Some time after the meeting, Karen got a phone call from Superintendent Lacey’s office. The voice on the other end wanted to know why Ambriana had not sent in the consent and release forms that were needed to secure her transportation, housing, and meals while at the New School. If the forms were not turned in by the close of business, Ambriana would forfeit her spot. Karen was confused. She explained that she hadn't heard anything about the test since the POSA meeting weeks before. In the back of her mind, she had assumed that Ambriana failed the test. She figured she would just get her tested again next year. So you can imagine her surprise when she heard that quite the opposite was true; not only had Ambriana passed, but she had received one of the highest scores on the team.
Unfortunately, since their first conversation, there had been some sort of mix-up.
The New School was designed to be an accelerated high school program. As such, they required all applicants to be current high school students, or rising tenth graders. Students were even asked to show their school ID before being admitted into the testing facility. However, when the testing coordinator tested the athletic teams she neglected to ask for IDs. She assumed that any Varsity athlete must at least be in the 9th grade. She did not expect there to be one lone 8th grader, Ambriana.
The conversation that followed was not pleasant.
“So you mean to tell me,” Karen confronted, “that my daughter was tested, passed, with flying colors might I add…got admitted, and now ya’ll are taking it back…that’s bullshit.”
“Illegally tested,” Ambriana’s coach muttered under her breath during the mediation meeting Karen, the principal, the derelict testing coordinator (who just happened to be the superintendent’s step daughter) and Superintendent.
“I don’t care if it was illegal” Karen shot angry eyes at the testing coordinator, “it isn't my baby’s fault and I don’t care about your rules…it’s the New School right? Do something new and let her in. She got in fair and square…I am not going to let you take this from her.”
Ms. Lacey leaned back in her chair and took a deep breath. “You know what Ms. Ronelle…”
“Mrs.” Karen corrected.
“MISSUS Ronelle, excuse me…you are right. She did get in fair and square. Our concern is not so much her grade level but her age. Your daughter will be the youngest student to attend this program. To be honest with you, the majority of the students who passed the test were rising 11th graders. I mean, most of the 9th graders didn't pass at all. Isn't that right Nina? She asked in the direction of the testing coordinator. Nina nodded yes. “So the age difference, “she continued, “between your daughter and the next youngest student from her school is…let’s see,” she thumbed through her paperwork… “Three years, because the next youngest is a 10th grader who has a late birthday…even so she will be 16 this summer. Do you really want your daughter on a campus for three months with 16 year-olds?”
“16 year old boys too….” The testing coordinator chimed in. “the campus will be co-ed”
“As if that matters.” The basketball coach muttered again. Karen ignored them both.
“How many of her teammates got in.” Karen sat up and tried to peak at Ms. Lacey’s notebook.“Four urrrr five…if you count your daughter.”
“How many of them Black?” Karen looked Ms. Lacey in the eyes with coldness.
“Mz…I mean Mrs. Ronelle, I don’t understand how that’s relevant.”
“It’s relevant” she smacked her teeth “because I know what you guys are doing up there....we all know what is going on. You know why Ambriana is the only 8th grader on the Varsity Basketball team? Because she is the only one who tried out, and do you know why she is the only one that tried out… because she wasn't around last year when the coach brought her whole JV team from Union High with her. You know what kind of school Union is right? They had to let Ambriana on the team because the coach was going to get in trouble for not holding any tryouts last year. The state got on her back about showing favoritism to the students who miraculously transferred the year she took the head coach position. So she held tryouts and nobody showed up. Nobody but my daughter. So they had to take her to make it seem like they had some Creekside kids on the team. And this is after this one over here (she pointed at the new coach) got rid of the JV team.”
“I am not seeing how the two…”
“Let me finish,” Karen interrupted, “it matters because Union is known for their track team, so scouts is always coming over there looking for new talent. Plus, those girls’ parents have money, their college is going to be taken care of regardless. But ain't nobody coming to Creekside to look for anything…and if they do come looking for something… Ambriana is not going to make the cut against girls twice her size and age, but this…this is an opportunity for her. One that she wouldn't have unless she was on this team…right now. Now you going to let all those rich White girls take advantage of this program and not let the one child it was designed for participate? Now how is that fair? This is just another way for them to win and our kids to lose”
“It’s not fair…but…” Ms. Lacey leaned tapped her pen against her notebook, peering down at her own brown skin and the list of athletes on the page, none of who had specified African American on their applications. She took another deep breath and spoke in a whisper, leaning into Karen. “If we make this exception, we better not have any problems out of your daughter. Do you hear me? She needs to be on her best behavior.”
“Are you serious!” Coach Johnson protested.
“I am.” Ms. Lacey smiled. “Mrs. Ronelle is right. This program was designed for students like her daughter.” “Nina,” she looked at the testing coordinator. “Prepare another packet for Mrs. Ronelle.” She looked at Karen, “Mrs. Ronelle once you and your husband sign these documents, Ambriana will be good to go.”
Smiling from ear to ear, Karen had hurried home to tell Ambriana the news, but when she got there Ambriana was laying across the couch in tears. Apparently, Coach Johnson had already called Adrienne and briefed him on the situation, and Adrienne had said no. Now, four days later Karen was sitting face-to-face with a man who she had not been in the same room with for the past three weeks, trying to convince him to sign the papers. But all he heard was co-ed campus, 50 miles away, and three months…in that order.
“Let’s just eat.” Karen suggested trying to soften Adrienne’s heart through his stomach.
But just as the two sat down they heard a key in the door. Both Karen and Adrienne could hear their daughter’s laughter from the other side of the door. Adrienne got up to open it, but almost got hit the face when Ambriana’s foot kicked it open.
“Ooooops, sorry Ma,” Ambriana giggled as she walked through the door with a smiling Kimeko on her back. “My hands are full.” She kidded slapping the thighs that circled her waist.
“Yea…sorry Ma” Kimeko echoed. Both girls were so tickled with themselves that neither of them saw Adrienne’s face staring down at them with fury.