The next day, Dan rose early after a night of maybe two hours of restless sleep as he could barely contain his excitement about his first full day of work. He could not get the idea of the short course out of his head, nor think of a way to overcome the hurdle of needing new IBM-compatible computers for at least one of the labs to run the new software. He would not compromise and offer obsolete software on obsolete apple IIe’s. He’d just have to find a way. He showered, made coffee and put on his best suit. By 8:00 a.m. he left his apartment, intending to be at work before the start of the school day. He stopped at a newsstand on the way to the 65th Street subway station to pick up a copy of The New York Times and his favorite Computer Shopper magazine—a thick, oversized magazine chock full of ads for closeout computer equipment alongside personal computer reviews. It is where he had bought his first MS-DOS computer with WordStar, MS-DOS 1.0, dBase and no manual for just over $600 including a printer—more than 90 percent off its original retail price. It is also where he had scavenged for the cheapest components with which to build his own IBM PC-compatible system—buying a generic case here, a power supply there, a motherboard at yet another place, and other peripherals in a similar fashion piecemeal over a couple of months. The complete price had been about the same as his Canon AS- 100 which had only dual floppy disk drives that required special high-density disks from Canon. The PC-compatible system he’d built had twice the speed of the Canon and weighed less than half as much—and he’d included a relatively speaking “huge” first-generation 10 megabyte hard disk which itself had originally sported a price tag of more than $3,000 and which he’d gotten used for little more than $100. He now intended to pore over his favorite magazine for a way to re-equip one of the computer labs, hoping to find a way to sell or swap the aging Apples for newer low-end PC-clones that would make it possible to run the state-of-the-art MS-DOS-based new business software.
He arrived at work about a half hour later. His commute would take him largely against the rush hour mass of humanity going towards Manhattan as PEMTI was to the East—away from the heart of the city, though still well within the city limits. The subways were still full, as they always are in any part of New York City in the heart of the rush hour, but much less so than the compressed bodies on the ride West towards Manhattan. He remembered that lovely woman with her exquisite perfume on the way to the Manhattan school yesterday morning during his current ride to work, his cheeks coloring slightly at the memory. After getting off the elevator on the fourth floor, he noticed the receptionist already at her desk and on the phone despite the fact that it was still about twenty minutes to 9:00 a.m.
“Good morning, Taisha,” he said after she hung up the phone and scribbled a quick message on a pink message pad.
“Good Morning, Dean Amor” she responded with a broad smile. “I did not expect to see you here so early,” she added.
“It’s Dan, please. I thought I’d get an early start on my first day,” he responded. “Is Mr. Lantz here yet? It just occurred to me that I don’t have a key to my office.”
“He won’t be in until 9:00 a.m., but he left me a key for you,” she said, opening a desk drawer and pulling out a small yellow envelope slightly bigger than a key and handing it to him. The words “Dean’s Office” were written on the envelope. “You can go in if you like.”
“Thanks very much,” Dan replied, taking the envelope, removing the key and adding it to his key-ring holding his house, garage and car keys. “Could you please let Mr. Lantz know I’m here when he gets in and that I’d like to see him when he has some time for me today?”
“Sure, Dean . . .” Dan gave her a mock frown and cocked his head. She immediately responded with a chuckle “. . . I mean, Dan. I’ll ring you when he’s available and am sure he’ll want to see you as soon as he can. Meantime, I have a manual for your office phone. Please let me know if you have any questions. Just dial 0 to reach me at any time. Your extension is on the phone itself—its 2527. To dial out, you’ll need to dial 9 first, then the number. Your phone is unrestricted, so you can call anywhere you like.”
“Good to know. Thank you, Taisha.”
“My pleasure,” she replied with another broad smile.
