Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Close Only Counts In Horseshoes And Slow Dancing

Yesterday, the tax levy Proposition 3 went down to defeat in the Wentzville School District by a VERY small margin.  It happened despite an all-out community blitz promising that kids would have nowhere to learn, property values would fall, the terrorists would win, and the lack of money would cause kittens to die of cancer.  (OK, I made the last two up... sorry!)

There were signs everywhere, radio ads, mailed fliers, and I even got a personal visit from a Wentzville School Board member one Saturday morning!  (Wow, was that the wrong doorbell to ring or what?!?  BTW, Ms. Board Member, I'm still waiting on that promised phone call.)

Now, I don't intend on playing the "sore winner" card, since there aren't any real winners here.  Heck, my kids are in this district, and will be for years, so I do have an interest in the well-being of the school system.

But I would like to say that the Wentzville School District's arrogance caught up with them yesterday.  How did they expect a whole community to support their request for more money on Tuesday, when they treat half of us like ignorant pests the rest of the time?

The problem isn't that the Wentzville School District doesn't tell us what they need (District Spokesman Matt Deichmann will tell you how good a job he does.... just ask him!), it's that they don't communicate - sitting down and exchanging ideas, working through problems together... you know, "talking".  If they would make it a priority to take fifteen minutes to talk to parents with district-level issues, they might have persuaded 507 of the people that voted "no" to vote "yes" (I know two of them), which would have saved them a lot of future financial headaches.

But, as it stands, I'm sure they're all scratching their heads wondering how they lost the vote.  "How could just over half of the voting community not support it?"  I'm sure someone is out there trying to tell them... if they'd just return the phone call.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Whoops, Wentzville!

First, let me say hello to everyone again.  Its been several months since I've blogged about the Wentzville School District, but I decided to let sleeping dogs lie for awhile.

Yes, I could have shared a dismissive (but grossly fascinating) email exchange with Matthew Diechmann, the district's "public relations" person, in which a publication parent attempts to meet the district halfway by organizing meetings to create a policy that works for everyone.  (The District would have none of that... dang uppity parents!)

And sure, I could have shared the fact that the Wentzville School District went ahead and changed their publication policy - without any publication parental input - so that Assistant Superintendent Melody Marcantonio has final say on what gets censored. 

And, I could have mentioned that the Wentzville School District decided to fund the publication budget, instead of allowing the publication to conduct ad sales (as it has done for years prior to Principal Winston Rogers and Marcantonio), in order to remove the legal defense of the paper being an "independent forum".

I could have also complained about the inexplicable, punitive and dubious reasons that the Wentzville Administration had for cancelling the publication's award trip to Kansas City. (And before someone starts yelling "budget cutbacks", this trip is FULLY funded by publication parents and students... unlike the tax payer money now being used to publish the paper due to removal of ad sales.)

However, I just couldn't resist speaking out any longer, given yesterday's developments.  But, I think a little background recap is needed to better understand what has happened...

If you recall, much of the turmoil from last year's censorship debacle came from the attempted publication in Timberland High School's newspaper of an article about tattoos.  In particular, there were photos that Principal Winston Rogers and Assistant Superintendent Melody Marcantonio found offensive.  (Click here to view the original Timberland High School article.)  Winston Rogers has argued that he tows a zero tolerance line on tattoos, which the Wentzville School District has implicitly backed by their non-action on the subject.  They had also argued that the harassment against their publication faculty sponsor was based on the zero-tolerance tattoo policy, and not an attempt to drive her from the school (for whatever reason.)

Now, let's fast-forward to yesterday, about one year from the tattoo article's attempted publication.  In the Wentzville Middle Schools, school administration handed out temporary tattoos to students in recognition of "red ribbon week", part of the school district's anti-drug education.  Students were given the "red ribbon" tattoos, and were encouraged to wear them at school.

Uh... Seriously?!?

With my whole being, I hope the district is getting an earful from the same parents that defended Rogers, and thanked him for "saving their children from tattoos."  But since I'm certain that promoting a tattoo culture in middle school is somehow "different" from printing educational articles about tattoos in high school, the mighty-morals will be nice and quiet.

My belief is that by actually using tattoos as an educational tool, the Wentzville School District has shown their hand from the game they played last school year.  The issue wasn't about anti-tattoo policy, or about censoring inappropriate material, it was instead the personal vendetta of a school administrator against a journalism teacher that embarrassed her years earlier.

Unfortunately, those that live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.
...or should that read, "Those that spout zero-tolerance on tattoos shouldn't promote tattoos?"

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Publication Parents Welcome the Choir Parents to Wentzville School District Policies

Last week, KMOV ran a news story describing an incident that occurred during a Choir trip to Six Flags.  The incident involved students bringing and consuming alcohol during the trip, some of whom arrived back at the school visibly drunk.  The incident resulted in the suspension of six students from attending graduation.

