Safa College has a number of emergency procedures in place for events such as fire, heavy rain or a US Presidential visit but none are as dramatic (and regularly called for) as Operation Medusa. The operation, so named by the girls on reception - as they are often the first in line of fire - refers to the drastic and urgent action required should Mrs McKinley enter the building.
Mrs McKinley (‘Oh do call me Hettie!’ - though no one does) is a keen volunteer at the school, heading up the PTA and demanding (and sometimes creating) such roles as Library Support staff, Year Group Parent rep, Non-Teacher therapist and Bake Sale Co-ordinator. As a result, the school doors are regularly burst open to the sound of Mrs McKinley, sunglasses on highlighted head, barking down her telephone to some unfortunate, while the receptionists enter ‘code red’. They desperately dial the usual Heads of Department with the warning call, dash to the staff room to put up the ‘Cleaning in process’ sign or, as a last resort, pretend to talk in depth on the telephone to the dialling tone.
Today it is the Art Department who are for it. Unfortunately for her, Miss Avery happens to be passing and is too laden down with Year 7’s attempts to redesign the Burj Khalifa to make a dash for it. Although twice her height, the art teacher seems to decrease in size, slowly losing the will to live, while Hettie educates her on the ‘real’ meaning of art and wonders why little Hannah isn’t drawing mouldy fruit like she did at school. Miss Avery does her best to explain the curriculum demands for the third time this term while enviously watching the members of staff who scuttle away behind the medusa’s back or occasionally stop and mouth ‘POOR YOU” as they pass. They include the English teacher who simply cannot get to grips with Connor McKinley’s very rare form of dyslexia (as yet undiagnosed by those ‘fools’ in Learning Support) and the drama teacher who doesn’t ‘understand’ Harry’s thespian talents.
Just before she leaves, she grabs the PE teacher who, perhaps the most unfortunate, is the unwanted receiver of Mrs McKinley’s total adoration. Her three children sulk red-faced behind her while she waggles her heavily manicured finger and winks at him suggestively. On leaving the school, fellow members of the PTA and other parents waiting to pick up their children, spot her fast-approaching figure, find themselves reminded of the theme music to the wicked witch of the west and sink low behind their steering wheels until the danger has passed. Most of them still wince at the memory of poor Julie Bunting in floods of tears following Hettie’s ‘review’ of her brownies at the Year 7 cake sale. The threat of a potential encounter with Hettie has forced some of them to consider the drastic action of paying for the school bus.