Frisco Texas Art Teacher Fired for Field Trip to the Dallas Museum of Art?

Our Love is Just a MemorySculpture, Oakland Museum of California Hosted on Zooomr

NBC10.com – Education – Art Teacher Loses Job After Kids See Nude Sculpture

“I wanna tell you all a story ’bout a Harper Valley widowed wife,
who had a teenage daughter who attended Harper Valley Junior High,
well her daughter came home one afternoon and didn’t even stop to play,
And she said.”Mom I got a note here from the Harper Valley PTA.”

Tom T. Hall

So apparently in Frisco, Texas (not to be confused with ‘Frisco, California) the Frisco school board has voted not to renew a reprimanded art teacher, Sydney McGee’s, contract after 28 years of service. This teacher apparently was honored two years ago with a Star Teacher Award. Her crime? Allegedly taking 89 Fisher Elementary School fifth-graders to the Dallas Museum of Art where one of her students apparently saw a nude sculpture.

Gasp, the horror.

Parents repoortedly had signed permission slips allowing the trip.

So here I present to a photo of the school board who fired this poor teacher.

Frisco ISD Board of TrusteesFrisco ISD Board of Trustees Hosted on Zooomr

Yep, that’s them. Renee Ehmke, Buddy Minett, Brenda Polk, Dan Mossakowski, good old Dick Beaver, Cindy DePaolantonio and Laura Ellison.

Now I’m not going to call these guys a bunch of assholes or pricks just yet because there could be more to this story. In fact, I was able to dig up this rebutal apparently written by someone named Shana Mckay-Wortham from the Frisco School District who seems to dispute this teacher’s version of why she is not being renewed, but still, this smells awfully bad. Also, The New York Times probably has the best coverage I’ve seen on this yet but they do confirm that this teacher was taken to task over the field trip in a memo from the school:

“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.”

I will say that if in fact this teacher has been fired for taking kids to a museum this sucks pretty bad. Kids ought to be exposed to art and I find it very difficult to see what might be objectionable in nude statues. I take my kids to the Oakland Museum of California all the time where the nude above is on display and I don’t really see anything wrong with it. If anything I would think that the nude might prompt a healthy conversation about our bodies.

Certainly some art probably can be too extreme for young children. When I took my son Jack to the MOMA a few years back I decided that we would skip Larry Sultan’s photographic showing of “The Valley,” a behind the scenes photo exhibition of the porn business in the San Fernando Valley. I do think Sultan’s photography is pretty incredible, but still, probably not the best thing for my four year old to see.

But I don’t think that most nude sculpture that I’ve ever seen would be too much for fifth-graders and I suspect that this school board may have taken this one a bit far. It’s unfortunate that this is how art is viewed in Frisco Texas.

Thanks for the heads up on this story Steve Gobeil.

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26 Comments

  1. julie says:

    This is an unfortunate situation. Here is the Dallas Morning News story (may require registration). The teacher award is aparently from an advertising campaign in the Frisco Enterprise, a Star Community Newspaper. (Link is to their article.)

    I can’t help but think that there’s more to the story than we’re seeing in the news reports. Texas law allows for personnel decicions by public bodies to be made behind closed doors, so we may never know what happened unless her attorney follow through with legal action.

  2. Cornerstone says:

    It would HAVE to be for something else… Principal’s permission/consent, signed parent consent from EVERY student, a Public Museum? You would think they would find something more legitimate to throw her under the bus with.

  3. Anonymous says:

    the board member’s name is dick beaver, they should fire him for an inappropiate name!

  4. Anonymous says:

    I live in Frisco, and my children went to the school at which this art teacher taught. She was a horrible art teacher! The children didn’t learn a thing, she never had plans for the substitute teachers, she was argumentative with the staff, and she was out a lot. In my mind, I could care less about the field trip.

    We didn’t even know what a good art teacher was like until redistricting took my children to a different school. WOW! Art up on the walls, learning about famous artists…what a difference a GOOD art teacher makes.

    This just goes to show you what publicity can do. The School Board can’t win, because no matter what it looks like the “big bad school board” against the “poor little teacher”. My experience was just the opposite.

    Frustrated in Frisco

  5. Elinesca says:

    In my humble opinion, we should also stop nursing babies. To think of the horrible fact that a baby is being exposed to nudity at such young age. That so many of us were both sucking and looking at a nipple as infants must be the reason why we’re all so fucked up today.

