Dude, Where’s My Test?

An AP exam scandal leaves them guessing at St. Mark’s School of Texas.

THE FIRST SIGN OF TROUBLE AT ST. Mark’s, the prestigious North Dallas boys’ school, was the appearance on campus of an attractive blonde woman, mid-20s probably, wearing a smart pants suit. "She was very attractive and busty," says one teacher who saw her from afar. "The way she was being given the royal tour, I thought she was a teacher candidate or something." As it turned out, she was a private investigator, and she had come to talk to a few of the students and teachers.

During two weeks each May, high school juniors and seniors across the country take Advanced Placement exams for potential college credit. About 1.75 million exams were shipped this year, each one shrink-wrapped and coded so it could be tracked. But tests do sometimes go missing. According to Trevor Packer, executive director of Advanced Placement for the College Board, the company that creates the APs (and the SAT and ACT), it happens "very, very rarely." At St. Mark’s this year, three had disappeared.

The discovery was made by an uncertain number of veteran teachers who were locked in the school’s college counseling center. They were preparing the tests to be shipped back to Educational Testing Services, the company that grades them, when they noticed that one unopened copy each of the biology, BC calculus, and European History tests were unaccounted for. After a hasty search of teachers’ tote bags and offices, the school alerted ETS on May 14. The blonde PI arrived the following day.

She set up shop in the school psychologist’s office, with its pale gray walls and white noise gadget plugged in near the door to keep conversations from leaking into the hall. But rumors were already beginning to circulate among the 800 or so boys who roam the campus. Each missing test would cost the school a $200,000 fine. There would be empty chairs at graduation. Only one student had taken all three exams.

Actually, that much was true. Hari Prabhakar was the only student with the trifecta. But Prabhakar, a tall, lanky, soft-spoken teenager, hardly fit the profile of a test thief. He was a 2003 Presidential Scholar, one of 137 high school seniors recognized by the White House as the best students in America. One classmate described him as "only, like, the most honest guy in the entire school."

Nonetheless, the investigation appears to have initially focused on him. Prabhakar was pulled out of a humanities class and told to head downstairs to the psychologist’s office. There the PI introduced herself and invited him to sit down. "Do you know what the problem is?" she asked.

Fellow senior Michal Zapendowski was sharing a farewell lunch with his Spanish class at a Preston Royal restaurant called Tex-Mex when his teacher got a call on her cellphone. Zapendowski needed to return to campus right away. The PI asked him: "How are you doing in your classes? Did you know the tests were being kept in Ms. Llewellyn’s office?" She explained that this was a serious matter, that it could get expensive if her client’s tests weren’t returned, and that there was a chance his AP scores wouldn’t count.

"I told her it wouldn’t have been anyone in BC calc," Zapendowski says. "They’re all math geniuses. Probably not bio either. Everyone’s pretty smart in there. If I had to guess, it was probably someone in Euro."

In all, over the course of two days, the PI talked to at least a dozen students and a handful of teachers. Citing school policy, no teacher would speak on the record (not even—or especially not—to a writer who happened to be a former student and teacher at the school).

Shortly before graduation, Prabhakar and Zapendowski’s parents got a phone call from headmaster Arnie Holtberg informing them everything was fine, their sons were cleared, and their AP scores would count. Other parents got similar calls at work and home. But one student’s parents got a different kind of call.

An ETS spokesman would only say, "We got our tests back. The case is solved." St. Mark’s wasn’t saying who the guilty party was, which led to an interesting graduation.

The night was hot and humid. As the 85 seniors filed onstage in their white tuxedo jackets, it was clear that no one was missing. Parents watched intently, looking for that telltale twinge of disappointment on the face of the kid who got the "certificate of attendance" in lieu of a St. Mark’s diploma. One parent who was there said it was hard to pick the thief out of the makeshift lineup because the weather had just about every boy sweating. —Dan Michalski

Photo by James Bland

 


MONKEY BUSINESS

Local man turns his love for animal noises into a business.

FOR HIS DAY JOB, LARS RUNS A REPUTABLE Dallas company selling environmentally friendly lawn and garden supplies. But, as with many workers, his day job is not his passion. "When I was a kid, my mom always used to tell me, ’Lars, just do what you love, and one day you’ll figure out a way to make money doing it,’" he says. "I think she intended that I would love being a doctor or an attorney. But the truth is, I just love making monkey noises."