Dan made his way to his office, opened it, and placed the phone manual in his desk’s top drawer. He then began to take inventory of the office supplies and various manuals in his desk drawer and on the bookshelves. He also noticed that the Compaq transportable has been placed on the second smaller desk in his office across from his own, with a dot matrix printer next to it, taking up all of the desk’s limited real estate. To his right as he sat at his own desk, he noticed with a frown the large picture window to the common corridor that had no venetian blinds or other means of providing privacy. That would have to be addressed as he had no intention of being on display all day for passersby.
Within a few minutes he heard a knock on his door and rose to answer it. Whoever it was had come from the opposite side of the corridor and had not walked by his picture window. Opening the door, he noticed Mr. Chang, the maintenance person.
“Good morning Mr. Chang,” he said to the Asian man of perhaps 65 years of age standing there.
“Good morning, Dean Amor.”
“Just Dan, please.”
“Yes, sir. I wanted to know if there was anything you needed, and to let you know that the books for the class starting Monday have already arrived.”
“Thank you, Mr. Chang. Do we have a book store?”
Mr. Chang gave a half smile and replied, “No bookstore. Just me. I give out the books on the first day of classes to students who show me their I.D. And I check off each student against my list, so no one gets a book who is not a student, and no student gets more than one book for each of their classes.”
“Where do you give out the books?”
“My office—I barricade the door with a small table and give out the books from there.”
“I see,” Dan said. Office? It was little more than a supply closet with a tiny table and chair. He did not see how the man could manage cramming boxes of books there as well, but apparently, he did. He hoped he was being well compensated for his many roles, though strongly suspected that would not be the case.
“If you need any supplies or anything else, please let me know. I will order them for you.”
“Thank you, Mr. Chang. Actually, I would like some venetian blinds on the inside of my office window. I need some privacy.”
“Ah, you don’t want to monitor the students?” Mr. Chang replied, seemingly puzzled.
“I can open the blinds during class changes when I am not busy, working on student records, or in meetings with students or faculty, but not at other times.”
“I will need to get Mr. Lantz’s permission before I can order and install the blinds.”
“If it’s an issue of cost, I will buy and pay for them myself,” Dan offered.
“No, not cost—just policy. It has not been done in the twenty years I’m here because directors want their deans visible to students—to keep order.”
“I’m not a security guard, Mr. Chang. But I’ll talk to Mr. Lantz myself later and have him tell you if it’s okay.”
“As you say, Dean Amor.”
“Just Dan, please. I don’t need anything else for now and thank you for all the supplies in my desk. I appreciate it.”
“You’re welcome. Mr. Lantz had Jaime, your lab tech, set up your computer and printer yesterday. I left two ribbons for the printer and an extra box of perforated plain write letter-sized computer paper in the lowest drawer of your filing cabinet which was empty and a box of 5.25” floppy disks on the top left drawer of your desk. The computer has a hard disk with DOS and WordPerfect on it but nothing else—Jaime told me to tell you.”
“Thanks again, Mr. Chang. I appreciate it. I’ll let you know if I need anything else,” Dan said, then added after looking at his watch, “It’s about ten to nine so I need to head over to the conference room.”
“To check the time cards?” Mr. Chang asked.
“No, to meet the faculty on my first day,” Dan said, walking out of the office and walking off to his right, towards the conference room. “I’ll see you later, and thanks again.”
As Dan walked in to the conference room, he noted a flurry of activity there with several faculty members waiting to punch in and others sitting around the conference table chatting or getting paperwork ready.
“Good morning, folks,” Dan intoned to no one in particular, looking around the room. I’m glad to see you all again and am looking forward to getting to know each of you in the coming weeks. This is my first day here and I just wanted to say hello and wish you all a good day. You know where to find me if you need anything or just want to chat. I’ll be scheduling a quick lunch meeting for this Friday at Noon and would appreciate it if you can all attend. I’ll provide a light lunch. Anyone with special dietary needs, please let me know. Otherwise, I’ll have some ham and cheese and turkey and cheese sandwiches with a salad for us to break bread and chat for a bit. There are some things I’d like your feedback on. Meantime, I hope you each will have a great week. I don’t want to keep you,” Dan finished and turned to head out of the room. As he did so, he heard Jaime call out “Don’t worry, I’ll verify the time cards for you.”