  6. My last job wanted me to relocate to Dallas, I ended up taking another job partly because I didn’t want to live in an environment like that.

    As for allegations that she is being fired (or not being renewed) for performance reasons unrelated to the museum outing, it doesn’t appear that there were any documented performance gripes before the museum trip so I’d say that is a dubious claim at best.

    As for Mr./Mrs. anonymous “Frustrated in Frisco” I haven’t heard reports of parent complaints in the articles liked, including the NYT article (thanks BugMeNot) and the Dallas Morning News article so I’m inclined to think that you are just an agent of the school board astroturfing the “blogosphere” (for lack of a less stupid term) to make it appear that they are not closed minded refugees fron the dark ages. If you are for real of course you wouldn’t mind identifying yourself.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Um… Miss “Frustrated in Frisco” I’m sorry but it seems you are full of it.

    I have read several credible news reports, including statements from the teacher’s lawyer regarding her superior performance reviews prior to this incident, and the fact that she won a teaching award. There apparently isn’t a single recorded complaint from a parent, or another teacher, or any of the administration that has been presented in this case. And she has been teaching for 28 years.

    I’m sorry, but she sounds like a model teacher. I think you are completely full of crap. And unless you are willing to prove me wrong, you’re just wasting time blabbing about nonsense with nothing to back it up.

  8. Mollie says:

    I am a resident of Frisco and have been for 5 years. My children are not “school-aged” but my husband and I worry frequently about sending them to school here. Texas is different from the rest of the country (if you say it’s not, then you were probably born and raised here). There may be more to this story…there always seems to be. But, it is convenient that this teacher was put on administrative leave soon after the field trip. And I would not put it past some parents here to object to their children seeing nudity, even if it is art. I mean, this is a state where we teach abstinence INSTEAD OF sex education and have the highest teen pregnancy rate in the country. Ignorance apparently IS bliss…

  9. MJ n Tx says:

    I don’t know who the parent is But they must have some serious power to scare the entire school board. In my oppinion, if the teacher gets fired then they should fire the principle because he permitted the trip. It’s probable that he has been to that museum or one like it, if so he commited the same ‘unexceptable’behavior. The parents should be turned into the child protective agency, because they signed permission slips for the kids to go to this ‘unexceptable’ place. They (the parents) more than likely have been to this museum or one like it when they were children. So I guess the school system and their parents were all ‘unexceptable’, too.
    In addition the entire school board should be fired sinse they are brown nosing the principle on the firing they were probably doing the same when the decision was made to make the field trip etc.
    Unexeptable as in perverted right?
    I guess it’s another one of those patterns that’s handed down from generation to generation like alcoholism. Get real people!

  10. Anonymous says:

    I am an art teacher in a “red” State and often worry about the parents judging me and my aproaches to education. I do make it a point to tell my students that there is a clear difference between a human body without clothes and something “dirty” or perverse. I have taken students from this closed – rural community to the city museum without any issues. I hope this teacher had all of her ducks in a row and actually is the quality teacher I believe her to be because this narrow minded bull—- and I hope that every art teacher out there stands strong – don’t stop the field trips out of fear!!

  11. Fisher parent says:

    I was a parent that chaperoned that trip. I am also in management and as such understand that the principal and district can’t play the media like a virtuoso as Ms. Gee has. The ignorance of the ill-informed shocks me. This is not about a nude sculpture. This is not about potentially one parent complaint. I too felt the trip was chaotic, the DMA staff was rude and museum was over-booked. I primarily blamed the DMA frankly, but some accountability does belong to the organizer. She should have accepted the criticism and grow from it. Trying to hide behind the one complaint is to avoid recognizing her short-comings and opportunity to improve. Interestingly enough, I never have had my children complain about her class, but at the same time, their lack of interest or apathy may be a sign of her lackluster teaching. My kids normally rave about learning yet they barely mention this class. When asked, they can’t recall anything of significance that they have done there. I have asked myself why my kids don’t know the basics of art. Why did my 5th grader not have any understanding of the purpose of the field trip? Why was it not part of unit of study? For example, if they learn about the ocean and then they visit the aquarium – the knowledge is applicable to the trip. I wonder why the children did not truly have a clue about the intent. I don’t presume to know all of the facts that led to this point as no on truly ever does in an employee/manager situation due to privacy laws. However, I do know that this is a phenomenal school that has tons of school spirit, parental support, wonderful teachers and administrators, and intelligent, considerate kids. The mission is to educate our kids and to encourage their love of learning. Under Mrs. Lawson, the staff has set its goal to drive excellence similar to that espoused in Jim Collin’s “From Good to Great”. Perhaps this is really about the fact that Ms. McGee may not have been willing to get on the bus to get us there. If that is the case, then move on and please leave our children and school in peace. The negativity needs to stop. Pursue your actions with dignity through the proper channels. The media and court of public opinion is not the place for a fair assessment of her paid administrative leave.

