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Authors: Ross Richdale

Wisps of Cloud

BOOK: Wisps of Cloud
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WISPS OF CLOUD

ROSS RICHDALE

Purrbooks

ISBN 978-1-877438-84-4

68 000 words

Karla Spicer finds her position as Senior Teacher at Tui Park Primary School in Wellington, New Zealand's capital, is hindered by the Associate Principal Val Cook, who resents her progressive ideas. Principal Murray Norwood, is an easy-going man drifting towards retirement who avoids controversy whenever possible. However, through a conscientious attitude and by supporting junior staff and parents Karla becomes a popular staff member. 

Karla becomes romantically involved with Ryan Purdon, the school's property manager and when he tells her about problems back at Top Plateau, a tiny school near his family farm where he grew up. After being approached by the Ministry of Education, Karla agrees to take the acting principal's position there and Ryan goes with her to stay in his farmhouse.

Life in a remote area is different than expected with problems at the school and also on Ryan's family farm where he has problems with his sister, step-father and mother who are all trying to sell the property divided between them by his late father's estate.

Tensions arise in the district with a marijuana plantation discovered near the farm and a local bikie gang being suspected as the growers. However, nothing is as it first seems, potential enemies become friends and the trusted, untrustworthy.

Back in Tui Park, teacher Chrissy Ancell is attacked and turns to Karla for help. As Chrissy's attacker is a respected person, their efforts to get justice seem to be thwarted.

It appears that the problems are intertwined with Karla being the kingpin and more than just a teacher striving to do the best for the children under her care.

This is a modern story with romance, crime and human personalities mixed together to create Ross's latest exciting novel.

*

N.B. The tui (pronounced two-ee) is a native New Zealand bird found in the local bush that covers many of the steep hills around Wellington in the North Island of New Zealand. 

*

 

CHAPTER 1

Karla Spicer glanced at her watch. The syndicate meetings at
Tui Park Primary School in one of the northern suburbs of Wellington, New Zealand's capital, were meant to finish at four-thirty. It was now five-fifteen and Val, the associate principal was still rambling on. Furthermore, her own position as senior teacher in charge of the Year 3 and 4 children was barely recognised.

She had won the position as
senior teacher in charge of a new syndicate of five classrooms and would have enjoyed the challenges if it wasn't for Val who had been at the school for a decade or more. The trouble was that the AP had had her responsibility from oversight of ten classrooms halved and this, once a month meeting of the two junior syndicates was really a compromise the boss had agreed to.

"I'm sure Karla would agree with me that the new government initiative on National Standards are a complete waste of time." Val glanced up at Karla and raised her eyebrows.

"I don't actually," Karla was tired of being treated as one of the junior staff members. "It is now government policy and I think we can save time by cutting down on our own systems where they overlap the new standards."

The room hushed and all eyes turned to her. The five teachers in her own syndicate grinned while the others seemed to be astonished that she had the nerve to disagree with Val the Viking, as the AP was nicknamed for her overbearing manner.

Karla continued. "I was talking to Murray..." This was the school principal. "... and he agreed that our workload is too high and one way is to cut down on the paperwork. I realise we need consistency throughout the school but..." She continued on with an explanation of what her syndicate and herself had proposed.

Val's lips pursed and her eyebrows dropped like an army sergeant suddenly finding that his authority had been overridden by a new green lieutenant. "You talked to Murray about this?" she almost spat.

"Yes," Karla replied. "He actually suggested I bring forth my ideas at this combined meeting." She purposely glanced at the clock on the wall. "Due to this late time however, I suggest we postpone any discussion on the topic until our next combined meeting."

"Here! Here!" called a couple of voices across the room,

Karla grinned. At least her own syndicate supported her.

Val glowered. "Very well," she whispered. "I remind you, though that until any new systems are implemented you are all expected to complete the present individual records." She stood up. "If there are no questions..." She stared around at the staff but nobody had any. "Thank you ladies, I declare this meeting closed." She slapped a folder in her hand shut and stalked out of the room.

"Good on you, Karla," Joanne Stone, one of junior syndicate teachers said. "I wish I was in your syndicate. The Viking should have retired years ago."

"She's conscientious and her heart is in the right place," Karla defended. Even though she agreed with Joanne, in her opinion it wasn't ethical to criticise a senior staff member before junior staff.

"Yeah back in the 1990s," Ryan Purdon interjected as he reached to plug in his vacuum cleaner. Ryan was the Tui Park's Property Manager that was really just an up-market name for janitor. "I heard her husband opens the door and salutes when she arrives home."

"Ryan!" Karla retorted when all the staff grinned. "That was uncalled for."

Ryan shrugged. "Sorry. I'm being mean."

"You are!" Karla replied and managed to suppress her own grin.

*

Over the next month the situation at school became worse for Karla. Val's innuendos now became open barbs whenever there was a meeting and the
Associate Principal constantly pulled rank over here. It came to a head at the end of month senior staff meeting with the principal. Murray Narwood was close to retiring age and, in her own opinion, was prepared to ruffle as few feathers as possible and slide into retirement as everyone's friend.

