Texas Ed: Comments on Education from Texas

October 13, 2006

Moral High Ground

There seem to be quite a few people who were willing to give Sydney McGee the benefit of the doubt until she posed for a photograph at the Dallas Museum of Art. Because of this, many people seem to believe she has lost the moral high ground.

I’ve been thinking about this and trying to figure out what bugs me about this position. First, let me state again that I am not defending McGee’s professional abilities. She may be as bad as her critics claim.

So what’s the problem with McGee going to the New York Times? As best as I can figure out, it has something to do with going to an “outsider” with no connection to the community. I think to keep her high ground, she was supposed to turn down any request from the New York Times. Because of her interview, Frisco ISD is now having it’s basic values cast in doubt and the student’s education experience suffers.

Now anyone who has been following this realizes that there were plenty of people who found her performance to be less than desirable long before the art museum trip. The principal had plenty of opportunities to document problems with her performance. So what does it mean when the principal provides legitimacy to a parent complaint about nude art by including it in her evaluation? Wasn’t this a “low blow” without possible justification? Didn’t she loose the moral high ground when she included the complaint?

I imagine many would argue that it was only one of the complaints, kind of like the New York Times was just one of the newspapers. And besides, these same people would point out, there are so many people who thought the principal was right. But McGee could make the same point.

The publicity that McGee has generated for the district is not be in the best interest of the children and the teachers. However, I would argue that the student’s, and especially the teacher’s experience will be far more at risk from a prinicipal and district that includes a parent’s suspect complaint in evaluating a teacher.

No one would have ever heard of Frisco or Sydney McGee if the principal had not included the complaint from which the district is trying to distance itself. Who lost the moral high ground?



  1. You can read this time line to make the issue at more clear:

    The issue at hand regarding McGee interviewing with the New York Time and various other avenues carries the asssumption that it was ONLY about nude art at a museum with a parent complaint in which she is the only one who brought it to public attention (besides her lawyer)

    NO, you are wrong, no one would have heard of her or Frisco if McGee had not taken it to the media. The principal did not go to the media. The principal only include the paragraph about the field trip at McGee’s request!


    To answer your question, McGEe lost the moral high ground a long time ago.

    Comment by Angel — October 13, 2006 @ 7:30 pm

  2. So many typos. my bad. She has even taken this to people magazine, way after the photo pose at the DMA. So many interviews, so many photos, all of this to fight a cause that was nevere a cause to fight. The school has been and still is bombarded with bomb threat and daily calls and emails that are hateful in nature. Mind you these are people not from our community. People that have only heard her unrealistic view point. The district still cannot tell all and has taken the high road as best as they could have given the volatile situation it has become.

    Comment by Angel — October 13, 2006 @ 7:40 pm

  3. I’m pretty sure I have said many times previously that there were issues with McGee’s performance so I don’t see myself having the assumption that this is only about nude art.

    I don’t think (and I admit that I don’t know) that McGee told Lawson, “and when you’re writing up this memo I requested, be sure to include this specific parent complaint.” I believe that was entirely Lawson’s choice. Reeding has tried to present the presence of the complaint as just an example of the poor planning of the field trip. How is seeing a nude statue poor planning?

    What bothers me is that no one is answering why the complaint was written up and included in the first place. Ultimately, I think it was included because to some degree it did matter that a parent was bothered by nude art. I think Reeding’s statement that “we do expect teachers to preview materials through the eyes of students, the parents of the student, and through the expectations of our community” is one such indication.

    As for the press being all of McGee’s fault, what if the parent complaint was the only negative aspect of her evaluation? Pretend that all the teachers at Fisher thought she was doing a wonderful job and couldn’t say enough good things about her. Pretend that the field trip went off without a hitch and the only thing that happened was the one parent complaint. How should the principal have handled it?

    For me, this isn’t about nude art. This isn’t even about McGee. This is about how the principal handled an unwarranted parent complaint. And apparently plenty of people in Frisco think she handled it perfectly.

    Comment by texased — October 13, 2006 @ 8:03 pm

  4. Why don’t you take a survey of all the principals from all different districts around the United States and ask them how they would handle parent complaints.

    If a principal already has issues with the teacher the complaint was directed at, wouldn’t you hear them out? wouldn’t you address that issue with that teacher? Wouldn’t you document it?

    Please consider the quotes the distict has stated regarding that one and only paragraph from a 5 page document. Please keep in mind that the field trip was a fiasco and the viewing of nude art seen by an unprepared 5th grader who hasn’t learned to respect the nude art from the art teacher is more of the focus of that paragraph. Not only did one parent complain, but several 5th grade teachers complained about the poor organization the very next day.

