Texas Ed: Comments on Education from Texas

September 2, 2006

What a mess!

Filed under: Fisher elementary school, Frisco ISD, Sydney McGee, Teacher issues, Texas — texased @ 10:45 am

She said:

Star Community Newspapers:

The teacher said that her yearly evaluations had always been good until the end of the 2005-2006 school year. But on May 4, McGee experienced an evaluation with Assistant Principal Manuel Gonzales that she called a “two-hour scathing.””He was actually my evaluator, and she [Lawson] sat in on my evaluation, which I thought was odd,” said McGee, who had never had two people sit in on an evaluation.

The principal and assistant principal reportedly marked down McGee’s evaluation for legal issues.

“It was the first time in my career I had gotten a mark on one criterion below expectation,” said the teacher. “She told me that she was putting me on a growth plan because of my poor teaching. And she told me that she was taking away my arts ambassadorship.”

McGee, who felt like her job was “in harm’s way,” promptly contacted Texas State Teacher’s Association and hired an attorney. The attorney filed a grievance to get the mark down on McGee’s evaluation changed to “proficient.”

According to McGee, Lawson removed her low evaluation rating, but she refused to remove her growth plan. McGee believed that a growth plan led to getting fired in most cases, based on what she had seen happen to other teachers.

Therefore, the teacher asked her attorney in Austin to have the growth plan removed, but in return, Lawson reportedly gave the teacher an eight-page directive document that explained how she was supposed to act and what she was to do through May 2007.

“I asked her if she gave that document to everybody, since I wasn’t in a growth plan,” McGee said. “She said she didn’t have to answer that question.”

They said:

Star Community Newspapers:

Lawson could not be reached for comment, but FISD Director of Communications Shana McKay-Wortham released the following statement regarding the McGee-Lawson incident:”The employee’s principal denied that the teacher’s troubles started with a field trip as claimed. The principal stated that she had observed a need for performance improvement in a number of areas which she had verbally brought to the attention of the teacher as early as a meeting in May 2005. It was noted in the public meeting that after the teacher later complained that she had not been given written notice of such concerns, the principal responded by issuing a written memo detailing such matters.

“The planning and execution of the field trip was a small part of the concerns addressed, but was not the catalyst for the memo or the focus. The timing of the written memo was triggered by the teacher’s request for expectations to be in writing and clearly communicated, not by the occurrence of the field trip.”

The district’s statement refuted McGee’s allegations and media reports.

“Additionally, the field trip was not mandated as has been represented by the teacher. In the previous school year a field trip had been suggested as one way to strengthen and enrich the program. In fact, before the trip took place, the principal was concerned about a lack of preparation and had suggested to the teacher that the trip be postponed until the following school year to provide time for better planning and organization. In the public hearing the principal did state that the teacher had been told she would not be taking a field trip to the museum the next year but it was not because of the content of the exhibits, it was due to the lack of planning and preparation and the execution of the field trip. The teacher was not told there ‘wouldn’t be a next year’ and she was not told that she was not ‘Frisco material’ as has been reported.”

District officials stated that Lawson’s efforts to nurture McGee form the core of their principal-teacher relationship.

“What has gotten lost here is the bottom line – 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 if you have been working as a teacher for many years, there is opportunity for development. The teacher is working – she has not been suspended or on probation as has been reported in the media. The teacher asked for a transfer to another campus which was denied not because of any parent complaint about a field trip, but because allowing a teacher to transfer after receiving directives related to areas for improvement would weaken a supervisor’s ability to address performance issues by essentially giving the teacher an ‘escape hatch’ to avoid meeting the expectations of the supervisor.”

I say that none of this would have made it to the papers if the administration had been following good personnel procedures by documenting problems and expectations before putting her on a growth plan or giving her a below expecatation rating.

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9 Comments »

  1. I think this whole issue goes back to $$money$$ and salary and control…..bottom line.
    This is a seasoned teacher that is being paid, probably, the max that Frisco ISD offers for seasoned teachers.
    If they get rid of her…..then they can pay 3 teachers (fresh out of college) for what they were paying her.

    I don’t think this teacher did one thing wrong.

    Seems this ISD is more concerned with everything but the children.

    No wonder Homeschooling is on the rise!