The policy for possession and consumption of alcohol is very strict, as it should be.  Such misbehaviour is rightly banned, due to the illegality, risk of harm, and liability to the chaperons and the school district.  If a student abuses that policy by consuming or possessing alcohol, then let the consequences fall where they may.

However, we're talking about simple implementation of policy at Timberland High School... so something must have gotten screwed up.  As it turns out, two of the suspended students didn't consume or possess alcohol.  They were suspended for just "knowing" that other students had the alcohol at the event.  They are being punished after making a personal choice to not consume the alcohol, or even possess it, because they knew there would be consequences.  However, they didn't realize that this was the Wentzville School District, and that means (say it with me)... "flexible policies"!

These students fell victim to two unwritten policies in the school district.  The first unpublished policy must say that if a student makes a personal decision to refuse to participate in an inappropriate act offered by another student, they then must report that to administration.  I've looked for the "big brother" policy on their website, but have failed to find it (rumor has it that its located in a safety deposit box somewhere in Arizona).  If the students were made aware that such a "snitch" policy existed, they would have been able to make an informed decision to tell the chaperons, and avoid any punishment.  Instead, they are now at the whim of Winston Rogers' snap judgements, and the blind eye of support he enjoys from the Wentzville School Administration.

The second unwritten policy (which was given to me as a draft from the District entitled, "F*** Off, but Thanks For The Tax Money") is that parental involvement in issues involving Timberland High School students is not acceptable.  A report from a parent involved in the issue describes that they were not made aware of the issue until after the students were interrogated by Wentzville School administrators.  Additionally, when the students were picked up by their parents after the event, no administrators were on hand to discuss any issues.  To date, Winston Rogers and the rest of the Wentzville School district administration have failed to return calls and emails to the Choir parents.

These are the same policy and communication issues that the parents of the publications staff have come to expect from the Wentzville School District, Wentzville School Administration and Winston Rogers.  So, as a Wentzville School District parent, I would like to welcome the Choir parents to the realization that the Wentzville School District has no interest in parental involvement, and to personally wish them good luck in dealing with Winston Rogers and the mindless support he enjoys from the district... you'll need it.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Quagmire of Flexible Standards

Recently, news has surfaced that MTV has visited Timberland High School.  Reportedly, the visit was to feature a THS student in MTV's show "Made", a show about helping teens learn what it takes to achieve their goals.

As altruistic as this show sounds, MTV is not exactly a network that promotes sound family values.  For example, here are some of MTV's other shows...
  • Jersey Shore: The current "standard" (should I say "sub-standard"?) in inappropriate role models.  Bar brawls, constant swearing, even more constant conversations about sex, cast members "hooking up", and excessive drinking -- which often leads to throwing up and/or promiscuous behavior.
  • 16 & Pregnant: This reality series attempts to highlight the difficulties associated with being pregnant and becoming a young mother. However, the show is light on education ("doing the hokey pokey" and other metaphors are used), while spending most of its time focusing more on relationship drama than issue-related content.
  • My Super Sweet 16:   The show highlights the "sweet 16" parties that are thrown by affluent parents.  Parents act like jerks.  Kids act like spoiled jerks.  This show sets unrealistic aspirations for teens.  The messages that this show sends to teens include; "my daddy will get me anything I want"; teen's goals should be to make their friends jealous; material rewards at any cost; feeling entitled is acceptable.
  • I Want A Famous Face:  What better message to send to your teen than, "if you don't like the way you look, then expensive and risky surgery is for you!"
There are numerous other examples of MTV's glamorization of teen angst and misbehavior, but I don't have that much time (or patience) to write about them all. 

So, here's the quandary - If a school district finds it so morally reprehensible to show a photo of a tattoo that memorializes someone that died from breast cancer, how can it then turn around and allow a TV network into the building that glorifies teenage misbehavior... including tattoos?  Even though the show "Made" has a positive message (that achieving any worthy goal takes commitment and hard work), it's aired between shows like "Is She Really Going Out With Him" and "Disaster Date".  To put it simply - even if you put healthy, lean turkey on a turd sandwich... it's still a turd sandwich.

So, if I might reference one of Winston Rogers's supporters that helped to silence the parents at March's Wentzville School District board meeting:  She thanked Winston Rogers for saving her child from having to view tattoo related material.  Now, I'd like to thank Winston Rogers and the Wentzville School District for exposing my children to an entire TV channel dedicated to the glorification of the worst influences of teen life... sex, drugs, and the pursuit of immediate gratification at any cost.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

More Media Coverage of Wentzville School District Censorship

Hi All,

The internet news buzz continues to grow about the Wentzville School District and the ongoing issues of censorship and parental communication...

Kalen Ponche of the Suburban Journals - a subsidiary of the St. Louis Post Dispatch - wrote a followup article highlighting the continued frustration felt by parents and students alike.  Of interest in the article is the comments made by the current Wentzville School Board President Dale Schaper. 

