part 1 of 2
John Trost takes a deep breath. Dressed in a sports jacket and tie that speak of upper-class tastes, the slight, boyish-looking man and his "wife" bustle onto the stage at the Theatre on Broadway.

"Boy, have we got a story to tell you," exclaims another couple in Six Degrees of Separation.

"Have we got a story to tell you," replies the actress playing Trost's wife.
The play is based on the true story of a poor young black man who,through outrageous lies, worms his way into the lives of wealthy, bored white couples. As Trost stands waiting to deliver his lines, he recalls his own true story, another story driven by outrageous lies.

It is the tale of a gifted music teacher who, having once given up on the profession, decides to try it again. He accepts an offer from a private Denver school, Graland Country Day, only to discover that many of his students are spoiled brats running amuck in the classroom.

When he tries to bring some sort of order to the chaos, he runs afoul of two young troublemakers and suddenly finds himself accused of touching one of them inappropriately. It doesn't matter that the boys are lying. They are children, and as child welfare workers are fond of saying, children don't lie about such things.

Eventually, he is cleared of the charges. But it is too late. While his accusers waltz away unscathed, teaching is forever ruined for the man described by a former employer as "one of the finest music teachers in the region."

On the stage, under the hot lights, Trost can momentarily forget his own story. But when he is off-stage, emotions boil quickly to the surface. The mere sight of children gathering is enough to make him cross the street to avoid hearing their voices or seeing their faces. To other people they may be angels; to him they are devious liars.

He cannot forget, or forgive, that at Graland Country Day School, the kids were in charge. Cross them and it could cost you your job and your reputation. Cross them and you're lucky not to wind up down at the police station, fighting for your freedom.

Graland Country Day School lies on First Avenue, a few blocks east of Colorado Boulevard in a neighborhood of manicured lawns and pricey homes. Founded in 1927, the private, coeducational school takes students from kindergarten through ninth grade.

Among its more famous alumni is former senator Tim Wirth, whose mother taught at the school for years. Other Graland veterans include Harvard professors, doctors, lawyers and engineers. The class valedictorians for East, Manual and Cherry Creek high schools two years ago all hailed from Graland.

According to Graland's recruitment literature, "the school strives for a diverse faculty and student population, while offering a broad and balanced curriculum of academic, artistic, and athletic programs at each level.

"The common goal of all these programs is to provide a climate which fosters growth and which supports students as they develop into sensitive, caring people who are confident and eager to adjust to change in the world."

The students at Graland Country Day are groomed for success--but such an education doesn't come cheaply. Tuition for the 1993-94 school year was $6,400 for kindergarten, $6,725 for grades one through three and $7,385 for grades four through nine. And that didn't include the required yearly fee of $595 for continuing students and $995 for new students, or field-trip assessments that ranged from $85 for fifth-graders to $850 for ninth-graders, who make a traditional pilgrimage to Washington, D.C., at the end of the school year.

Even so, the school still has its hand out. The Annual Giving Campaign is designed to make up what is said to be a $1,100 difference between tuition and the actual cost of educating a child. "Each family is encouraged to contribute as generously as possible so that the financial burden of its child's education will not fall on others," according to campaign literature.

In return for their generosity, parents are assured that their offspring will receive a fine education.

Enrollment at Graland hovers around 590 students, providing an enviable student-to-teacher ratio of about one to eight. Every Graland student has a faculty advisor who is available to discuss problems while offering support and encouragement.

Academically, the children receive not only a strong foundation in reading, writing and arithmetic, but they can also partake of a smorgasbord curriculum that resembles the class list of a well-rounded liberal arts college. By the seventh grade they're reading "novels exploring multi-cultural themes"; in the eighth, they study biblical literature and "novels related to initiation and rights of passage themes."

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Steve Jackson