It was only that morning in the staff car park that Ryan told Karla that rumours were spreading like wildfire around the staff that there was going to be one big showdown between the senior staff.

"So!" Karla retorted rather too abruptly.

Ryan grinned. "Everyone's on your side. They only have to look at how the middle syndicate is going compared with Val's or Gillian's too for that matter..." Gillian was Deputy Principal who led the Year 5 and 6
Syndicate.

Karla studied him. He wasn't grinning after making another wisecrack but looked quite serious. "Thanks Ryan," she said. "However, both Val and Gillian outrank me on the hierarchy. I am really just a small voice when it comes to school policy."

"I heard the boss reverting back to two syndicates," Ryan said.

Karla glowered. "How do you know?"

Ryan shrugged. "I'm the invisible staff member and I'm often ignored. They don't realise I hear every word that is spoken."

"Only if you want to."

Ryan grinned, "Point taken but it's gone as far as the Board of Trustees, I hear."

"So why haven't I heard?"

"You just have," Ryan whispered as he lifted a box of tools out the back of his Toyota pickup. "I've got that leaking downpipe near the main entrance to replace. See you later."

Now, in Murray's office, Karla glanced at Val's tight look as the woman gripped a file and sat grimly in her seat when the principal arrived and sat down.

"Sorry, I'm late," he said. "We'll get straight into it, shall we?"

"Can I be blunt?" Val asked.

Murray shrugged.

Val ignored his gesture. "We can't have each syndicate going its own way. There should be a school wide policy on how we bring in the new government policies thrust upon us." She sniffed. "Of course we could follow some of the other schools across town and refuse to participate."

When the principal avoided everyone's eyes, Karla seethed inside. It was so typical! He'd make soothing comments but let Val have her own way. "It is not me who is fragmenting the school," she said in a controlled tone and hoped that the quiver inside wasn't repeated in her voice. "I have tried my best to do everything as set out in the school policies and also incorporate the new directives from the Ministry of Education. Okay, it's been foisted upon us but …." She continued on and cursed when her hand shook as she held onto the sheet of notes in her hand.

There was silence in the office when she finished, glanced around and flushed hot in the cheeks.

"We can't have the juniors doing one thing and the middle school something completely different," Val argued.

"Are they?" Gillian cut in. "Have you walked by the middle school in the mid-afternoon Murray?"

Karla glanced at the DP and realised that for perhaps the first time that she had an ally

"Often," the principal replied. "In fact I took three members of the Board through the block only an hour ago." He glanced up at Karla. "Everyone was doing art, I believe."

"Yes, we're preparing backdrops for the junior school production."

"In my opinion..." Val began but stopped mid-sentence when Murray held up his hand.

"And what have you done for it, Val?" he asked.

"Me! Why practically everything."

'The background scenery, I mean!"

"Well," the AP muttered. "I have the younger children, you know. You can't expect them to be as constructive as the older ones." She glowered. "Anyway, we're getting away from the point."

"We have. I agree that the school needs to be less fragmented," the principal said and Karla's heart sank. "Therefore, I propose that we switch to only two syndicates."

Val smirked and Karla sat there with her heart racing and bile building in her throat. Thoughts rushed through her mind about what she should do. Common sense overrode any impulsive reaction so she just sat there gripping the arm of the chair and stared out the window.

"It will start next year," Murray said.

Karla frowned. She had been so busy with her thoughts she had missed most of what he had said.

"Why the six months delay?" Val retorted with her face like thunder. "I would have thought the third term would be better."

"What was that?" Karla whispered. "I'm sorry I missed what you said, Murray."

It was Gillian who replied. "There will be a Year 4 to 6 Syndicate Karla, meaning half your syndicate and your own class will be absorbed into the senior school but not until next year."

"And my position?" Karla whispered.

The DP replied. "I suggested to Murray and he agreed, that you should be placed in charge of school-wide child welfare, curriculum and assessment." Gillian turned. "It won't affect your Senior Teacher status at all."

"Except that I won't have a syndicate to lead." Karla muttered as she glanced around the room. Gillian was serious, Val had a bemused look on her face and the principal as usual, avoided eye contact with her.

*

Half an hour later she walked out to the almost empty car park but noticed that Ryan's Toyota Hilux was still there. As she approached her own car, he sort of unrolled out of his pickup and strolled across to her.

"Heard you're okay for the rest of the year," he said.

She grimaced at him. "Have you got the whole school bugged?" Ryan's grin cheered her up a little

"Not really. Just squeezed Noeline who had been told what was about to happen."

Noeline was built like a tank, in her mid-fifties, taught a senior school class and was the staff representative on the Tui Park School Board of Trustees.

"Not literally, I hope," Karla replied.

Ryan laughed and shook his head.

"So why are you still here?" she asked. "You are usually gone by five."

"One of the cleaners was ill so I had to do her job." Ryan hesitated and avoided looking at her. "I heard..." He laughed. "There I go again. I know you like arty things so..." He stopped and almost appeared to be at a lost for words.

Karla wondered what he really wanted, so waited.

"By chance, I managed to get a couple of tickets for the Russian Ballet that's coming to town on Saturday night. I thought you might like to go to it with me."

BOOK: Wisps of Cloud
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