    Thanks,
    From East Texas

    Comment by Elnarema — September 5, 2006 @ 11:22 am

  2. I am in no way supporting the school district (and control is probably central to this issue) but I’m just curious in what districts an experienced teacher could make three times a starting teacher. I thought this was part of the problem of teacher retention, experienced teachers don’t make that much more than new teachers. I’m not trying to be sarcastic, I’m really interested in knowing how rapidly pay can advanced for classroom teachers.

    Comment by texased — September 5, 2006 @ 7:43 pm

  3. If the School District has been having a problem with this teacher it should have been put down in-writing on previous performance reviews. Also – you do not have “team” evaluations. It’s one-on-one with your direct supervisor and things are put down in writing and agreed upon by both parties – to be placed in your personnel file.

    This teacher has 28+ years of experience in her field … I’d bet that’s more experience than either Lawson or Gonzalez. You just don’t throw that kind of experience away. It’s hard enough to get teachers to stay as it is in Texas. I’m sorry, but I smell an administrative cover-up. And – if the principal was concerned about the trip, why would she and all the children’s parent’s sign-off on the consent forms?

    Tell ya what … the complaining parent must have a pretty decent bank balance. It’s not everybody who’s got money enough to buy off an entire school district.

    Comment by R. Blake — September 26, 2006 @ 12:13 pm

  4. I heard of this today, Sept 27 and decided to research it because there is always another side of the story. The one thing I don’t see as clearly as it should be is the principle taking full responsibility for the trip if there was a problem with it. Maybe there were ongoing problems with the teacher but the bottom line is a supervisor is responsible for the actions of subordinates. Questions to ask are: How long has the principle been a principle or a teacher? How much experience does she have as a supervisor? All good supervisors know there has to be a paper trail before discipline. No matter what the teacher did, the principle approved the field trip so the teacher shouldn’t get in trouble for it. As for the other issues I don’t know.

    We have a new principle named Mr Mayo here at Turkey Creek Middle School, Dover Florida. He has no ‘gumption” (can’t say what needs to be said). A girl threatened to beat up my daughter and instead of telling the parents, he said they would handle it themselves because some parents might punish the kids if they found out about things at school. That one blew me away. I has cancelled the fun things the kids have and is replacing it with a strict “no fun” school even wanting to remove the mascot off the gym wall which has been there as long as the school has been open (>30 years?). They decide on a whim when a t-shirt is appropriate of not. A child can go all day and nothing be said to them until the last period teacher decides he doesn’t like the word ‘sux’ on a shirt that said “Homework sux” and then all of a sudden the shirt becomes an issue. Their way to handle a shirt that hasn’t been noticed all day is to make the child wear the shirt inside out which in my opinion then makes a shirt that was unnoticed all day, now noticed by everyone. This happened to my son last year and I still think the shirt is funny.

    What’s wrong with our educators? These people are supposed to be teaching our kids how to think open mindedly and doing so in a manner that makes it fun to learn. The school systems have become autonomous and think that no one can touch them and we as parents have no rights as far a they are concerned. Is that scary or what?

    Comment by Zane Overstreet — September 27, 2006 @ 8:50 am

  5. As I understand it, there is a guarenteed pay increase with years served. Also
    the degree in which a teacher holds determines pay. BS/BA, MS/MA, and PhD of course
    make the most. More years, more degrees, mo-money. Bottomline, this woman was shanked
    by the evaluator, by the VP/Principle (most Principles in Frisco, PISD, DAllas) and
    I am pretty darn sure the Frisco ISD is screwed on this one.

    Comment by Super Dave Osbourne — October 2, 2006 @ 1:50 am

  6. Some informative information to read here:

    http://www.friscoisd.org/news/mcgee_response_06oct.htm

    All in all, she was never fired because of the field trip. Matter of fact, she was never fired, only put on paid administrative leave because she was disturbing the learning environment.

    Interesting.

    Really you can see how the media would take her twisted-around-to-fit-her-needs information and sensationalize it to the public while the district’s hands were tied and could not respond fully for fear of privacy rights.

    Comment by Angel — October 11, 2006 @ 6:48 pm

  7. is super dave osborne a old friend of mine from barbers point, hi ?

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