From: Shirley Franklin (s.franklin@dsl.pipex.com)
Date: Wed Oct 04 2006 - 04:04:04 PDT

Wow! Is it really that bad in Texas?!

Begin forwarded message:

> From: Robert Burbidge <rtb@aber.ac.uk>
> Date: 4 October 2006 11:45:15 BDT
> To: "UCU activists e-group" <activists@list.aut.org.uk>
> Published on Monday, October 2, 2006 by the New York Times
> Museum Field Trip Deemed Too Revealing
> by Ralph Blumenthal
> FRISCO, Texas - "Keep the 'Art' in 'Smart' and 'Heart,' " Sydney
> McGee had
> posted on her Web site at Wilma Fisher Elementary School in this
> moneyed
> boomtown that is gobbling up the farm fields north of Dallas.
> But Ms. McGee, 51, a popular art teacher with 28 years in the
> classroom, is
> out of a job after leading her fifth-grade classes last April
> through the
> Dallas Museum of Art. One of her students saw nude art in the
> museum, and
> after the child's parent complained, the teacher was suspended.
> Although the tour had been approved by the principal, and the 89
> students
> were accompanied by 4 other teachers, at least 12 parents and a museum
> docent, Ms. McGee said, she was called to the principal the next
> day and
> "bashed."
> She later received a memorandum in which the principal, Nancy
> Lawson, wrote:
> "During a study trip that you planned for fifth graders, students were
> exposed to nude statues and other nude art representations." It cited
> additional complaints, which Ms. McGee has challenged.
> The school board suspended her with pay on Sept. 22.
> In a newsletter e-mailed to parents this week, the principal and
> Rick Reedy,
> superintendent of the Frisco Independent School District, said that
> Ms.
> McGee had been denied transfer to another school in the district,
> that her
> annual contract would not be renewed and that a replacement had been
> interviewed.
> The episode has dumbfounded and exasperated many in and out of this
> mushrooming exurb, where nearly two dozen new schools have been
> built in the
> last decade and computers outnumber students three to one.
> A representative of the Texas State Teachers Association, which has
> sprung
> to Ms. McGee's defense, calls it "the first 'nudity-in-a-museum
> case' we
> have seen."
> "Teachers get in trouble for a variety of reasons," said the
> association's
> general counsel, Kevin Lungwitz, "but I've never heard of a teacher
> getting
> in trouble for taking her kiddoes on an approved trip to an art
> museum."
> John R. Lane, director of the museum, said he had no information on
> why Ms.
> McGee had been disciplined.
> "I think you can walk into the Dallas Museum of Art and see nothing
> that
> would cause concern," Mr. Lane said.
> Over the past decade, more than half a million students, including
> about a
> thousand from other Frisco schools, have toured the museum's
> collection of
> 26,000 works spanning 5,000 years, he said, "without a single
> complaint."
> One school recently did cancel a scheduled visit, he said. He did
> not have
> its name.
> The uproar has swamped Frisco school switchboards and prompted some
> Dallas-area television stations to broadcast images of statues from
> the
> museum with areas of the anatomy blacked out.
> Ms. Lawson and Mr. Reedy did not return calls. A spokeswoman for
> the school
> district referred questions to the school board's lawyer, Randy
> Gibbs. Mr.
> Gibbs said, "there was a parent who complained, relating the
> complaint of a
> child," but he said he did not know details.
> In the May 18 memorandum to Ms. McGee, Ms. Lawson faulted her for not
> displaying enough student art and for "wearing flip-flops" to work;
> Ms.
> McGee said she was wearing Via Spiga brand sandals. In citing the
> students'
> exposure to nude art, Ms. Lawson also said "time was not used
> wisely for
> learning during the trip," adding that parents and teachers had
> complained
> and that Ms. McGee should have toured the route by herself first.
> But Ms.
> McGee said she did exactly that.
> In the latest of several statements, the district contended that
> the trip
> had been poorly planned. But Mr. Gibbs, the district's lawyer,
> acknowledged
> that Ms. Lawson had approved it.
> "This is not about a field trip to a museum," the principal and
> superintendent told parents in their e-mail message Wednesday, citing
> "performance concerns" and other criticisms of Ms. McGee's work,
> which she
> disputes. "The timing of circumstances has allowed the teacher to
> wave that
> banner and it has played well in the media," they wrote.
> They took issue with Ms. McGee's planning of the outing. "No
> teacher's job
> status, however, would be jeopardized based on students' incidental
> viewing
> of nude art," they wrote.
> Ms. McGee and her lawyer, Rogge Dunn, who are exploring legal
> action, say
> that her past job evaluations had been consistently superior until the
> museum trip and only turned negative afterward. They have copies of
> evaluations that bear out the assertion.
> Retracing her route this week through the museum's European and
> contemporary
> galleries, Ms. McGee passed the marble torso of a Greek youth from a
> funerary relief, circa 330 B.C.; its label reads, "his nude body
> has the
> radiant purity of an athlete in his prime." She passed sculptor
> Auguste
> Rodin's tormented "Shade;" Aristide Maillol's "Flora," with her
> clingy sheer
> garment; and Jean Arp's "Star in a Dream."
> None, Ms. McGee said, seemed offensive.
> "This is very painful and getting more so," she said, her eyes
> moistening.
> "I'm so into art. I look at it for its value, what each
> civilization has
> left behind."
> School officials have not named the child who complained or any
> particular
> artwork at issue, although Ms. McGee said her puzzlement was
> compounded when
> Ms. Lawson referred at times to "an abstract nude sculpture."
> Ms. McGee, a fifth-generation Texan who has a grown daughter, won a
> monthly
> teacher award in 2004 from a local newspaper. She said the loss of her
> $57,600-a-year job could jeopardize her mortgage and compound her
> health
> problems, including a heart ailment.
> Some parents have come to Ms. McGee's defense. Joan Grande said her
> 11-year-old daughter, Olivia, attended the museum tour.
> "She enjoyed the day very much," Ms. Grande said. "She did mention
> some nude
> art but she didn't make a big deal of it and neither did I." She
> said that
> if Ms. McGee's job ratings were high before the incident,
> "something isn't
> right" about the suspension.
> Another parent, Maijken Kozcara, said Ms. McGee had taught her
> children
> effectively.
> "I thought she was the greatest," Ms. Kozcara said. But "knowing
> Texas, the
> way things work here" she said of the teacher's suspension, "I
> wasn't really
> amazed. I was like, 'Yeah, right.' "
> Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
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