First, Board President Dale Shaper stated that they "simply followed district policy" in only allowing 15 minutes to speak.  What he fails to say is that nowhere in the policy does it state that public comments are limited to 15 minutes.  Instead, the policy states:
5. Due to the possible number of speakers during the public forum, the Board President may limit or extend the speaking time.
Since Board President Dale Schaper had the perogitive to adjust the speaking time, I want to make sure that it is perfectly clear that the 15 minute limitation was his personal decision

Board President Dale Schaper also stated that parents and students can "request a spot on the agenda in the future. The request must be made in writing five days before the meeting."  Unfortunately, this again illustrates that the issue has no importance to the Wentzville School Board, since they don't deem it necessary to proactively address it by adding it to the agenda themselves.

Lastly, board member David Hurst added yet another example of the Wentzville School District Administration being out of touch with their own policies.  Mr. Hurst stated that "he didn't know all the details about what was not allowed to go into the newspaper or yearbook."  However, per the Wentzville School District Student Publication policy...
The building principal shall forward the statement and copies of the article to the Superintendent and the Board of Education for their information.
Obviously, this never occured, or Mr. Hurst and the rest of the Wentzville School Board would be better informed on what was going on.

A letter was sent to the Wentzville School Board and Administration from the Society of Professional Journalists.  According to their website, the SPJ is a "broad-based, national journalism organization founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi. SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry, works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists, and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press."

The letter condemns the Wentzville School District for allowing censorship, and illustrates the damage they have done in allowing it to persist. 

And finally, one of my favorites...

Frank LoMonte, the Executive Director of the Student Press Law Center, posted a scathing editorial on the latest activities of the Wentzville School District.  Mr. LoMonte's blog entry, dated March 29th, does an excellent job of highlighting the irony of the Wentzville School administration practices.

And on a final note.... Please read the "Call To Action" notice on the left, and remember to vote next Tuesday, April 6th!  Change happens... but only if you want it to happen!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Great Wentzville School District Communication Experiment

Hello all,

As you may know, election day in Wentzville is April 6th, and is right around the corner.  There are two seats up for election on the Wentzville School Board.  The incumbent school board members are Dale Schaper and Joe McDonald.

As you may also know, Dale Schaper's use of "arbitrary" policy managed to censor the parents of Timberland High School journalism students at the March 18th board meeting. 

What you may not know, though, is that ongoing attempts at communication with the district since that incident have produced nothing.  As a matter of fact, we've been effectively told that parents aren't welcome in the district if you have a problem.  If you have something to say, you only get three minutes a month... if we let you.

So, if you have been following this blog, and have any doubts about why this district needs to change, I'm proposing a little experiment... and all it will take is the time to send one email.

Step 1:  Choose. 
You can send an email to any one address, some of them, or - if you're feeling saucy - all of them! 
Board Members:
Dale Schaper,
David Ness,
Sherry Cox,
David Hurst,
Joe McDonald,
Michael Cecil,
Terry Ratcliff,

Superintendant - Dr. Terry Adams,
Assistant Superintendant - Dr. Melody Marcantonio,
District Spokesperson - Matt Deichmann,
Step 2: Ask a question.
Ask anything!  You can ask to be pointed to statistics for the district, or past performance in achieving "adequate yearly progress" (AYP).  Or for bonus points, make the question about something semi-controversial or topical.  Examples of some topics could be:
  • How is the district going to pay for full day kindergarten after two years?
  • Why are parent/teacher conferences at the high school conducted in public, in violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974?
  • Would the district be willing to consider a dress code for students?
  • Why do kids need to spend so much time "MAP test prepping"?
  • Why can't my kids sell brownies/cookies to raise money for their activity?
  • Can gays/lesbians go to prom in the district with their dates?
  • And, or course, you can ask any questions about the censorship issues I've been covering as well.
Step 3: Wait
Did you get a response?  We can wait....
What about now?  Still no.... I hope you're not holding your breath!
....On the odd chance you did get a response, was it respectful?  Or was it dismissive?  Hmmm... thought so.

Step 4:  Send me your results.
Drop your results in a comment to this blog post.  I'd love to post some of the questions and responses - if any.  (If you wish to remain anonymous, please edit all of your personal info from the comment!)

Step 5:  Vote
Okay.  You caught me!  I did say that all you had to do was send an email, but bear with me for just a couple more moments...

Now that you have witnessed the root of the issue that the parents of the Wentzville School District have been struggling against, you now have the great gift of being able to make an educated decision.  It's obvious to many of the parents that the Wentzville School District board members need to enforce a pro-parent, pro-communication policy within their ranks, and within the Wentzville School administration as well. The only way to do this is to put in place board members that support this approach... and the only way to do that is to vote!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Media Coverage of March 18th Board Meeting

Hi again,

After waiting a few days for the coverage to spread, I think its time to collect a list of links to the media coverage that the Wentzville School Board meeting on March 18th garnered. 