He stopped and turned to Jaime who was standing close to the time clock having just punched in. “I appreciate the offer, but I’ll take care of that myself later.”
“I really don’t mind,” Jaime insisted. I’ve been doing it for some time.
“Thanks, Jaime, but I will do that myself from now on.” With that, he walked out and started walking back to his office as all eyes followed him out of the room. He noticed what appeared to be surprise in the faces of his faculty, though whether good or bad he could not tell. It was not something he was going to worry about either way at the moment.
Back in his office, he turned his attention to the filing cabinet drawers, hoping to get a better read about the types of data that may be there. He found, with little surprise, files on each member of the faculty in the top drawer of his four-drawer filing cabinet. After a quick inspection, he had noticed that the other drawers were stuffed with sundry files with no apparent system. Many of the files were not even labeled, and none but the faculty files contained tabs on the hanging folders. He pulled out the first four faculty files and quickly rifled through them, looking at the type of information they contained. He found copies of letters of applications, resumes, college transcripts, and personal information as to their degrees and competencies to teach specific courses. He also found copies of current and past teaching schedules, but little else. The same was true of the remaining files. There was nothing about annual evaluations, students evaluations or related materials. He looked in the other drawers more closely, thinking perhaps that they were filed separately, but found nothing. He’d have to ask Marvin if those files were in his office as he’d like to see them in order to set up a schedule for future periodic evaluations. He made a mental note to do so just as his phone rang, startling him.
“Dan, this is Taisha. Mr. Lantz would like to see you when you have time. He said to go to his office at your convenience.”
“Thanks, Taisha. I’ll be there in a minute,” he said, and hung up the receiver. He looked at his watch. It was 9:30 a.m. He headed towards reception, past the double swinging doors and looked into the several classrooms he passed on his way. In one, he noticed Ms. Hunter sitting at her desk reading a magazine while most of her students were reading or writing in their workbooks and quite a few were just leaning back on their chairs chatting. He frowned, making another mental note.
As he passed reception, Taisha, who was on the phone, placed her hand over the receiver and told him, “Go right in, giving him a warm smile.”
“Thank you,” he mouthed, as she returned to her conversation, giving the address for PEMTI and directions from the E train. He walked through the single door to the administration wing and down the long corridor, waiving to Bob as he passed his office, with Bob waiving back as he talked animatedly on the phone, apparently with a client, extolling the virtues of PEMTI’s recent graduates. He made a right at the end of the corridor and was soon standing at the half-opened door in Marvin’s corner office. He knocked gently on the door and Marvin looked up from whatever he was reading on his desk, giving him a wide smile and motioning for him to come in while rising from his desk and saying, “Good Morning, Dan, please come in—and welcome!”
“Good morning Marvin. Thank you. It is good to be here.”
“Have a seat, Dan,” Marvin motioned behind him while pouring fresh coffee onto a white china cup. “How do you want your coffee?”
“Black please, no sugar. It smells heavenly,” Dan replied.
”Black it is,” Marvin countered, offering Dan a steaming cup of coffee faintly smelling of espresso and hazelnut.
“Thanks very much, Marvin,” Dan said taking the cup and saucer in both hands and quickly taking a sip. “Simply wonderful,” he added, meaning it.
“So, how did yesterday’s meeting go? I had a report from the Melameds as soon as you left their office—but I’d like to hear your take on the day.”
“I thought it went very well. Howard was kind enough to bring me up to speed on basic policies and procedures, and the meeting with the Melameds went better than I expected. What I thought would be a quick courtesy meeting lasted for the better part of an hour,” Dan said, taking another sip of the steaming coffee.
