNY: I thought it was a motto; an inspiration for the children. Now it’s an advertising slogan to recruit students. Gosh. I am so last century. Why don't I just shut up and continue planning the sports day refreshments tent?

ANNE SEGUES TO HELP PENNY OUT: Speaking of competition, we do have to acknowledge some parents’ aspirations for their children, I suppose. ‘Aim high’?

HAROLD: Yes, but without alienating the others.

PETER: The underachievers.

HAROLD: We don’t call them that, Peter. What about ‘achieve’ rather than ‘aim’? Achievement doesn’t set a bar.

PETER: Exactly. You can achieve getting out of bed.

GEORGETTE TURNS TO PETER: I know you’ve been on the committee since children were reading The School Paper and Eighth Grade Reader and sending away for projects through The Commonwealth Trades Alphabet, Peter, but do you think you could temper your negativity with a little enthusiasm every now and then?

PETER: I don’t lack enthusiasm, Georgette; I just know you can’t distil a dozen meaningless politically-correct cliches into one trite sentence and make any kind of sense to anyone.

HAROLD (GUFFAWS): That’s why the mission statement runs to ten paragraphs, Peter.

PETER: And aside from all that, I saw a motto outside a primary school in North Fitzroy the other day that was disarming in its simplicity.

ALL: What did it say?

PETER: ‘I Love Learning’.

*

HOURS LATER. THE CLOCK ON THE WALL WHIRS RELENTLESSLY ON INTO THE NIGHT.

HAROLD (STIFLING A YAWN): So. Where are we?

ROBERT (NOT STIFLING A YAWN): I think we have a result: ‘Achieving Together Through Innovation and Excellence’.

GEORGETTE: Beautiful! That says it all. That’s our brand! Our point of difference! Our Unique Selling Proposition!

HAROLD (CHUCKLES): You said that as if it had a little ‘TM’ after it, Georgette. The Department will love it. No-one else has anything like it! Nice work, everyone. By the way, where are Peter and Penny?

ROBERT: They’re in the kitchen preparing supper.

ANNE: Best idea all night. There’s a chocolate cake, I believe.

EXEUNT ALL INTO KITCHEN

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