  • Two local TV stations provided coverage of the incident.  KMOV, Channel 4's report can be found here.  KSDK, Channel 5's report is here.
  • The Post Dispatch was in attendance, with the subsequent news article found here.
  • SCC Worlds, a community news organization for St. Charles County, was in attendance as well.  Their report, along with video of Dr. Terry Adams' statements after the meeting, Wentzville School Board statements during the meeting, and parent and student comments can be found here.
  • The Student Press Law Center posted an article as well, located here.
  • JEA Scholastic Press Rights Commission covered the incident, as well.  The article can be found here.

 More as it develops....

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Of Fools and Cowards - The Ballad of the Wentzville School District

"Inconceivable."  That was one person's reaction.
"Below the belt."  That was another person's statement.
"I've never seen a school board do this to parents." was a comment from one TV reporter on the scene.

That about sums up our experience tonight at the Wentzville School Board meeting in the Wentzville School District.  Personally, I've never seen such a display of arrogance and disregard for the people that they apparently serve.  If I hadn't been there, I wouldn't have believed it.  But I'm getting ahead of myself....

The evening started pleasent enough, with excellent weather, a good turnout (50-60 people), and plenty of sense of purpose.  Our agenda, as a group, was to speak to the board about our concerns regarding the censorship policy of the Wentzville School District, and lack of communication with Wentzville administrators and Wentzville board members, and in support of a great teacher.  We didn't want to make the evening about the faults of a particular person.  We wanted to air the issues regarding our kids, about our attempts to work with the district, and the unnecessary loss of a great teacher.

Every school district in its right mind knows that success hinges on working with parents to address issues.  And any good administrator or manager knows that nipping problems when they are small keeps them from becoming big.  Every school district seriously pursuing educational excellence appreciates parents that care...
... and then there's Wentzville School District.

Instead of open and honest communication between parents and Wentzville board members, which they've continued to dodge, the agenda was all about Principal Winston Rogers.  It seems that the Wentzville Administration and the Wentzville School Board conspired to censor the parents!

Yep, you read that right.  Parents and students were censored at an "open" forum.  How?  Arbitrary policy, of of the core issues that we find so abhorent in the district.  According to the posted board meeting policy...
Addressing the Board

Public comments are welcome at each regular Board meeting during the period designated for citizen statements. To address the Board, sign in before the meeting convenes at 7 p.m. at the Board table. Citizens will be called to the podium by the Board president to make comments which must be limited to three minutes

So, accordingly, we came early to sign up in order to voice our concerns.  Several students and parents signed up prior to the meeting to speak.  We also knew that comments may be limited, just based on time. 

Little did we know how limited....

At the beginning of the open forum section of the Wentzville School District board meeting, the board president, Dale Schaper, made the astonishing statement that - according to some policy that I have yet to be able to find in their posted policies - comments would be limited to 15 minutes, and only the first five people that signed up would be allowed to speak.  This was in obvious collusion because - surprise - four of the first five speakers were friends and family of Winston Rogers.

We got to hear how misguided and immoral we, the parents, were for speaking out for our children's education. (Umm... this might be a bit embarrassing, but...  yeah, we're right behind you.)  What a great job Winston Rogers is doing, and as an example he's making the teachers dress up so they look better. (Teachers leaving, students upset, parents angry... obviously these aren't as important as having a nice pantsuit!)   How the teachers that influence students (I call that teaching) should be ashamed.  During this show, the parents and students that had come to talk about issues, and not people, left the meeting. 

How do I know this was planned?  First, the people that had managed to get the "golden tickets" to speak were there LONG before we arrived.  I personally arrived 45 minutes prior to the meeting, and they were already seated inside.  Second, according to the board's own policy, posted on the doors of the meeting room, they have the right to extend comment time based on necessity.  Board President Dale Schaper apparently didn't notice the extra 50-60 people in the room (Again you don't see us?  Honestly people, we're right here!), and obviously felt there were no other issues to discuss.

After we had vacated the room, with shouts of "stack the deck", "censor the parents" and "that's okay, we'll just talk with the media", one board member, Mike Cecil, did notice there was an angry elephant in the room, and motioned that our group should be allowed to speak.  Dale Schaper begrudingly allowed one speaker from the group, since he deemed that having one student speak out for such a large issue was equivilent to having four people speak out about.... well, nothing!

The Timberland High School senior newspaper editor spoke of how she has accomplished much under Coach McCandless, and how thanks to her, she is now proudly the 4th best highschool editor in the country (based on national competitions a few months ago.)  At this comment, a dismissing snicker was heard from Assitant Superintendent Melody Marcanotonio... a supportive and professional response to an aspiring journalism student overcoming dyslexia, don't you think?

