From the book
It was little more than six weeks into the new school year, and already Serenity High School English teacher Laura Reed was seeing signs of a potential problem with one of her juniors. Misty Dawson had been skipping class for the past week. Attendance records showed she was in school, but when it came time for English, she disappeared off the radar.
"Was Misty in your class today?" she asked Nancy Logan, who taught history and current affairs.
"Front and center," Nancy confirmed. "I wish I had a dozen students like her. She's smart and she's always prepared. Why? Don't tell me she skipped English again?"
Laura nodded. "Afraid so, and I just don't get it. All of her class records suggest that she's one of the brightest English students in the school. She belongs in my advanced placement class. The first papers she turned in were excellent. She's definitely not having trouble with the material. That's what makes this so frustrating. It's as if she simply vanishes during third period every day."
Physical education teacher and longtime coach Cal Maddox, who'd come in to grab some bottled water from the refrigerator, joined them at the conference table set up in the teachers' lounge.
"Sorry to eavesdrop, but have you mentioned this to Betty?" he asked, referring to their principal. "She needs to know if a kid's not showing up for class."
Just the thought of going to Betty Donovan with this made Laura shudder. A problem with a potentially simple solution would wind up being blown out of all proportion. Cal, of all people, should know that. Betty had gone after him for a violation of the morals clause in the teacher contract and created a whole hoopla that had required school board intervention before being resolved in Cal's favor.
She looked him in the eye and shook her head. "Not yet," she confessed. "Which means I'm breaking all sorts of rules myself, but frankly, I'm less concerned about Misty skipping than I am about why she's doing it, and why just my class."
Cal frowned. "Are you sure it's only your class?"
"You heard Nancy. Misty's been in her class every day. I've checked with Misty's other teachers, and most of them say she's had perfect attendance all year. She started out okay in my class, too. Then she missed a day here or there, but a week ago she simply stopped coming. That tells me something's going on in my class that upsets her. Or maybe she's having a problem with another student who's in there. I can't figure it out."
"But aren't most of the juniors taking the same courses?" Nancy asked. "If Misty's got a problem with another student, English wouldn't be the only class where they'd cross paths."
That wasn't as true now as it had once been, Laura thought. Serenity High School wasn't exactly huge. In fact, until the past few years, when developments had begun popping up on the fringes of town, the school had barely had five hundred students in grades nine through twelve.
Over the ten years that Laura had been working here, though, that number had started to climb. Classrooms were more crowded, and most core courses had to be taught multiple times during the day to accommodate the growth. Last year they'd had to add portable classrooms for the first time to accommodate the overflow until money could be allocated for new construction. However, there were comparatively few advanced placement students, and they did wind up in many of the same classrooms.
"You know I'm not a big...