EITHER Syndey McGee is a champion of the arts and the Frisco school district composed of neanderthals seeking only to please a culturally repressed parent OR Frisco ISD has been unfairly and unwarrantably attacked by a sensationalist press manipulated by an incompetent educator interested only in preserving her job.
Sorry, while there are plenty of people in this country who are willing and even eager to see all issues in black and white that doesn’t mean it’s reality. As far as I’m concerned, no one is off the hook.
Let’s start with the “smoking gun.” McKinney ISD provided McGee with a positive evaluation and a payment if she agreed to leave. What does this prove? McKinney ISD wanted her to leave for a variety of reasons but for some other unknown reason wasn’t going to be able to do it by bringing disciplinary action against her or simply by not renewing her contract. While the district may have had good reasons for wanting McGee to leave, they also did something that put them in the position of allowing McGee to negotiate the terms of her departure. My guess, and please, I know this is only a guess, is that the district somehow screwed up their own personnel policies in dealing with the issue. Just because an employee doesn’t meet standards doesn’t excuse the employers from doing so. Oh wait, oh never mind, I was going to make some broader generalization but that would only get me into trouble.
So McGee comes to Frisco. You could make the argument that is was under suspicious circumstances but then you’ve really got to blame McKinney for not doing it’s job. Furthermore, you could also make the argument that perhaps, (please note that I am once again speculating and freely admit that I could be totally wrong) by applying for an art teacher position, McGee was actually look for a situation that would be more accommodating to her temperament. Perhaps.
In any case, many of the same problems she had at McKinney plague her relationship with other teachers. In recent years, her principal has been making verbal suggestions and even sending informal emails to McGee regarding her performance. Then there is the trip to the museum, the parent complaint, and the performance evaluation.
It’s EITHER about censorship OR about workplace performance. EITHER the principal was strictly addressing workplace issues OR was trying to undermine art appreciation in the community. EITHER McGee is trying to preserve freedom of speech OR undermining the school’s reputation to save her job. How about a little of both on all sides?
It sounds like enough things went wrong with the museum trip to push the principal into taking formal action. There’s a memo and the evaluation. According to Frisco superintendent Reedy,
One paragraph in the five-page memo discussed concerns regarding the field trip and mentioned the parent complaint. It was included in the memo as a recent example of concerns involving Ms. McGee’s planning, organization and follow-through.
The parent complaint wasn’t about the hour wait or the problems dealing with the DMA. It was about a piece of nude art a child saw at the DMA. Yet, the district has gone out of it’s way to say that the complaint had nothing to do with censorship or is the reason why the memo was written. Again Reedy states that:
No teacher, including Ms. McGee, has ever been fired or reprimanded for taking students to the museum or for a student’s incidental viewing of nude art. No teacher, including Ms. McGee, has ever been fired due to a parent complaint.
I know I’m probably fixating but I can’t help but notice that he never states how the district actually handles such complaints. He continues with the following “but”
We do expect teachers to preview materials through the eyes of students, the parents of the student and through the expectations of our community. We expect teachers to plan, prepare and communicate accordingly. A poorly planned and organized field trip is a failed learning experience.
Uhmm, so what does this have to do with not reprimanding teachers for a student’s incidental viewing of nude art? It wasn’t incidental? It wasn’t planned? It was planned?
Given all the problems the principal apparently had with McGee, why even bring up this one parent complaint? If no teacher is fired because of a parent complaint, why include it in the memo? Why was it given any credibility at all?
The principal could have very easily accomplished her task without including the parent complaint. The fact that she included it indicates that she gave it some importance. I’m still waiting to hear from the district that the parent wasn’t just complaining about the nude art but rather that the teacher did not prepare the students for viewing the art or provide a meaningful context for it’s viewing. Pretty quiet.
“Aw come on,” you say. That’s just one thing she did wrong, McGee did plenty more. Actually, any supervisor who waits for a crisis situation to start documenting employee issues, has not been doing her job. The district has talked about some principals preferring “informal” means. And informal means can be great when they work. But then when the principal prepares a very negative evaluation in writing, shouldn’t the teacher be worried? She’s not being informal, so why wouldn’t an employee perceive this as a version of a “work improvement plan” and a sign that her job is in jeopardy?
Maybe because of her basic personality, McGee doesn’t belong in the public school system. However, that does not mean she was treated fairly by the district. Nor does it mean that the district wouldn’t use parent complaints in evaluating teachers. (Think about it, no one is going to care if a bunch parents started complaining that a teacher allows her students to spend all their time in “free reading” while she’s talking on her cell phone?) According the Reedy, the facts are that the complaint was part of the memo. Someone complained about “naked” art and it was given legitimacy.
Now the district is taking the side of the principal and acknowledges no lapses on its part. At this point, the district is sort of stuck in an either or situation much in the same way that McGee is. McGee wants to make sure she can get another job and getting everyone to believe that she was fired for nude art is a great way to compensate any negative evaluations she may have. And the district really wants to get rid of a teacher for some legitimate reasons and doesn’t want the bad press it’s getting.
In a way, it really does come down to how the principal handled the parent complaint. If it had never been mentioned, what would McGee have gone to the press with? However, since it had been mentioned, the district is being forced to defend its actions in public. At some point, the fact that a 5th grader saw nude art in the DMA made a difference.