And where was Mr. Rogers, since the public comments were all about lauding his ability to make teachers buy a new wardrobe, and how he struggles against immoral parents that make their kids think?  And how the school is such an improving place, by refusing to even return a greeting of "good morning" to my son, and attempting to save us from pictures of teenage girl's shoulders? Witnesses saw him in the building, but he didn't have the courage to attend the meeting or even look at the parents he helped to ire. 

So, not only was this shocking and insulting to the students and parents, it was high drama for the media in attendance.  Local TV news teams from the NBC and CBS affliates in St. Louis were in attendance, as well as a reporter from the St. Louis Post Dispatch.  Comments I garnered from the reporters told me that they had never seen a school board act as arbitrary and arrogant toward students and parents before, and they were in agreement that there was a deep and definite issue in the Wentzville School District.

And still, we the parents, that simply want to talk to the board and administration, are still ignored and in the dark. The sad part about all this, is that I'm sure that somewhere out there, a surprisingly shy Mr. Rogers, an overly-comfortable (and, up for re-election) Wentzville School Board president, and others in the Wentzville School District administration are lying in bed with a feeling they have won.  They feel that they've accomplished something... but I doubt they can put their finger on it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Board Meeting Rally/Protest

Hi All,

As a reminder to those that follow this blog, the upcoming parent/student rally and protest against the censorship of the Timberland High School journalism programs, the continued harassment of journalism program mentors and students by Principal Winston Rogers, and the advocation of censorship by the Wentzville School District Administration and Board is quickly approaching:
When: March 18th, 2010 @ 6:45pm
Where: One Campus Drive, Wentzville MO
As far as I can tell, after doing a little research and speaking with media reporters, this could be one of the largest education protests in Wentzville history.  The numbers, if those that have RSVP'd on the facebook Team McCandless page appear, are staggering.  I'm expecting that attendence could be well into the hundreds!

Given a crowd of that size, I'd like to toss out few suggestions:
  • Meeting Participants: Get there early if you plan to speak.  While there are posted procedures that state people may speak at the event, there is no guarantee that the number of people permitted to speak won't be limited.  Also, according to the posted agenda, the speaking portion comes near the beginning, so punctuality will be rewarded!
  • Demonstrators: We will need particpants to be part of the street demonstration.  The most effective place to demonstrate would be at the intersection of Campus Drive and Pearce Blvd, we should have more than enough demonstrators to also gather in front of the Board offices.
  • Parking:  There should be plenty of parking in the Holt High School parking lot for the board meeting.  Please be courteous of other businesses in the area, and limit parking to the school grounds.  The most appropriate place to park for street demonstrators is at the Middle School, which is just a short walk from the Pearce intersection.  Again, please respect the surrounding businesses and the flow of traffic.  There will most likely be press coverage, so we don't want bad publicity.
  • Attire: Wear your "Team McCandless" shirts to show your support.  If you don't have a "Team McCandless" shirt, green is the color of the day!  Again, we intend to have press coverage, and the more visually interesting this rally is, the more likely it will get aired/printed!  The weather forcast (as of this moment) is clear but cool... so dress appropriately!
  • Signs:  If you are particpating in the outside demonstration, please consider bringing signs of support/protest.
Signage Guidelines:  We are attempting to make a positive difference, so please make sure your sign is appropriate.  If we cannot convey a positive message, then we will not succeed.  Here are a few general guidelines in creating your message that should help prevent embarassement for our cause.
  • Positive messages:  Your positive messages can show support for Ms. McCandless, the journalism program, free speech, and the like. 
  • Protest messages:  Messages against censorship, teacher and student harassment, administration censorship policy, and school board silence are all appropriate. 
  • Avoid messages that directly reference administrators or board members with unsupported claims or generalities.  For instance "Winston Rogers sucks" is inappropriate, but "Stop Winston Rogers' Censorship" would be okay. 
  • Avoid messages that would be considered insulting, slanderous, obscene, vulger or in any other way inappropriate.  (You guys are journalism students, so use what Coach Mac has taught you!)
Finally, lets make this an event to remember!  If you can, bring friends, family, neighbors... anyone that you can!  Let's try to make it into the history books with the largest educational protest in Wentzville history. I think Cathy McCandless and all the students in the Timberland Journalism programs deserve it!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Timberland Needs Collaboration, Not Clobbering

After sleeping on some of my earlier comments, and after some consideration and conversation, it has occured to me that there is another possible perspective on the current failures of the Wentzville School District administration, and the censoring of Timberland High School's publications by Principal Winston Rogers.

Let's assume the original perspective of the Wentzville administration in hiring Principal Rogers based on his prior experience is correct:  It is true that socio-economic status of a community contributes to educational decline.  And it is also true that making even a small improvement in a failing school is an improvement.  And that such an environment has many challenges to overcome to gain such a success, such as lack of parental involvement, lack of attendance, and a whole host of teen problems (drugs, pregnancy and violence).

