“There’s the Wildcat!” Principal Anderson announced when Madison tapped on the frame of his open office door. “Congratulations! Are you excited?” he asked.
“I am,” Madison beamed. “Still figuring out how to pay for it. If you hear about any scholarships I might qualify for, please let me know,” she said.
“Of course,” he replied, motioning to the chair across from his desk. “Have a seat.”
“Thank you,” Madison said, settling in and opening her notebook. She placed her phone on the desk, “Do you mind if I record this interview? To make sure I get the quotes right and stuff?”
He smiled. “Not at all.”
Madison opened the voice notes app and started recording. “So, Principal Anderson. How long have you been interested in getting a recycling program going in the school?”
He sat back in his chair and folded his hands over his chest. “A long time, actually. A few years.”
Madison nodded and made a note. “Did it take that long to plan, or…?”
“The planning did take some time. But mostly it’s just been red tape. It takes a while to make a big process change like this.” He stood and walked to the window. “One of the perks of my position at the school is this fantastic view I have.”
Madison stood and joined him at the window. She laughed. “Nice.”
“Indeed. Full view of the maintenance dock and dumpsters. And you see that big shiny blue one? That’s for recycling.”
“It’s lovely, sir,” she said, moving back to her chair.
“So what changed? If you’ve been trying to do this for years, what shifted to make it possible now?” she asked.
He returned to his seat and fixed her in his gaze. He waited a beat, and then shrugged his shoulders. “Stars aligned, I guess.”
“Isn’t it true that this was actually a mandate to the superintendent from the school board? I was looking at the minutes of their last meeting—”
“Were you now?” he asked, with a smirk.
Madison pressed on, “Yes, I was, and it looks like they pretty much ordered you to get this done.”
He nodded. “Well I guess that’s technically true.”
“Why do you think that happened?” she asked.
He put his palms up and played dumb. Madison continued, “I went back a few meetings, and it seems this has been brewing for a while.”
“Has it?” he asked.
“The public comment periods during the summer meeting and the September meeting were both full of people speaking at length about how it was ridiculous that the high school didn’t have a recycling program,” she said.
“I see you did your homework,” he replied, somewhat agitated.
“I did. I called some of the parents who spoke,” she said. “Care to guess what they told me?”
“I couldn’t imagine,” he replied.
“Seems the real push behind this was a Mrs. Reinhold. She pushed hard for it on Facebook. Got a bunch of people fired up to come to the meetings. The people I talked to seemed pretty proud that they forced the school board to act.”
“Mmm hmm,” he replied.
“She’s your sister-in-law, right?” Madison asked, eyes fixed on her notebook.
There was no reply. She looked up and saw mild shock on her principal’s face.
“I mean, well, yes. She is,” he finally replied. “I don’t see how that’s relevant.”
“Just a coincidence?” she asked.
“What are you driving at?” he asked in return.
“Oh, I don’t know. It just seems like you were trying to get this program going for a long time, but not getting the support you needed from the superintendent’s office. And then a mob shows up and starts pressing for it at the school board meetings—a mob led by a relative of yours. And suddenly the support you were looking for appears.”
She paused to see if he would respond. He did not.
Madison shrugged. “So, I don’t know, people might think that was more than just a coincidence.”
“I don’t appreciate the implication,” he said. His pleasant demeanor had vanished.
“I thought it was interesting that Mrs. Reinhold never actually spoke at these meetings. You’d think the person leading the charge would… I don’t know… lead the charge? Any idea why that is?”
He raised his eyebrows. “You’d have to ask her that.”
Madison nodded. “Yeah, I tried. She wasn’t interested in talking to me. I thought maybe it was because the folks on the school board might make the same connection I made. Maybe she didn’t want that to come out. Or maybe you didn’t?”
The principal stood. “Thank you for stopping by, Madison. I have another meeting, so I’m afraid I need to cut this interview short. I’m sure Mr. Portnoy told you we were just looking for an informational piece. Making sure the students know that it’s strictly a white paper recycling program to start. That kind of thing.”
“Yes, he told me that,” she said, standing and gathering her phone and notebook. “Thank you for your time, Mr. Anderson.” She held out her hand, and he shook it.
There was an uncomfortable silence as he took stock of her. “Any time,” he said.