“Well,” Marvin said, leaning back on his chair, “you made quite the impression on the Melameds—and they are not easily impressed, believe me. They congratulated me for hiring you and said they expect great things from you. I’ve never seen them so excited. They both talked to me on speakerphone from Benjamin’s office shortly after you left the meeting. They are particularly interested in your idea for a short course, though skeptical about your ability to get it through State Ed, and about the cost of implementation. But no matter--they loved your entrepreneurial spirit and were genuinely excited about your thinking in that way even before starting the job.”
“Look, Marvin, they basically asked about how I could make a difference and I answered honestly—maybe I shouldn’t have before having the discussion with you in greater detail and seeing how you felt. I’m sorry if I overstepped.”
“Are you kidding? They loved it and think me a genius for both finding you and convincing you to come on board,” Marvin replied still smiling broadly. “The only thing I’d caution you about is over-promising, as they can be mercurial in their reactions—especially as to things that affect the bottom line. For now, though, they are extremely happy and, unless you royally screw up, I don’t see that changing any time soon,” he added.
“Then I’d better not screw up,” Dan retorted, and added “By the way, do you have any information about SED guidelines for course approvals?”
“I do, and I already prepared a folder for you with some basic background information and the required forms. I can help you with this when you are ready to explore it in greater detail,” Marvin said, then reached for a folder on his desk and passed it to Dan who opened it and briefly thumbed through the materials.
“This is great, Marvin, Thank you. I have some things to figure out, but I’ll put a rough proposal together including some numbers on the technology improvements that will be needed.” Marvin’s smile half evaporated on hearing this, so Dan quickly added, “But don’t worry—I will try my best to keep the actual cost to an absolute minimum and will drop the matter altogether if I can’t. I want to strike while I have some enthusiasm from the Melameds but won’t propose anything that requires a significant capital investment—don’t worry about that.” Hearing that, Marvin’s placid smile returned to its usual full bloom.
“On another matter,” Dan continued after another sip of his coffee, “Can you tell me whether you have any faculty evaluations in your files. I could not find any in mine.”
“Only for teachers that were fired. Your predecessors only did them when they had suspicions of a problem, such as too many complaints by students or issues with absenteeism. So, the only ones I have are in the files of dismissed instructors.”
“There are no regular class observation of the faculty or student evaluations?”
“No. Keep in mind that all the teachers here are employed at will and there’s no tenure, promotion, or union to contend with. It’s pretty straight forward: you like them they stay, you don’t, they get fired.”
“I get that, but don’t you think that having regular evaluations would contribute to better quality control of teaching and possibly better support for teachers who evidence some deficiencies?”
“That’s up to you Dan. If you think it important, by all means, evaluate them any time and in any way you like. I’ll always back up your judgment. If you’re not happy with a teacher, you can fire them on the spot regardless of evaluations. Just keep in mind that you will need to replace them quickly. We don’t have substitutes and, though you can assign your teachers to cover temporarily for someone you fire as long as you make sure every period has at least one teacher free to take the load, that only works short term.”
“I understand,” Dan replied. “I did not find any folder with applicants’ resumes or any type of list of individuals who may be interested in teaching on an as-needed basis to cover for illnesses or other exceptional circumstances. Do you by any chance have such a list?”
“No, Dan. If you don’t have one in your files it probably was never created—or your predecessor threw it out—either is a possibility.” This concerned Dan. It would be one more thing he’d have to address quickly.
“Could I run a help wanted ad in the paper for business education faculty to build a resume bank in case the need arises?”
“I can authorize that—the cost would be under $400 for one of the local papers. But be aware that it could make your teachers jumpy if they see the ad and suspect one or more of them might be axed. You can be sure some of them read the help wanted ads regularly looking for supplemental work or greener pastures. We’ve had less turnover than most of our competitors—or even our sister schools. But with a new dean, it might make some jump ship if they think you’re looking to make changes. Shakeups are not unusual in our industry when there are changes at the top.”
“I had not considered that. Let me think about it and see if I can find another way. But I do appreciate your willingness to authorize an ad if I can’t find a workable alternative.”