To overcome those challenges, even for a small improvement, probably takes a stern management style that works in an environment with less-than-adequate parental support, less-than-adequate teacher performance, and certainly with difficult-to-handle kids.  In that environment, a "my way or the highway" attitude probably works well.

Now, after nine years of honing a brute-force managerial style, he brings it to Timberland High School.  Here at Timberland, the parent involvement is magnitudes greater, which creates less troublesome teens (notice I didn't say trouble-free), and has an environment that attracts highly-qualified (and independant) teachers.

This bully-like approach probably worked at Berkeley to reach a minimum level of performance from teachers and students... but Timberland is already past that.  The horsewhipping that the teachers and curriculum are taking will result in the same effect as it had at Berkeley... to reach a minimum level of performance.

And that, I'm afraid, is what is going to happen at Timberland if censorship is allowed to continue.  The censorship and harassment of the journalism program is just the first symptom of a larger illness.  One of the next things to go might be student development trips, much like the D.C. trip the journalism students experienced this year. It could be prom that gets cancelled next, due to some "inappropriate attire" controversy.  Who knows. But the overwhelming amount of grief given to teachers wanting to exceed will stop them from bothering to try, which is the first step in deteriorating the Wentzville schools.

I urge you, if you have not already, to join Team McCandless, and help us in stopping thisdestruction while it can be stopped.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Positive Move, But At What Cost?

Reports surfaced today that a judgement has been rendered about the controversial yearbook portraits.

As you may know, yearbook staffers, the Timberland High School journalism teacher Cathy McCandless, Timberland High School Principal Winston Rogers, and Assistant Superintendant Melody Marcantonio met yesterday to discuss "inappropriate" student portraits and activity pictures in the upcoming Timberland yearbook.

The description of the meeting I've been given can be summed up into one word... "tense". The impression I've gotten was that Principal Winston Rogers was unprepared to defend his judgements on the yearbook portaits, while Melody Marcantonio acted mostly as the meeting administrator.

I've been told that frustration levels were so high, that Ms. McCandless left the room in order to depressurize, and to reduce the tension. Since one principle of this blog is to not seek information from her directly, I'm not sure of the exact exchange that led to her temporary exit from the meeting.

So, today, the decision was passed down from Ms. Marcantonio that ALL the portrait pictures will be allowed. Also, the questionable swimsuit picture will be allowed, as long as written approval is gained from the student and her parents.

This is a very positive decision, and is possibly an indication that Team McCandless has started to get a message through to the Wentzville Administration. However, this decision is not without its issues...

Due to the excessive delay caused by this fiasco, there are implications in the final production of the yearbook, it's delivery schedule, and possibly to the final cost. It is unclear at this point, but the yearbook price could increase dramatically, and those that have pre-ordered their yearbooks may have to pay a "surcharge" when they get them.

And of course, the greatest cost is to the kids, to the journalism program and to its teacher Ms. McCandless. This abuse has taken its toll. The journalism staffs are emotionally tattered - their work being inconsistantly questioned, criticized and censored. Ms McCandless has already resigned, consigning the children to a lesser journalism program (assuming anyone in their right mind would take such a job with the history of the current Wentzville administration).

Timberland's New Principal Has Old Baggage

Hello again,

A news story has broke regarding school performance in Missouri.  Yesterday, the St. Louis Post Dispatch posted a story entitled "State releases list of 'lowest achieving' schools in Missouri; 37 of 52 in St. Louis area."  The story has been picked up by the local news agencies, and is making a stir this morning.

The list of underperforming schools, thankfully, does not include schools from the Wentzville School District, but we shouldn't worry... because the Wentzville School board and administration are working diligently to correct that ommision.

You see, the new prinicpal at Timberland High School is the former principal of Berkeley Middle School... which did make the list as one of the worst 5% in the state!

Okay, I know what some of you are thinking... "So what?  He's been principal of Timberland High School for the last year, so it could be that the school has headed downhill since he left."  Au contraire, mon ami!  The data used to report these failing schools was collected last year... the last year of his nine year tenure!

In nine years, Winston Rogers took a failing school and turned it around into.... well... a failing school!  According to the site, a community data collection website, some of the 2007-2008 MAP scores were as follows...

Mathematics - Female Students 8th Grade:
Percentage of students scoring below basic:
Berkeley Middle School: 45%
State average from 1213 schools: 13.6%
Percentage of students scoring proficient or higher: 
Berkeley Middle School: 11.3%
State average from 1213 schools: 44.3%

Mathematics - Male Students 8th Grade:
Percentage of students scoring below basic:
Berkeley Middle School: 67.6%
State average from 1256 schools: 15.7%
Percentage of students scoring proficient or higher: 
Berkeley Middle School: 11.3%
State average from 1256 schools: 45.1%

Science- All Students 7th Grade
Percentage of students nearing proficient:
Berkeley Middle School: 6.2%
State average from 398 schools: 23.6%
Percentage of students scoring proficient:
Berkeley Middle School: 0.6%
State average from 398 schools: 11.6%

So, the obvious question becomes; How did the Wentzville School administration not question this lackluster performance, and pick from many of the other highly-qualified candidates for Timberland's Principal?  I found a bit of insight in this article from the Suburban Journals published last April about incoming Principal Winston Rogers:
A woman who did not identify herself called the Journal on Tuesday to voice concern about Berkeley's academic achievement.