    Wonder how other principals would have handled the situation?

    Why do you feel the need to vilify the principal’s managerial professionalism?

    Comment by Angel — October 13, 2006 @ 8:23 pm

  5. It is always easy to play Monday morning quarterback. I have been in management for more than 16 years. People nit pick on every word that a supervisor uses. It is incredible how much scrutiny is given to the most inconsequential issue to deflect from the entire problem at hand. Why is it that so much public scrutiny is given to one paragraph? It is one of may points and it is the culmination of issues that brought Sydney to this point. Had she pursued the option of accepting the feedback and/or made any effort to address the concerns, I might have some respect for her. If any of you are in the work force, you are faced with unhappy clients or managers that drive your performance to meet a need – if you disagree – do you seek employment elsewhere? Do you try to see their point of view? Texas is an At Will Work State for the rest of us. Why is this any different? If you don’t perform, you run the risk of losing your job. This is nothing more than a teacher that needed to rise to the higher expectation but chose instead to hide behind one inflammatory statement that she knew would set off the liberal media against the supposed closed minded Texans. Mind you – all of the other statements to the contrary and no one believes those of us that were there. It makes me question who the closed minded individuals really are – I see a glass house and plenty of stones. I would challenge anyone with any common sense to tell me how this media circus could have been anticipated from an annual evaluation? I have done plenty of evaluations and I can tell you that few people take constructive criticism well. The common belief is that they are perfect. As a manager – we are analytical and exacting in the expectation to rise to another level.

    I thank Nancy Lawson for not settling for mediocrity in teaching. In the local paper today it was noted that Ms. McGee’s attorney refuses to release her evaluations but tried to confuse the public once again with her general scores. In the first three years under a different principal,however, her scores under Mrs. Lawson for the past two years were proficient only and not excellent as they claimed previously. The fact that she was just getting by was no secret for two years to her. It would seem to anyone that has ever managed anyone, that there are people that do the minimum to get by and collect their paycheck. In our school, that is not enough thank goodness and all she needed to do was try to improve. What is wrong with that? If she had tried – I would dare say that the moral cause as you state would have been with her. Texased, can you tell me why everyone is so fixated on that one issue that only Sydney made a point of highlighting? Where is her position on the other issues in that 5 page memo? Her silence is deafening.

    Comment by Parent Chaperone — October 13, 2006 @ 9:30 pm

  6. I need to correct a typo –

    Her attorney noted that her scores under the first principal were higher and only proficient under Ms. Lawson.

    My point in this statement is that it was not a total surprise to her that her performance under this leadership was not meeting the standard. Please note as well that the school has risen from Recognized to Exemplary under this leadership and that this improvement is under Mrs. Lawson.

    Comment by Parent Chaperone — October 13, 2006 @ 9:34 pm

  7. Is it true that a parent actually said that S. McGee made their child feel suicidal, and another parent, who signed the permission slip, said their child, who was a fifth grader, was “unprepared ” for the nude sculpture? This is very frightening that these parents have any power over the rest. I think someone needs help. I do not see any demonstrations supporting the principal. To the person in management, I bet your employees really love you and your lust for superiority.

    Comment by Concerned parent — October 14, 2006 @ 7:24 pm

  8. Why didn’t the principal and the superintendent agree to open up their files? I read somewhere that McGee would allow the public to view her records if others involved would. If there is nothing to hide, why did this not happen? People who criticize others should show the public that they are morally fit.

    Comment by Concerned parent — October 14, 2006 @ 7:38 pm

  9. Their files have absolutely nothing to do with Sydney McGee not meeting the standards that were put forth for her to meet.

    Comment by ME — October 14, 2006 @ 8:12 pm

  10. Well, maybe the lawyer’s point was that they might not be up to standards themselves, so how could they evaluate others? I think the town has the right to hear about whom they employ.

    Comment by Concerned parent — October 14, 2006 @ 8:18 pm

  11. To concerned parent,
    My employees have learned from me and I from them. I don’t lust for superiority. I have a boss that has a boss and I happen to be one too. I seek to learn and grow professionally and expect employees to do the same. To just show up is not enough. If we as a country continue to accept mediocrity – we will continue to lose to other countries that still hunger for growth. How sad that you did not get that point. Perhaps you misunderstood. I certainly hope so as you made an assumption that my employees dislike me. You are so wrong.