So, after watching a particularly inspirational chimpanzee program on Animal Planet, Lars (last name withheld) decided to turn his passion into profit. Here’s how it works: for $10, he will call you, your friend, your relative, or anyone you know and make monkey noises. In the two years that www.monkeyphonecall.com has been in operation, Lars, 33, estimates that he’s had 1,000 customers, with an extremely high rate of satisfaction.

"I’ve only had three or four people hang up on me," Lars says. "One of them was Oprah Winfrey." A Tampa radio station hired Lars to make monkey phone calls to William Shatner and Celine Dion, but he only reached their personal assistants. When he called Oprah, she hung up.

Others are more appreciative. "It was a rare treat," says a recent recipient of a monkey phone call. "It was a pretty lousy day. The day got better."

Lars prides himself on the simplicity of his operation. "I thought about doing t-shirts for a while," he says, "but I decided to focus on the whole core competency of making the monkey noises."

But Lars has discovered another innate talent: the ancient art of paper folding. Customers can visit www.origamiboulder.com and, for $10, receive a wadded up piece of paper. —Adam McGill


RED HOTS

As of press time, Kelly Parks and her fiancé Jon were still competing on CBS’ The Amazing Race. Parks is one of four sisters from Arlington, three of whom are models. We’ve never been able to decide which Parks sister is best, so we called the sisters and asked them. Then we called their mom.

KELLY PARKS: "It’d be a tie between Wende and Becky."

WENDE PARKS: "I don’t think there is a best Parks sister. We’re each different and equally good."

BECKY PARKS: "Me."

LYN PARKS (MOM): "They asked me that all the time growing up. I always told them it changes daily."


BOOK ’EM

You can’t judge a book by its cover. But, if you’re extremely talented and highly trained, you can judge a book by its first sentence. That’s what we’ve done with the following tomes, all just out from writers with local ties.

Hello, Darkness
By Sandra Brown
(Simon & Schuster)
Lowdown: Dallas’ best bestselling author comes out with yet another thriller, this one involving late-night radio personality Paris Gibson and the kidnapper and potential murderer who calls her.
First Sentence: "Dale Malloy eased himself off the bed."
Review: A dramatic story that builds slowly. B+

What’s Missing?
By Rena Pederson (Perigee)
Lowdown: Subtitled "Inspiration for Women Seeking Faith and Joy in Their Lives," this book by the former Morning News editorial page editor includes insights from famous women for women.
First Sentence: "Come on in."
Review: What’s missing? Um, context. C-

Taking the Red Pill
Edited by Glenn Yeffeth (BenBella)
Lowdown: Yeffeth is the CEO and
publisher of Dallas-based BenBella books, which makes us think he had no problem getting the go-ahead for this collection of essays about science, philosophy, and religion in The Matrix.
First Sentence: "While the stated reason for the early release and accelerated postproduction process of The Matrix was to beat the marketing hype that surrounded The Phantom Menace, it is not without coincidence that The Matrix was released on the last Easter weekend of the dying twentieth century."
Review: An analytical, thought-provoking, though sometimes tedious, work. B


 

THE LIST

Olina Nikolini
J. Kyle Bass
Velpeau Hawes
Ray Balestri
G.W. Hail
Frank Wilson
J. Mikel Reynolds
Cheryl Lewis
Richard Drummond Davis
Jane Offenbach
Jeff Swaney
Michael Cain
Bruce Borgersen
Barbara Buzzell
Ariel Meredith
Chris Harsdorff
Pamela Jagger Purcell
Dan Petty
Scott Pontikes
Lindsey Sanders
Ismail Burduroglu
Steve Hartnett
Bill Nichols
Michael Cox
Aden Holt
Nick Van Exel
John Carmack
Roger Albright
Cheryl Wyly

 


 

Woman on Top

IF A FIGHT BROKE OUT BETWEEN GUITARIST CHAUNTELLE DuPREE AND AVRIL LAVIGNE, CHAUNTELLE says it would be no contest. "She would kick my butt," she says. But while Lavigne is a manufactured pop princess, Chauntelle and her band Eisley are the real deal. Rolling Stone loves them. Warner Bros. signed them. Eisley is made up of 21-year-old Chauntelle, her three younger siblings—Sherri, 19; Weston, 16; and Stacy, 14—and 20-year-old Jonathan Wilson, a neighbor of theirs in Tyler, Texas. They play their own instruments, write their own songs, and they’re so good that Eisley is opening for Coldplay this summer. "Coldplay is one of our favorite bands," Chauntelle says. "They’re really nice guys, and they are so encouraging. After the first show we opened for Coldplay, we started to break down our stuff. Guy [Berryman, Coldplay’s bassist] had to tell us not to do that. Now that we’re on tour with them, someone else does that for us." Welcome to the big time. —Kristie Ramirez

Photo Courtesy of Warner Brothers


QUESTION & ANSWER

JACK MYERS was named the poet laureate of Texas by the state Legislature in May. He is a professor of English and the director of creative writing at SMU.