According to state data, 21.1 percent of Berkeley students taking the 2008 MAP test scored proficient in communication arts, compared to 38.1 percent at Timberland. In mathematics, 14 percent scored proficient at Berkeley, compared to 55.2 percent at Timberland.

Susan Hladky, the Wentzville district's human resources assistant superintendent, said the comparison was "apples and oranges." Besides the age difference between middle and high school, there were important demographic differences. Most of Berkeley's students are economically disadvantaged, with 88.6 percent qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches in 2008, according to state data. At Timberland, 13.9 percent qualified for free or reduced-price lunch.

Berkeley's MAP scores have increased 84 percent since 2004. Its attendance rate has increased 3 percent during the same period. Hladky said Berkeley has shown great progress and academic improvement under Rogers' leadership.

"He has demonstrated he has the skills to lead a school to excellence," she said.
Apples and Oranges? Last time I checked, children are still children, and not some philosophical fruit salad!

If Principal Rogers had increased the scores of Berkeley Middle School 84%, that's great! But which scores? How low must they have been to have almost doubled the schools performance, but still qualify as one of the most troubled schools in Missouri? That's like me announcing, "I just increased my net worth by 100%!", but since I only had 50 cents yesterday, that really doesn't add up to much... and neither did this!

Past performance is the best indicator of future potential. Here's what we can look forward to if we allow this first attack against our schools to succeed: - the targeted destruction of the Timberland High School journalism program:
  • Declining MAP scores (due to loss of good teachers)
  • Declining academic achievment (due to loss of interest in our students)
  • Reduced student participation in extra-curriculars (since the kids won't want the hassle)
  • Increased costs to taxpayers and parents (due to interference with already financially strained programs)
  • Reduced school ratings (due to all the factors above)
  • Reduced property values (because prospetive home buyers will go to better districts)
In my line of work, we have experienced what we call "pass the trash", which is when an unqualified employee is "promoted" to another area so they can backfill it with a more qualified person. Berkeley got the better end of this deal!
.....Does anyone know of someone in need of a new Principal?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Yearbook Censorship Meeting Happens Today

Hello all,

The much talked about Timberland High School yearbook censorship meeting is scheduled to occur today.  It is unclear from my sources who will be in attendance at this meeting.  At a minimum, journalism instructor Cathy McCandless, Assistant Superintendant Melody Marcantonio and Principal Winston Rogers will be discussing the proposed censoring of student portraits for having too much skin exposed on their shoulders.

Those that are in question to attend are student staffers (who were reportedly "uninvited" to this meeting), any parents (one of whom was told that she couldn't attend because of a lawyer's interpretation of their policy), or even an NEA (teacher's union) representative.

Stay tuned for updates!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Timberland Journalism Students Make Good at Local Conference

As if in defiance to the anti-journalism policies of the Wentzville School District, the Timberland High School journalism students demonstrated the strength of their current journalism program. 

The newspaper and yearbook staff attended the Sponsors of School Publications of Greater St. Louis Spring Conference at Webster University today.  Awards given at the conference were ranked from "Honorable Mention", "Excellent", "Superior" to "Best of Show".  The "Best of Show" ranking is the ultimate honor, and is only given to one individual or publication.

The THS journalism students amassed 23 individual awards from a pool of 650 entries!!  This included one "Best in Show" award, that was earned by Senior Nikki M. for her November front page design!  I am one proud parent of these great kids! 

Here is a breakdown of the awards given:

Overall Awards
Overall Yearbook Award—2009 Wolf Tracks “Oh. nine”

Overall Newspaper Award—2009-2010 Wolf’s Howl

Individual Contests
Newspaper Inside Page Design
Colleen G.—Superior
“Going Green: It’s easier than you think”

Newspaper Front Page Design
Nikki M.—Best of Show
“November 2009”

Newspaper Newswriting
Nikki M.—Honorable Mention
“One trillion dollars, please”

Newspaper Review Writing
Danielle G.—Honorable Mention
“New opportunities for petite models”

Newspaper Feature Writing
Taylor W.—Excellent
“A boy that leaves you speechless”

Newspaper Infographic
Colleen G.—Excellent
“Big green bompanies”

Brittany L.—Honorable Mention
“This or that”
Newspaper Editorial Cartoon

Colleen G.—Honorable Mention
“Cold classrooms”
Newspaper Commentary

Cara E.—Honorable Mention
“Food for thought”
Yearbook Student Life Design

Amanda C.—Honorable Mention
“Work, work and more work”