    You misread the statements. The suicidal comment came from McKinney ISD and their files that were released showing their reasons for releasing Ms. McGee. It was not in our school. As for the unprepared comment – this had nothing to do with the nude sculpture. It had to do with the fact that the students had no unit of study related to this trip and they were unprepared for this trip as an adjunct to material learned in class.

    Comment by Parent Chaperone — October 14, 2006 @ 9:52 pm

  12. You can easily measure success when you work for a company. If you sell the product and make a profit, then it is obvious;but it is not so easily done in the classroom. Can you specifically tell me how you prepare students in one unit for a one or two hour trip to the art museum which contains artwork that represents artists’ self-expression since the beginning of time? Are you really qualified to evaluate her performance and infer that she is just mediochre? What do you know about art anyway? I bet that art museum is full of artists who might feel you are mediochre. I don’t know, I never complained to a principal about any teacher whom I felt was not up to par because I wanted my daughter to experience all types of teacher. Sheltering them from the real world can cause damage later.

    Comment by Concerned parent — October 14, 2006 @ 10:33 pm

  13. To those of you who have children at Fisher, teach at Fisher, or live in this community, I’d really love to have the chance to talk with you all away from the bitterness that seems to arise on this forum. I am NOT saying that I have no desire to continue this public discussion–I still have the optimistic hope that we can bring some balance into this whole discussion. However, I feel like there are certain things that each time we try to discuss simply lead the conversation into angry outcries at how ignorant we are, or how superior we must feel ourselves to be, or any of the other mud that has been slung at our school and our community.

    If any of you are interested in having a discussion outside of this forum (perhaps even meeting locally sometime, if that seemed to make sense), please email me at frisco_parent@hotmail.com.

    To those of you who remain convinced that my failure to take an absolute stand on this issue (either for or against Ms. McGee) is a sign of my moral and mental inferiority–I remain perfecly happy to continue our discussions, in a civil fashion, here on this board, but I reserve the right to not respond personally if you send emails to the hotmail address. No offense is intended–that just isn’t what I wanted to use that address for…. 🙂

    Comment by Fisher Parent — October 14, 2006 @ 10:47 pm

  14. It seems that concerned parent and Paula insist on being insulting. You don’t know me yet you insist on insulting me. I made a statement about mediocrity and you decide to make it personal. If you choose your path, I won’t question it. However, please keep this from being personal. I have a right as a parent to ask what my children are being taught. If you have read my other posts, I have only questioned why the kids were not prepared to even understand that they would be seeing different genre or periods. I am not an artist, but I have studied art and been taught about the different periods. I appreciate art in various forms and don’t appreciate your snide comments. As for her performance – I left that to the principal. You made my point. She has been documented to need improvement by her supervisor in a 5 page memo and had received 2 evaluations as published by her attorney in the local paper that had dropped in overall rating to proficient not excellent. Why does the public at large not leave this issue where it belongs? It is an employee development issue and nothing more. It is not your place to judge either. I have only spoken to my personal experience. Do you have the right to judge me? I think not.

    Comment by Parent Chaperone — October 15, 2006 @ 8:38 am

  15. Dear Concerned Parent,

    This is in regard to your comment, “Can you specifically tell me how you prepare students in one unit for a one or two hour trip to the art museum which contains artwork that represents artists’ self-expression since the beginning of time? Are you really qualified to evaluate her performance and infer that she is just mediochre? What do you know about art anyway? I bet that art museum is full of artists who might feel you are mediochre.”

    Parent Chaperone may not be an art educator, but I am, and I can give you some information about how to prepare students for a museum trip.

    A unit usually includes several days of lessons, and it is fairly uncomplicated to write one that addresses student preparation for a museum field trip. It takes some hard work by the teacher, but lesson planning and development is highly stressed during our college years and most of us are pretty good at it by now (or at least we should be).

    After the teacher researches what artworks will be viewed, etc., he or she can introduce some of those works by showing the students various reproductions of the works and involve them in a class discussion. In fact, this is preferred because we strive to provide students with that “wow factor” when they see art in real life–in addition to reproductions. They should recognize various artworks and be able to talk about them from an aesthetic/critical viewpoint.

    Another lesson could include museum etiquette, and perhaps another could include a cooperative learning assignment in which students pretend to be curators on a mission to select 5 pieces for a special exhibition. You get the picture. A museum trip should be structured in order for the students to fully benefit. Students will not be exposed to every piece of artwork in the museum obviously because of time constraints, but also due to their developmentally short attention spans.