D Magazine: As the topmost poet in the state, in your opinion, which is better: a happy poem about a rose or a sad poem about a dead kitten?

Jack Myers: [laughs] There’s no question it’s the latter, a sad poem about a dead kitten, because the language of poetry is rich with darkness. Happy poems are very difficult to write, unless you’re sent a bolt of lightning out of the blue. But it’s the struggle and the wrestling with the Angel of Death that is the great richness of poetry and art.


How to Get Ahead in Show Business

Joey Greco gets stabbed, and Jack E. Jett steps in to host Cheaters.

WHEN LAST WE HEARD FROM JACK E. Jett, the Dallas cable-access talk show host was invading Canada. His show, aptly named the Jack E. Jett Show, is a mix of cheap special effects and dadaist, double entendre-filled interviews. For every episode, he wears yellow rubber dishwashing gloves. In April, the show became part of the featured programming on Canada’s PrideVision, the world’s first gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender television network.

Now Jett has moved on to trysting heterosexuals. He recently served as guest host on another Dallas-produced television show, Cheaters. This is a step up, arguably. The "reality" show, created by former lawyer Bobby Goldstein, uses private investigators and aggrieved lovers to catch unfaithful partners in the act. Cheaters is syndicated and runs in hundreds of markets, all over the world.

Jett’s break came during the recent taping of the Cheaters season finale, when host Joey Greco was (apparently) stabbed, on camera, by a cheater. "Due to pending litigation, I’m not allowed to comment on the situation with Joey Greco," Jett says in a well-rehearsed tone.

Jett filled in as host for an episode and may tape others, as a business partnership with Goldstein takes shape. Goldstein’s production company is now the worldwide distributor for the Jack E. Jett Show. Says Jett, "It’s not every day that an aging homosexual from Texas can get a television deal." —A.M.


IT’S BOBBLEHEAD MOSES!

Last summer, when Dan Foote went to a Rangers game and saw all the bobblehead Pudges, the idea hit him: Why not bobblehead Bible characters? No licensing fees to pay. I could even do a bobblehead John the Baptist. His head could fall off every time it bobbled. Ha!  n Foote, who lives in Allen, got to work with some partners and now sells a line of three Bible bobbleheads, including Moses, Samson, and Noah (see www.isaacbros.com). The figures are just starting to draw attention from the national press. "If you have a bobblehead, it means you’re somebody," Foote says. "I’m sure Moses and Noah would love their bobbleheads and see it as an honor." n (Editor’s note: Foote draws the cartoon on our back page every month. So if Moses doesn’t have a sense of humor, and if he bends God’s ear, we’ll probably get smote, too.)

Photo Courtesy of Dan Foote


Rare South Dallas Funk Rediscovered

The South Dallas Pop Festival was a funk show held in 1970 at the Central Forest Club, on Central Expressway and what’s presently MLK Boulevard. Among the acts were the 10-piece Apollo Commanders, Black Maffia, saxman Marchel Ivery’s Quintet (featuring Roger Boykin), Les Watson and the Panthers, and the Soul Seven. Watson’s was the only act known beyond the ’hood, gigging at trendy North Dallas clubs such as the Red Jacket and the Funky Monkey. But on the south side, the Soul Seven ruled. In 1969 they cut a 45, "Mr. Chicken"/"Cissy’s Thang," that’s now a to-die-for collectible among club DJs and fans of vintage funk. For his teensy Soultex imprint, Boykin produced only 2,000 copies of the record.

Fast forward to about two years ago. A Bay Area club DJ called Eothen Egon Alapatt made a trip to Dallas to see if Boykin might have a secret stash of Soultex vinyl. Boykin had something better. Alapatt, manager of hip-hop label Stones Throw, gawked when Boykin dragged out a professionally recorded tape of the South Dallas Pop Festival.

This month, Stones Throw issues highlights from the show on CD and a double vinyl LP. It proves that good funk is timeless. Witness the Apollo Commander’s devastating take on Kool & the Gang’s "Kool Is Back" or Ivery’s soul-jazz sax on Eddie Harris’ "Cold Duck Time," with Boykin on guitar. And the Soul Seven cuts show why funk buffs so value their lone 45.

Go to www.stonesthrow.com to get your own funky piece of history. —Tim Schuller