The Ulrich F. Gephardt Academy for Unruly Girls was founded outside Oshawa in 1886 to help young, troubled women turn their lives around. In 1889, U. F. Gephardt changed the mission, refining the girls to become his personal army. Gephardt retired to the Century Manor Asylum in Hamilton after suffering a nervous breakdown. The Academy, however, still continues, helping troubled and troublesome girls get an education and a good start in life, whatever their ambitions are.
How Do We Solve a Problem Like Caitlin
Chapter 1 - Recruitment
March, Six Years Ago
Caitlin felt the various pairs of eyes all staring at her. The long table in the school board's conference room fit everyone in attendance - her parents, her teacher, her principal, the head of the board, the board members who weren't still in hospital, even the chief of police. All kept a wary eye on the young red haired girl. Caitlin didn't bother to feign innocence.
"Well, young lady?" the head of the school board prompted. "Answer the question."
Marshalling the last of her defiance, Caitlin said, "Shouldn't I have a lawyer?"
Amid the groans from around the table, the redhead's mother leaned in. "You're already grounded until the end of this decade," she said in a low tone. "Are you trying for the next, too?"
Caitlin refrained from rolling her eyes. She had known the risks. Her coup failed, betrayed from within. Caitlin would take full responsibility. That didn't mean the red-haired girl had to make it easy for her captors.
One of the school board members pounded on the table to restore order to the meeting. "Does it matter why the girl did what she did?" He shook out his hand. "The question now is what to do with her."
"Arrest her," the head of the board answered. "Why isn't she behind bars now?"
Caitlin's father turned his glare on the head of the board. "My daughter still has legal rights."
"What law did she break?" the police chief added. "There's nothing on the books at the city or province level against overthrowing a school board. That's federal."
"If we had known about subversive elements in our schools," another board member started, "we could have prevented this mess before it started."
Caitlin's teacher took off her glasses. "And if I got the help I needed when I asked, we wouldn't be here." She glanced at the girl. "Miss Kane-O'Shaughnessy is a very bright, very imaginative young girl who knows how to avoid being in trouble. I cannot be on top of her the entire school day. She needs to go a school more suitable for her."
"Military school," a third board member muttered.
"Right, let's send her to a school that will teach her how to succeed in overthrowing a government," the head of the board said. "Great idea, Bernie."
"I don't see you coming up with any better ideas," Bernie shot back.
"I'm not the enemy here." The board head pointed at Caitlin. "That girl is a menace."
Caitlin's mother stood up. Her chair crashed backwards. "That 'girl' has a name."
The redhead's father put his hand on his wife's arm. "Anna." He pulled her back a step. "Caitlin," he emphasized the girl's name, "is no more a menace than any other child in her class."
The head of the school board laughed harshly. "No, she's just the ringleader."
A knock came from the door. Before anyone could get up, a tall woman in a grey suit entered, her dark hair tied in a bun. "My apologies. I understand this is where I can find a Caitlin Kane-O'Shaughnessy."
The board head looked over at the newcomer. "This is a closed meeting."
"I know, but is Miss Caitlin here?" The red-haired girl raised her hand. "Ah, excellent," the woman continued. She fished out several business cards from a pocket inside her suit's jacket. "I'm Elspeth Stone, the assistant headmistress of the Ulrich F. Gephardt Academy for Unruly Girls. I believe I have a solution that should satisfy everyone, even Miss Caitlin."
"Ms Stone, I don't see how your school can deal with someone who tried a coup," the head of the board said.
Elspeth set her briefcase on the table. "I have some literature about the Academy with me. Perhaps it will help you. After all, everyone here wants what's best for Miss Caitlin, even if that means a private school in Ontario." She opened the briefcase and handed out glossy pamphlets to everyone around the table. "I'd like to speak to Miss Caitlin and her parents alone, to discuss their options. You may want to talk amongst yourselves about my offer."
"I don't know, Ms Stone," the head of the school board said.
Caitlin's principal cut him off. "I do. We'll talk"
"We can't leave her here unsupervised."
"I'll post a man at the door in case the girl overpowers her parents and Ms Stone," the chief of police said. He got to his feet. "Let's give them ten minutes."
Elspeth watched as the school board members filed out the door. She gave Caitlin's teacher and principal a warm smile as they left. Once only Caitlin and her parents remained in the room, she sat down in a just-vacated chair. "Now, let's talk about Miss Caitlin's future."
Caitlin's mother picked up her chair. "None of this would've happened if they had just challenged Caitlin a little more."
"I agree. I have found that public school curricula aren't able to fulfill all of the needs of someone like Miss Caitlin. At the Academy, we tailor the curriculum for each girl, letting them blossom while still giving them challenges."
