* Beginning October 6, the Lucky JuJu Pinball Museum in Alameda, California will host "X-Ray Photography of Toys and Other Interesting Things," an exhibit of work by
by NY-based science photographer Ted Kinsman. Link.
* Photos from the Rocketbelt Convention at Niagara Falls: Bill "Beam Jockey" Higgins says, "I attended the Rocketbelt Convention in Niagara Falls, New York, home of Bell Aerospace where the Rocket Belt was invented. Retired RB pilots and engineers were mingling with people building the new generation of belts and other personal rocket devices. There was a demo flight on the street outside the Niagara Aerospace Museum." Link.
* Art teacher loses job after fifth-grade students see nude sculpture during field trip to Texas museum: Link (thanks, Sagebrush Gardener).
* Haircuts by children: Link (thanks, Cory Silverberg).
* What do Jabba the Hutt and John the Baptist have in common? "Star Wars Shortened." Link to video. (Thanks, Jason Wishnow).
Reader comment: regarding the art teacher who was fired for exposing 5th grade students to nude sculpture at a Texas art museum, BB reader Gregory Fischer says,
thanks for the post. I followed the links to the Frisco, Texas independent school district website. if anyone cares to comment directly to the board, here is the contact info for the director of communications:
FISD Director of Communications
Phone: (469) 633-6060
Fax: (469) 633-6050
also note that the school motto is "Never be anything less than everything you can be." glad to see irony is alive and well.
Chris Cantwell writes,
I saw your post on BoingBoing regarding Sydney McGee, who was fired for taking her students to the Dallas Museum of Art. I've written this letter to the principal (and the FISD) and am sending it to all the major publications in the Dallas area as well. I grew up in Plano, next door to Frisco, and this story really upsets me.
Read Christopher's letter, and a response from the school district, after the jump.
Principal Nancy Lawson
Wilma Fisher Elementary School
2500 Old Orchard Dr.
Frisco, TX 75034
Dear Principal Lawson:
I?ve recently come upon the news that the Frisco County School Board has voted to not renew Sydney McGee?s teaching contract with the school, after twenty-eight years of exemplary teaching service to the community. This news has appalled me, and has caused me great disappointment in the Frisco community, the school district, Fisher Elementary, and you as the appointed leader of that school. It has also caused me great sadness for both Sydney McGee, whose work has apparently gone unnoticed and will now be tarnished with this dismissal, and her students, whose art education will now suffer from your and the school board?s ignorant censorship.
How dare the board fire a woman for taking her students on a field trip to a museum, which is, inherently itself, a place of education and forum for celebration of human culture and history. Do you realize how ludicrous this is? How dare these people tell themselves and the community they supposedly serve that they know better than museum curators, scientists, artists, and others whose vocations hold a much higher standard and understanding of the human being as Pupil and Student. What they have done is an insult to the educational community of this country, which already has enough problems as it is.
Our students are severely behind in their reading and mathematics skills when compared to the rest of the world?s children. Why would we in addition steal from them an equally important awareness of art and culture? It seems that if the board had its way we would soon be ?educating? our students in sound proof black boxes, children solitarily confined from one another and all people, unable to see their hands in front of their faces because they?re kept in the dark, for fear of them seeing something that may challenge their minds, or better yet, their parents?. In practicing this kind of ?education,? our children?s minds will indeed turn into these boxes. Empty. Silent. Void. Due to the actions of the parents, the board, and you, it seems that your minds have already become such places.
You and other fear-mongering people wrongfully in power are advocating and breeding a new generation of Americans that will in effect go against the very ideals this country was founded on: liberty, happiness, the ability to express one?s self freely, and the freedom to learn. Knowledge is power, but you are using your power to squelch the young?s ability to gain it. For knowledge?s sake, and for the sake of the future of this country, I implore you and others to put aside this naïve reactionary fundamentalist prism through which everything seems to be filtered, dissected and ultimately destroyed. It is only hurting the children you claim to be protecting. This is the same type of prism that radical Islamist terrorists use to facilitate their equally distorted doctrines.