  12. People, read the current news about this case!! She was “fired” in another district several years ago. She was put on a “Growth Plan”, which in Texas is how you get rid of bad teachers. (Growth Plans don’t happen over night but take documentation and time to create!) There were numerous complaints about her from students, parents, and fellow teachers. Her award from nothing official, but from a local newspaper that anyone could write into and nominate a teacher.

    The only positive news you read about her is from HER, her Lawyer, and I read one quote from a parent. The FISD authorities are restricted by law from responding to her statements, so don’t take the silence and lack of detailed rebuttals of her claims as proof of her statements. Plus school administrators don’t have time to go on witch hunts and “firing” good teachers. Quite the opposite, most school administators go to the wall to defend a good teacher.

    Face the facts: Ms. McGee was a “bad” teacher who is claiming this issue as a desperate, last bid attempt to avoid a fate that has been slowly coming up on her. If she and her lawyer would release ALL the facts, the issue would be clear and all the 1st Admendment supports can go find another more deserving fight to fight.

  13. Ronnie Wade says:

    Hey “Frustrated in Frisco,” if you’re going to bash a veteran teacher like Sydney Magee, whom I’ve known for years, have the guts to identify yourself. Don’t be a coward in anonymity. Maybe you should also recognize all of the overtime that she’s worked over the years (without pay!) putting on art shows for the school and the kids. Does 28 years of service to children deserve such little respect? Think about it, coward!

  14. Anonymous says:

    My God,

    Americans can be soooooo short sighted. Letting a ten year old child go hunting is good. Everybody is proud of him holding a gun!!! Showing a nude statue, you know, the thing you also see in the mirror every morning is wrong!??? Bless me for being born and raised in the Netherlands!!

  15. Anonymous says:

    I cannot believe that the principal did not look into the exhibits that were at this museum before approving such a field trip. In fifth grade most students start to learn about the body anyway, so they could have used that as a learning experiance. Also why is the human body so bad, where the images provocitive? If we teach these impressionible students that the body is bad and seeing art that showes the body should be banished what are we to say about our sex ed classes? Should we not teach stuff like that. This teacher was obviously an established teacher who has been recongnized by awards. The parents agreeed to this trip then knew they were going, if you didn’t want your children to see the exhibits in the muesum then just don’t send them to school that day, if you feel that strong.

  16. jc says:

    Clearly not everyone that posts on this blog reads enough about the situation prior to posting their opinion. Please do check out both sides. Your one sided slant is not accurate and hurtful. This is about a teacher that chose to divert from the truth to selectively choose one statement from a 5 page memo on areas to improve. There is a lot more here than a nude sculpture and one parent complaint.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Show me an art museum without a nude statue and I will show you a duck without water.Did the principal approve the field trip? Was the trip board appproved? Shame on all of you for doing so ……I am going out on a limb …….. but maybe you need to review what you approve? Thinking you might take some of the blame?
    Guess things are different Dallas guess they have different TV stations because mine are full of nudity. The programing has none of the beauty you will find in the Art Museum. This is our culture folks get use to it.Sort of confusing me thinks.
    oh yes be glad you were born in the netherlands!!!!!smwy

  18. Anonymous says:

    The story is spreading around Europe too as an example of how crazy Americans can be.
    An article in todays Keskisuomalainen – a major newspaper of Central Finland, claimed that the teacher had been fired because of the trip to the art museum. I felt like I had to express my hate towards hypocrite neo-conservatives that give christianity a bad name for being so stupid, even those 5000 miles away. So I googled myself here.
    I quess I can calm down now.