Caitlin paused her reading of the Academy's pamphlet and leaned forward in her chair. "What kind of challenges?"
Elspeth addressed the girl. "Our academic rigor is higher than most schools, public or private. We also have extra-curriculars that our girls enjoy. You strike me as the type who plays chess, Miss Caitlin. We have a chess club that is competitive, sending players to tournaments across the country and the globe."
"We've never heard of your school," Caitlin's father said. He set down the pamphlet on the table. "How did you find out about us?"
"Normally, parents come to us having exhausted all available avenues." Elspeth gave Caitlin's father a reassuring smile. "However, Lieutenant Commander - I do have that correct, don't I?" Seeing Caitlin's father nod, Elspeth continued, "However, Lieutenant Commander, sometimes we find out about an apt student that could use the Academy's help and extend a helping hand. We at the Academy heard about Miss Caitlin's adventures on the news and realized that she'd be a perfect student."
Caitlin's mother snorted. "I wouldn't call a revolution 'an adventure'. Caitlin tried to install her own school board, with herself as the head."
"The news reports back home were thorough, Major Kane-O'Shaughnessy. The Academy has over one hundred and fifty years of experience working with girls like Miss Caitlin. Some worse, and not only has the Academy survived, the girls graduated with high marks and got into not just their choice of university with full scholarships but recruited by top companies in the world. I imagine that Miss Caitlin is already thinking about going to the Royal Military College, yes?"
Caitlin nodded. "If I don't get sent to Siberia."
"You should be so lucky," her mother said.
Elspeth leaned back in her chair. "We've had several graduates recruited by RMC in recent years. One of our alumni has gotten into astronaut training."
Caitlin looked over at her parents. "It sounds better than the alternate school here."
"It sounds better than being expelled," the redhead's father said.
"Or juvie," her mother added. "Ms Stone, right now, there's a cloud over my daughter's head. The head of the school board will never go for anything less than seeing Caitlin locked up. I can't really blame him, either." She glared at her daughter for a moment.
"I will handle the board." Elspeth began packing away her briefcase. She left out a contract in front of Caitlin's parents. "Read that over. The Academy charges a nominal tuition, based on student need. I'm sure that you'll find the number suitable, especially when you consider that it includes Miss Caitlin's room and board." Elspeth locked the latches of her briefcase. "I'm sure Miss Caitlin will fit in well with the other girls. Let me know what you decide." The assistant headmistress left the conference room, closing the door behind her.
Caitlin's mother sighed. "Oshawa is a long way from here."
"You fly planes for a living, Mom. You can just divert a bit off course." Caitlin forced a smile.
"No jokes, Missy. You are in deep trouble as it is."
"Caitlin, your mom and I need to know that, if you go to this Academy, you won't get into more trouble. You're far too bright and too devious to be left unsupervised."
"This is your last chance, Caitlin." Her mother shook her head in dismay. "Overthrowing the school board. Just where did you get that idea?"
"The Prince and The Art of War." Caitlin shrugged. "It was better than having to listen to Mrs. Klein talk about provincial capitals again. Ugh."
Caitlin's father bent down to look his daughter in the eye. "You do realize that this is your final chance, right? If you do go to this Academy and wind up pulling the same stunt, we won't be able to protect you from yourself."
"I know, Dad."
He pulled his daughter into a hug. "Good." He released her after a few moments.
Elspeth returned after a few minutes, Bernie in her wake. "I have great news," the dark-haired woman said. "If Miss Caitlin wants, the board will not object to her going to the Academy in September."
"But," Bernie said, "there are some stipulations. First, Caitlin is suspended from class for two weeks, and will have to make up for lost work. Second, Caitlin cannot be on school grounds except from fifteen minutes before class starts until fifteen minutes after class ends. Third, and there is a restraining order coming that will have all the details, Caitlin is not allowed within one kilometre of board headquarters or the head of the board, and not allowed within five hundred metres of any other board member unless escorted. Caitlin will be allowed to finish her year here."
"I'm sure Miss Caitlin won't cause any more trouble, am I right?" Elspeth winked at the redhead. "After all, the Academy would be a great experience for her and she wouldn't want to miss out on it."
Caitlin nodded, her red hair bouncing. "Mom? Dad?"
Her father picked up the Academy's contract. "I need to have a lawyer check this, but," he glanced at Caitlin then his wife, "provisionally, yes."
"Excellent." Elspeth smoothed out her skirt. "I do look forward to seeing Caitlin in September."
"I was about to write it with your blood."
"They're the enemy, not Camille and not me."
"But it was an amazing explosion!"
"Never call me 'Ginger'."