    A veteran teacher should be aware of the necessity to plan for delays and other common mishaps. From what I understand, her students sat on a bus for an extended period of time with nothing to do and they got severely restless. This, of course, led to the trip losing its effectiveness almost immediately. I do not believe Ms. McGee has an art degree, and she was not properly trained to teach art. Of course, I could absolutely be wrong.

    Oh, and, by the way, it’s “mediocre,” not “mediochre.” It doesn’t have an “h.”

    Comment by Art Teacher — October 15, 2006 @ 11:03 pm

  16. Well, I guess you told me! It does sound good on paper. I would just love to see it in action. Oh, by the way, numbers as low as five should be spelled out, and there should be a comma after “period of time with nothing to do” because it separates two independent clauses;otherwise, it is a run-on which is a more serious error than a misspelled word. Aren’t some people ridiculous???? Now we are correcting spelling. You have your work cut out for you.

    Comment by Concern parent — October 17, 2006 @ 5:44 pm

  17. Wait, Frisco would never hire a teacher without a degree in the area in which they teach? Would they? That has to be wrong.

    Comment by Concern parent — October 17, 2006 @ 6:14 pm

  18. Concern Parent,
    Why must you belittle me and Art Teacheer? It was turnabout I agree to correct the misspelled word, but could you not take the high road? After all – you began the insulting behavior. I believe that Art Teacher clearly described how to approach teaching the unit in advance of the outing. In my opinion only, a broad understanding of the different periods and the differences might have helped. Perhaps it would have been better to narrow the focus. We were broken up into different groups and no two groups saw the same thing either in pieces or periods. Given this lack of structure, I can see how it would have been difficult to teach but why I ask was it so broad?

    I saw another post that said that hopefully the mere exposure to such great works of art might inspire kids. I think it can too. However, in order to reach most kids today, you do need to make it applicable. Afterall, our kids today don’t understand what it was like to live without digital cameras, computers, etc. All I am saying is that we need to try harder if at all possible. That has been the basis of the discussion regarding performance. I don’t know if you will react the same way to my post, but please consider your response prior to posting. I don’t wish to continue the negativity.

    Lastly, you asked about hiring a teacher without a degree in the area in which they teach? It is my understanding that elementary teachers must be skilled in teaching various subject matters. Specialization becomes inherently more focused in the higher grade levels. I don’t think that Frisco is unique to this as my aunt is a teacher in elementary in the Fort Worth District and she indicated that this is the case.

    Comment by Parent Chaperone — October 18, 2006 @ 8:50 am

  19. Just a note – I apologize for any typos like the one in the first line. I can spell teacher. I just don’t want the responses to be a continuation of the negative behavior.

    Comment by Parent Chaperone — October 18, 2006 @ 1:47 pm

  20. I did not think I was taking the high road. I was not the one correcting spelling errors; it was art teacher who did that. I was only feeding back what you dish out. You know, it’s like a mirror image of yourself, the way you see me. …Something Picasso might have painted.

    Comment by Concern parent — October 18, 2006 @ 5:04 pm

  21. Concern Parent – I did not dish out anything. I have posed questions for discussion. I can tell you that I don’t see it as a mirror image unless yours is a distorted view – like Picasso’s. It may be a masterpiece, but not an exact replica. I prefer to not to pursue this discussion with you unless you would like to discuss on points rather than making it personal.

    Comment by Parent Chaperone — October 18, 2006 @ 5:16 pm

  22. “I prefer not to” either. Carry on, You are the best.

    Comment by Bartelyby — October 18, 2006 @ 5:31 pm

  23. Time will tell the story. Comments like Bartelby’s are unnecessary and frankly disappointing. I hope for all concerned that this passes into yesterday soon. I will move on to other discussion boards where it is about the subject instead of the participants.

    Comment by Parent Chaperone — October 18, 2006 @ 5:51 pm

  24. As mentioned in the previous section, “Bartleby” is one of the most complex stories ever written by Melville, and perhaps by any American writer of the period. There is little agreement among critics as to how it should be interpreted. It was extraordinarily ahead of its time, dealing with issues such as the rise of middle-class job dissatisfaction and depression, as well as realizing the future significance of Wall Street to American life. Yet it is also a deeply symbolic work; there are few, if any, real-life Bartlebys, telling their employers they would “prefer not” to do something, yet remaining at that place of business. Sound Familiar? The reason he was not fired immediately is…..?

    Comment by Bartelby — October 18, 2006 @ 5:56 pm

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