  19. jc says:

    Study Trips and the Dallas Museum of Art (October, 2006)

    The Frisco ISD is a strong supporter of the arts. Study trips help enhance and extend learning for students.
    The following are among the required study trips at certain grade levels:

    A Dramatic Arts Based Trip
    (to be selected by the campus)
    2nd grade
    Required

    The Opera
    3rd grade
    Required

    Frisco Storytelling Festival
    4th grade
    Required

    The Symphony –
    The Eisemann Center
    The Meyerson Center

    4th grade
    5th grade

    Required
    Required

    Environmental Camp (3 day trip)
    5th grade
    Required

    Collin County Historical Museum (Community theme in Social Studies)
    3rd grade
    Required

    Others that are among the approved venues to help expose students to art, culture, history and nature, but not required are:

    Heard Museum
    Kindergarten – 5th grade
    Possible for any grade level

    Dallas Art Museum
    Kindergarten – 5th grade
    Possible for any grade level

    Dallas Arboretum
    Kindergarten – 5th grade
    Possible for any grade level

    Students have been going to the Dallas Museum of Arts for years. The museum is very student-centered and loves to educate young people. At the high school level, advanced art students go to one of the major museums every other year or so depending on the exhibits, etc. The next elementary school scheduled to go to the DMA from FISD is Isbell Elementary. They are planning to see the Van Gogh exhibit to learn more about an artist they have been studying. When planning a trip, the following might be a sequence of events related to the trip:

    The first step is to work with the principal to approve the study trip.
    The next step is to find a workable date that fits the school and museum schedules and to also arrange transportation.
    The teacher would then go preview the exhibit and work with the docents to pick the pieces for the learning, museum experience. They would pick the pieces with the developmental age and maturity of the student in mind. Based on the number of students who will be attending the study trip, the number of docents needed would also be determined.
    The museum would then send the school information, possibly with lesson plans or slides that the teacher could go over with students prior to the trip so that students would make better learning connections with the art.
    The teacher would send home permission slips with the students for their parents to sign regarding the study trip. The permission slip would indicate the exhibit being seen and might offer other information to the parents for their review, i.e. websites, etc. Chaperones would be sought among parents to meet the adult/student guidelines of the museum if needed.
    The teacher would then prepare students for the museum experience. Some of the topics the teacher may touch on would be that there are many forms and types of art; that throughout time art has reflected the history and culture of the period; that the human figure has been respected and celebrated through the centuries and artists have portrayed it in different ways; and that there are trends within art and among artists as there are with other popular culture representations, such as music, clothing, etc. Although you may not be going to specifically view exhibits with nude art representations, you most surely will be passing by different forms of art and want students to understand all that they may be seeing. FISD does caution teachers regarding the introduction of mature subject matter (such as nudity) without adequate preparation and communication.
    Museum behavior and protocol would be discussed – being quiet and respectful when the docents are speaking; not touching the art; maintaining an adequate distance from pieces so all can see, etc.
    In planning and preparing for the study trip, if students will be waiting for a long stretch of time, then an activity tied to the experience should be planned to constructively use that time. While touring the exhibits, the lead teacher would touch base with all the groups.
    When students return from the study trip, the teacher would conduct some follow-up activities to reinforce the experience and extend the learning that took place.
    A parental complaint regarding a concern or something viewed on a study trip to the Dallas Museum of Art or any other museum would not result in a teacher being fired or suspended. The concern would be conveyed to the teacher.

    The above came from the Friso ISD website.

    Just an FYI…The teacher in question did not do much of the required teaching above. That is the real discussion point as to why Ms. McGee is in this position. She has however managed to get all of you up in arms as if this were truly over the nude sculpture. Please look deeper and stop calling us crazy Americans. This is about the media and not telling the whole story.

  20. Sara Thacker says:

    If this teacher was fired because of the nudes at the DMA then this situation is totally ridiculous. I live in Frisco but home school my children. I’ve taken my kids to the DMA and expected to see nudes. If you go to see art you had best expect to see all kids of art. If one of the parents complained about the nudes, then shame on them for signing those permission slips in the first place. The parents should be fired for not realizing what type of art could be in a museum.