“Whatever you think best,” Marvin said, smiling complacently.
“Two other things really quickly if I can have just a couple of additional minutes of your time, Marvin.”
“Sure,” Marvin replied.
“First, I’m going to have my first faculty meeting this Friday at lunch hour. I assume you won’t have a problem with my bringing in some food for the group? I’ll drive in and bring sandwiches, sodas and dessert as well as paper plates, cups and the like.”
“Sure, Dan. As long as the cost is reasonable, I can pay for simple catering like pizza and sodas from petty cash,” Marvin offered helpfully.
“I appreciate that, Marvin, but I’d rather make some decent sandwiches myself and I don’t want to be reimbursed. I want this to come from me, and not just pay for pizza delivery. I just wanted to make sure you’re o.k. with my bringing food in. I’ll park in the parking garage next door for the day to make carrying the stuff in easier.”
“Sure, Dan. No problem—just don’t get them used to free lunches or they’ll expect it. Tell Jiang to help you carry the stuff in and set up.”
“Not to worry. I don’t intend on having faculty meetings more than once a quarter, and if I feed them again for that it will be just be pizza and sodas—I just want something different for the first meeting—a good faith gesture. As to Mr. Chang, I won’t need his help. I’ll take care of it all myself.”
“Well, it’s not been done before, so I’d be curious to know their reaction. Hope they don’t bite the hand that feeds them,” Marvin chuckled. “What was the other thing?”
“Just a simple request. I’d like a venetian blind on my office window that faces the corridor. I don’t want to have every student peering in at me while I work. It is distracting and, worse, makes it impossible to have any privacy when I’m working with sensitive student records or having a meeting with a student or faculty member.”
“But you won’t be able to keep an eye on students during class changes that way,” Marvin noted.
“I can open the blinds during class changes when I’m not otherwise occupied, but don’t want to work in a fishbowl.”
Marvin considered a moment, with a blank expression then looked at Dan and said, “All right Dan. I want to make you comfortable here, so sure. You can have the blinds installed Just tell Jiang.”
“I already asked him, but he said he’d need your approval.”
“All right, hold on,” Marvin said, picking up the phone and dialing a four-digit extension. “Jiang, this is Marvin. Please measure Dean Amor’s office window and order mini blinds. Hold on a moment.” Then, turning to dan he asked “are one-inch mini blinds OK or do you prefer standard sized? And what color do you want?”
“Mini blinds are fine. Bone or off-white is probably best given the wood trim on the window,” Dan answered.
“. . . Make them bone or off-white and the type that are opaque, not the flimsy ones you can almost see through. You can have them custom made if they don’t have the exact size available. And make sure you get rush delivery. I want you to install them within the week if at all possible,” he added, then hung up the phone.
“Thank you, Marvin, I really appreciate that.”
“No problem. Can I get you another cup of coffee?”
“No, thanks. I have to get back to work. But I’ll call you if I have any questions later.”
“You bet. I’m here for you and want you to know I’m glad you’re on board.”
With that, Dan rose from his chair and shook Marvin’s hand before turning to go, thanking him for his support. Then he walked back towards the reception area and peeked in to Bob’s office through the open door. Bob was looking at papers on his desk, so he knocked on the door frame. Bob looked up and gave him a smile.
“Well, you’re still here and it’s almost noon. That’s a good sign. A little longer and you’ll be the longest serving dean in our history,” he said chortling.
“That’s me, setting records already,” Dan quipped back. “When are you going to go to lunch today?”
“Oh, in an hour or so. I’ve got to finish some reports for Marvin.”
“Why don’t you come by my office when you’re ready and I’ll go with you—my treat today if you have no other plans. You pick the place.”
“Sounds great, Dan. I’ll go by in an hour or so.”
“Look forward to it. Meantime I’ll get to some work of my own—prioritizing the order of the next thousand or so things I need to get through this week. See you later,” Dan said, walking through the door to the reception area on the way back to his office.
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