A private school has high standards. But does everyone meet them?(12/2002)
“Hello Mr. and Mrs. Robbins. Please have a seat.” Mr. Edward Tully motioned to the high backed sitting chairs facing his desk. He walked around and sat in his thousand dollar black leather chair.
“I’ll get right to the point, Mr. and Mrs. Robbins…”
“Please. Dan and Claire,” Dan Robbins interrupted, not liking the tone of Mr. Tully’s voice one bit and hoping desperately that personalizing things would help the situation.
“Dan, Claire,” Tully continued, “I’m afraid little Danny isn’t ready for St. Joseph’s Academy.”
This was too direct, to naked for Claire to hear. Nervous and uptight by nature, she began to cry.
Dan didn’t get to where he was in life – Sr. Partner at McKinsey pulling down a seven figure a year salary, two Mercedes, a Range Rover and a Porsche in his six car garage attached to his luxurious 10,000 square foot home in the Heights – without being a fighter.
“Please explain.” This was as civil as Dan could sound at the moment.
Ed Tully, Managing Director at St. Joseph’s Academy, was used to dealing with this kind of situation and with this kind of people. He’d had to reject thousands of children over the seven years he’d had the job. He began his explanation slowly, like he always did.
“Dan, Claire, as we discussed when we reviewed your application to St. Joes, we put each prospective student through a rigorous set of psychological tests. Most kids that come to us are more than ready academically. Danny appears to be no exception.” Silently, Tully added to himself, “Although I have my doubts about that.”
“Here at St. Josephs, we require that entering children are also ready emotionally.”
Dan and Claire were listening silently. Claire occasionally wiped her nose. Dan was seething in anger.
“In order to determine a child’s readiness, we perform a series of tests.”
Seeing nods from the distraught parents before him, Tully continued. “Most involve how the child handles adversity. For example, how does he or she react if he loses at a game, or if something’s promised to him or her but then isn’t given to him or her. These kinds of things.”
After a brief pause for effect, Tully finished, “Danny didn’t perform well enough on these tests.”
16 years later, Danny was a grown man. He’d graduated from University of California, Berkeley after going through the Redwood City public school district. He’d always wanted to go to Stanford, but couldn’t get in. Since he’d lived in the area his entire life and given the physical proximity of Cal and Stanford, Danny got to know several Stanford students while at Cal. Most had gone to St. Joseph’s. He’d once asked his dean at Cal about it and the dean told him that Stanford liked to take people from St. Josephs. The next time he went back to his parent’s house, he asked his dad why he hadn’t gone to St. Joes.
“We just didn’t feel like it was the right school for you.”
Danny was going to accept his father’s explanation, but then noticed something in the way his dad had said it. His father was being protective, he sensed.
“Tell me the real reason, Dad. I want the truth. I can handle it.”
Given such a direct request, Danny’s father recalled their fateful meeting with Dr. Ed Tully, the Managing Director at St. Josephs so many years earlier.
“Ok Dad, thanks for telling me. I’ll never feel like they made the right decision about me, but that’s their loss.” And with that, Danny gave his father a hug and a kiss and headed out the door. He had to get to work, he told his father.
He had to get out of the house to hide his anger at this idiot, Tully. A man that he’d never met forced his life down a path that wasn’t of his choosing or liking. While his life hadn’t been difficult or a failure in any sense, Danny still resented the idea that his fate had been decided in some way by a man like Tully.
Danny received his degree in TV and Film Production. For his senior project, he’d done a powerful documentary about AIDS in Africa. He hoped that the seriousness – and the quality – of his work would land him a job doing documentaries. Instead, after six futile months of searching for a job, Danny received his first and only job offer – to help produce a new TV game show, “Now it’s Yours, Now it’s Not.”
“Now it’s Yours, Now it’s Not” was in the “reality TV” genre. In the show, some unsuspecting patsy was fooled into thinking he or she had won a large sum of money. After they’d whooped it up, they were then told that the money wasn’t really theirs and that they’d just made a fool of themselves on national television.
Even before the show’s first episode aired, Danny was put in charge of the entire show when the original producer quit to produce an off-Broadway play involving flying dogs and aliens that looked like fleas.
After just three episodes, Danny had a huge success on his hands. He was the youngest producer of a number one rated show in the history of television. From that point forward, every episode began with a credit that read, “In memory of Edward.” Danny refused to explain the reference to the few people that asked about it.
When the show began it’s third season, Danny was the hottest young producer in Hollywood. He was famous and he was rich beyond his wildest dreams. In just its third season, “Now…” was solidly rated number one in the coveted Thursday at 8:00pm time slot. With that popularity came a fat contract for Danny – a whopping $250,000 per episode.
Midway through the show’s third season, Danny was growing bored of its reality format. His success with the show opened the proverbial doors and Danny got the opportunity to start a documentary project focusing on the plight of inner city mothers. He began working on the new show a few hours a week. Gradually, his interest in the documentary format – something that he’d always liked – drew more and more of his attention and energy away from “Now it’s Yours, Now it’s Not.” He was almost completely engrossed in his new project when his assistant producer for the reality game show came to his office one day.
“Danny, you have got to see this. In all the years we’ve shot, in all the episodes we’ve taped, we have never had a guy lose it like this before.”
Before Danny could say anything, his assistant popped in a tape of one of the show’s possible unwitting stars. The guy fell for the “you’re our millionth customer, you win a million dollars” gag. But when the show’s host came out to inform him that he’d in fact just been filmed for “Now it’s Yours, Now it’s Not,” the guy just went ballistic. At first, he just started screaming and yelling, but then he started to get violent. He started throwing the contents of his shopping cart at the show’s host and cameraman, and then knocked over several shelves full of canned goods.
“Apparently, it got so bad that the cameraman actually stopped filming and got the hell out of there.”
Danny couldn’t believe his eyes. As he popped the tape out of the VCR, Danny put his hand on his assistant’s shoulder and said, “As good as this is, I’m afraid we can’t air it. I’m sorry.” Before the man could stammer out a response, Danny was out the door.
Danny finished watching the tape for the second time in two days. This time, he watched it with Mr. Ed Tully, the star of the tape.
“Mr. Tully… Ed… you don’t remember me, do you?”
“Er… no. Why should I?”
“Almost twenty years ago, my parents attempted to enroll me at St. Joes.”
“You went to St. Josephs?”
“No, Ed. I said that my parents attempted to enroll me. You told them that I was not ready.”
“What does this have to do with anything? With this stupid, mean-spirited television show?”
“It was a total coincidence, Ed. My assistant producer brought your tape to my attention. Quite a display, Ed, I must say.” Condescension was dripping from Danny’s voice.
“And I’ll cut to the chase, Ed. You’re going to resign from St. Joseph’s effective immediately. And I’ll lose this tape.”
“B…b… but I’m only three years from retirement. From my pension.”
Danny said nothing. He’d learned the awesome power of silence through the years.
“This… this… this is blackmail.”
“Call it what you like. I like to think of it as recognition that you’re “not ready” for St. Josephs. You don’t seem to handle adversity very well, you see. After all, St. Josephs has certain standards to uphold. Surely you understand.”
A month later, St. Josephs Academy announced the hiring of their new managing director, who was quoted as saying that the admission policies of the school were being reconsidered.
When Danny heard the news, he smiled and called his parents, who had retired and moved away. After that, he took out his checkbook and wrote a sizeable donation to St. Joes, the school that shaped his future even without his having attended the school a single day.