Finally, shame on you, Nancy Lawson. Shame on you for allowing the dismissal of a teacher who is clearly an outstanding example of what a teacher should be. Shame on you for not coming to her defense, for her sake, and for the sake of the children at your elementary school. And if it is true that you initially suggested she take her students to the museum, than shame on you for being a façade of a person, and standing alongside those with the power in order to protect yourself. That would make you a textbook example of a coward.
You have completely failed in your job as principal, educator, and leader. Shame on you.
Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas, Class of ?00
Here's the response Christoper received via email.
From: Shana McKay-Wortham [McKayS@friscoisd.org]
To: Christopher Cantwell
Date: Thu Sep 28, 2006 01:15:32 PM PDT
Subject: Re: In Regards to Sydney McGree
In case you want more information.
A school district is at an extreme disadvantage in the area of personnel matters due to issues of employee privacy and ethical considerations.
However, since an employee of the district has chosen to express her concerns publicly in a hearing and in the media since that time, it seems fair that a school district can at least point to facts that were stated in that public hearing. Much has been misrepresented.
This is not about a field trip to an art museum. The timing of circumstances has allowed the teacher to wave that banner and it has played well in the media. FISD is a strong supporter of the arts and the Dallas Museum of Arts – our art program is rich and award-winning.
At issue here are performance concerns and the ability of a supervisor to address these concerns. As early as May 2005 the principal verbally brought to the attention of the teacher that there were some areas for improvement. She suggested at that time that a field trip experience might be a way to strengthen the art program and the Dallas Museum of Art was discussed as a viable option – it was not mandated as has been reported.
During the spring of the next school year, 2005-2006, when the teacher began planning the field trip, the principal suggested that the field trip be delayed until the next school year because she was concerned that the planning process was not sufficient.
When the teacher received her evaluation conference, which was in mid May and after the field trip, some issues of concern, unrelated to the field trip, were discussed and the teacher stated that she didn't think it was fair to evaluate her on expectations that had not been clearly communicated to her in writing. The principal did then document the performance areas that needed to be addressed – at the teacher's request – but the documentation was not brought on by the field trip; the field trip was not a catalyst for anything or the final straw to get her in "hot water." She was never told there would not be a next year for her or that she was not "Frisco material" as has been reported. No teachers' job status would be jeopardized based on students' incidental viewing of nude art.
After the memo was provided as requested, the teacher did file a grievance and also asked to be transferred if there was an opening in the district. The transfer was denied because the central administration felt that if you allow a teacher to transfer after a supervisor has given them guidelines for improvement then you have weakened a supervisor's ability to address performance issues by essentially giving the teacher an "escape hatch" to avoid meeting the expectations of the supervisor.
What is getting lost here is that this is not about a field trip, censorship, or a parent complaint. It is not about age, tenure or salary level as has also been suggested in the media. This is about a school administrator working to help an employee improve her job performance and to improve the educational experience of students. Even someone who has taught for a long time can still have opportunity for professional development. Teachers were never directed to "ostracize" her as has been reported and she was never directed to not discuss her "plight."
As an aside, the Star Award that is being mentioned in the context of the teacher being an award-winning teacher or Star Award Teacher of the Year 2004 is a recognition that took place periodically in the local paper because a local business wanted to sponsor the monthly ad to show support for teachers in the community – someone from each campus was usually represented. There was no set way employees were chosen at each campus for this ad. Some campuses went by tenure for inclusion, others selected based on something that had occurred that month. Teachers were recognized, as were volunteers, custodians, receptionists, others. FISD does not conduct the Teacher of the Year program.
At this time, the teacher has been placed on administrative leave with pay. The Administration and the Board felt that this was the best action for all concerned. A recommendation for the non-renewal of her contract will be forthcoming from the superintendent.