Act 1, Scene 1 (1934)

Board of Education (Ed): Hurrah! We finally have money after that dreadful crash thingy in ‘29. Let’s build something!

BUREAUCRAT: Well, the county needs a new junior high and there’s a 20-acre parcel that will do nicely in Poplar Woods.

BOARD OF ED: Done! We shall call it Poplar Woods Junior High, and the people will cheer us and ribbons will be cut.

Act 2, Scene 1 (1982)

BOARD OF ED: What do you want now? Peg’s napping.

BUREAUCRAT: The budget is tanking. The Board needs to make cuts.

BOARD OF ED: Enrollment at Poplar Woods Jr. High is down, right? Close it. Say we’re quite sad but we need that money for new schools in new developments. The ones chock full of voters and their darling children.

BUREAUCRAT: The only thing is… Poplar Woods will turn over. The kids will come back, one day.

BOARD OF ED: Oh, fiddlesticks! We can always re-open it. Don’t be a worrywart. Just remember it was your idea—people get emotional about such things.

Act 2, Scene 2 (1993)

BOARD OF ED: We just read Reinventing Government for book club! Peg’s pick.


BOARD OF ED: What’s that?

BUREAUCRAT: It’s so clear now.

BOARD OF ED: Anyway. It inspired us. We’ll raze that abandoned Popular Woods Junior High—it’s creepy with all those broken windows. Then we transfer the land to the county, where they’ll make half of it a park and lease the other half to a nursing home! We’ll get accolades for our entrepreneurship! And more money for new schools! Win-win!

BUREAUCRAT: But what if we need Poplar Junior High again some day?

BOARD OF ED: Aren’t you in a mood today? Listen. First, Senior Living Corporate will pay big money for that land. And second, we can suggest a 10 percent discount to Popular Woods Senior Living for all Popular Woods Junior High alumni. The class of 1940 will jump at the chance to live in the old hood. And the rest of the land will become a park. Be sure to get us an invite to the nursing home ribbon-cutting. Where’d you put our giant scissors?

Act 3, Scene 1 (2011)

BUREAUCRAT: Excuse me, but… um… well, there’s no easy way to say this. The children have come back.

BOARD OF ED: What children, where? Hopefully not to testify, they steal our limelight. They’re so darn precocious.

BUREAUCRAT: I refer to the ones that would have gone to Popular Woods Junior High, but you closed it and put in a nursing home.

BOARD OF ED: That wasn’t us—that was a different board. Except for Peg. She’s been here forever. And you were here, weren’t you?


BOARD OF ED: Humph. I suppose we must act. Form a massive committee to pick a new middle school site. Include everyone, from all the local communities. Just leave the Poplar Woods neighborhood off the committee. Peg says they’re grumpypants.

Act 3, Scene 2 (2012)

BUREAUCRAT: I have the committee results. The Poplar Woods people are not happy.

BOARD OF ED: Peg called it! High five, Peg! Oops, could someone pick up Peg?

BUREAUCRAT: The committee rejected the 20 sites in their neighborhoods and picked Poplar Woods for the new middle school.

BOARD OF ED: Makes sense. There was a junior high there. Let’s get building!

BUREAUCRAT: But there’s a nursing home there now. And the few remaining acres are a park.

BOARD OF ED: Well, build around the home. Or on the park. You’re the bureaucrat, figure it out. Here’s how we sell it: the middle school students will volunteer at the nursing home, and the seniors will tutor the children. What’s that? Peg just said she’s canceling her deposit at Poplar Woods Senior Living. But it’s all good. We’ll buy them a celebratory cake. Let them eat cake together!

Act 3, Scene 3 (2014)

BOARD OF ED: Why are you dripping wet?

BUREAUCRAT: I blocked the water balloons thrown at the Poplar Woods Middle School groundbreaking. They were meant for you.

BOARD OF ED: Those neighbors are terrible.

BUREAUCRAT: The water balloons came from Poplar Woods Senior Living. The neighbors threw the cake.

BOARD OF ED: Whatever for?

BUREAUCRAT: Because you want to pave Poplar Park and put in a middle school. We’re cutting down the poplars, building over the park, chasing out wildlife and building massive retaining walls for the new Poplar Woods Middle School. It might have been easier to have just kept the old Poplar Woods Junior High and skip the senior living complex.

BOARD OF ED: But the county made money off the lease payments! Reinventing government rules!

BUREAUCRAT: The lease was $1 a year for 99 years. That’s 99 dollars. And the new middle school costs $50 million.

BOARD OF ED: Perhaps it’s time you retire.

BUREAUCRAT: Maybe I’ll go start a tree museum.

BOARD OF ED: Good luck with that. Make sure you use recycled ribbon for the opening ceremony, people pay attention to that stuff. And let them eat cake. They love that. Just ask Peg.