  21. Aphi86 says:

    I am so tired of the rest of the country trying to make this a “Footloose” example, when it is not. I can tell you we are new to Fisher and have been at a private school (out of Texas-although I am a native) the last two years where the art program was the best I have ever seen. I also am a former teacher and have never witnessed a more bizarre presentation than Meet The Teacher. This Ms. Magee was there speaking, and instead of telling the parents what she planned for the school year or her approach to art, she read some ramblings (written by another author-so not her words) on why she became an art teacher. She almost seemed drunk. I kid you not. My husband and I left thinking something was wrong with her. If that presentation was anything like how she prepared for class..well I just can’t imagine. This also is something we found very odd about the school. There was no art work up in the halls, with the exception of a few framed pieces. We came from a school, and I taught in a school where the hallways were covered in children’s work. In the 8 weeks she taught this year, my child worked on one picture-that is it! I say this next part as a former teacher-28 years ago when this woman became a teacher the standards were not what they are today. Face it, there is a lot of lame, lazy, can’t do any other career type of teachers out there. Telling me she has taught for 28 years means nothing. I guess who we should be mad at is McKinney ISD. They had a sucky teacher they wanted out and paid her off. In her excepting the $8900 payoff to get the hell out of dodge McKinney agreed to give her a letter of rec and good standing! Thanks a lot. I also have taken 2nd graders to the DMA and it was an awful trip. The staff did send teaching material ahead of time, and you can bet your sweet bippy that we discussed proper behavior and what would we do if we saw a nude painting or sculpture. There is a lot more going on, and it is easy to sit back and take pot shots, but unless you know what you are talking about don’t offer your opinion.

  22. Aphi86 says:

    If you would like to know the inside scoop read about it in the timeline that is now published on the ISD’s web site. It is interesting to see how this “victim” was surly, rude, and insubordinate. I own a business and I would fire any employee on the spot if I asked them to follow company procedures in documentation etc. and was told no, or spoken to in a disrespectful manner. But, you be the judge. http://www.friscoisd.org/news/mcgee_timeline.htm

  23. Anonymous says:

    I’m a student in Frisco, and from what i have heard from every single student i know that has attended that school is that this art teacher was magnificent. It is just another overdramatized incident by the ridiculous Frisco ISD staff and board. This esteemed woman did not deserve to lose her job. Over half of the students have probably already seen nude pictures from other sources anyways; the parents are just trying to dismiss the fact that they’re children are anything but innocent.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Ok this is for the school board:

    #1. yes you should have looked into what kind of art work there is at the DMA.

    #2. If the parent didnt want their child to see nude sculptures. (because i know they knew there were nude sculptures.) they shouldnt have signed a release form.

    Added to everything else that went on. YOU people ruined someones teaching career (life!!!!!) over a stupid nude sculpture that has history and nature behind it. it wasnt meant to be made for the purpose of introducing kids and young teens to nudity. (they will be introduced to that in the future and there is no stopping that.) it was meant to introduce children and young teens to art. i am in all kinds of art and i can tell you if it wasnt for art like that and of all kinds i would be dropped out of school and at home eating chips and drinking pop all the time but no i am at school learning and while i am in the process learning art and for art i will now have a future. if you people (school board) are so evil and see that you have done the right thing by fireing that poor teacher than i am pretty sure you are feeling guilty right now and i am sure god is very disappointed in you all. if i was the superintendent i would have rehired that poor teacher and given her a raise for her suffering. i hope that women is able to get on with her life just because a nude sculpture that a little inmature boy/girl saw and told their inmature parents.

  25. Concerned Parent says:

    Even more embarrassing Frisco ISD has a prostitute working as a teacher and coach.

    Tina Leavitt has been selling sex for money on Craigslist and Backpage.com.

    She was removed from Irving for this behavior and has made her way to Frisco.

    Furthermore, she advertises her profession with the moniker “sexkittenteach”
    and “Biteach”.

    Please call the school board and ask for an investigation.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Just a note to the Frisco “Concerned Parent” above.

    “Concerned Parent” is named David Leavitt.

    David Leavitt is simply a disgruntled ex-husband who’s wife divorced him after he beat and sent her to the hospital.

    He was convicted of that crime on Mar 13, 2007 and is about to start doing his jail time any day now.

    Here are a few places to investigate this man and his criminal background:

    http://www.co.collin.tx.us/rsp-bin/pbkr125.pgm

    http://www.bne.state.tx.us/disciplinaryaction/imposters2008.html (goto bottom of page… cute guy, eh?)

    http://www.dallascounty.org/pars2/criminalSearch.html

    I apologize for having to go off-topic.