Elaina O.—Honorable Mention
“It’s chic fashion show”

Sami T., Haley S. and Amanda C.—Honorable Mention
“Feed me”

Yearbook People/Classes Design
Kendall M.—Honorable Mention
“Underlassmen design”

Yearbook Photography
Amanda C.—Excellent

Yearbook Sports Copy
Haley S.—Honorable Mention
“Sideline Success”

Rachel S.—Honorable Mention
“Heated Rivalry”

Yearbook Feature Copy
Ally G. and Angela B.—Excellent
“Growing gas prices”

Yearbook Theme Development
Wolf Tracks Staff—Excellent
“Oh. nine”

Yearbook Sports Photography
Haley S.—Honorable Mention

Yearbook Sports Design
Amanda C.—Honorable Mention
“One stroke at a time”
And finally, my condolences to the Wentzville School Board, Principal Winston Rogers, and the rest of the administration for yet another poke in the eye to their censorship policy, and that real journalism is what these children deserve to learn.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Wentzville School District "Call to Action"

Hi all!

The next school board meeting for the Wentzville School District will be on March 18th. The public portion of the meeting will begin at 7pm.  The meeting will be held at the Central Office, located and One Campus Drive in Wentzville, Missouri.

What do you need to do?
Come to the meeting! That's it! That's all it takes to make a difference. If you are willing, you can also speak to the board about the actions of Principal Winston Rogers, Assisstant Superintendant Melody Marcantonio, and Superintendant Terry Adams. It will only be three minutes, but if we get only 10 speakers, that is 30 minutes that the board will get to hear that there is something very wrong in Wentzville.  For every 20 speakers, we will have an hour to speak!  Imagine the impact that only three minutes can have if only we come to the meeting.

Oh... Special instructions for "Team McCandless" members:  Wear your "Team McCandless" shirts.  Bring a sea of green saying "CENSOR THIS"!  Let's make this an event that changes something!!!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Analysis of THS publication regulations

The recent censorship and abuse activites of the Wentzville School District against the parents and students of Timberland High School are covered under the school district regulation 2910, which covers student publications.  The current link to the document is
(in case they edit it, I have a copy)

There are quite a few illegalities with how the Principal Winston Rogers, Assistant Superintendant Melody Marcantonio and Superintendant Terry Adams have been handling things.  Here is a breakdown...

1)  First, the parent that has been denied access to the upcoming censorship meetings was denied based on the following section...
3. Faculty Advisor Level
Material found unobjectionable by the Editorial Board but questioned by the
faculty advisor shall be discussed by both parties. If the difference cannot be
resolved, the material shall be presented to the building principal for review
and guidance.

Material still found unobjectionable by the Editorial Board but questioned by
the faculty advisor and/or building principal shall be presented at a joint
meeting of the Editorial Board and the advisor. The faculty advisor must give
specific reasons for his/her objections and give guidance to the group. The
student writer shall be afforded an opportunity to present his/her viewpoint. If
the Editorial board by a two-thirds vote still finds the material unobjectionable
it may be printed. A quorum will be considered present when two-thirds of
the Editorial Board attend a meeting, and two-thirds of those present must
Assistant Superintendant Melody Marcantonio, and her legal council, are apparently adding the word "only", which would make it read "... shall be presented at a joint meeting of only the Editorial Board and the advisor."  Since it doesn't say "only", then legally a parent of a student can participate.  Given this interpretation, even Melody Marcantonio can't attend.  So Rogers, Marcantonio and Adams.... swish and a miss!!
2) Second, the censorship activites of THS Principal Winston Rogers have a very disciplined procedure, which is clearly outlined in the policy.  The steps are summarized from the policy as follows...
  1. If something is found objectionable by Principal Rogers, then he must arrange a meeting with the Editorial Board (which is composed of students), the advisor (Cathy McCandless) and Principal Winston Rogers to discuss.
  2. If 2/3 of the Editorial Board still agrees that it should be printed, it will be.
  3. A statement of the meeting must be recorded, signed by all participating parties, and a copy sent to the Board and Superintendant Terry Adams.
  4. As a final measure, if Principal Winston Rogers finds that something that can "be reasonably forecast to cause substantial and material disruption or obstruction of any lawful mission. process or function of the school", he can stop or delay the publication.  However, Winston Rogers must then forward the objectionable material to Superintendant Terry Adams, along with a statement explaining his reasoning.
  5. If Principal Rogers does exercise this final authoritiy, then it is Superintendant Terry Adams' responsibility to call a meeting of "all parties immediately to determine if the delay or stoppage was warranted."
In all cases of the censorship of the Timberland High School newspaper and yearbook, there has been no meeting between anyone on any of the events.  This is in violation of their own policy, which in a court of law, would render their legal defense of a parent particpating in any of the meetings moot.  Additionally, since no documentation exists, they find themselves in a very actionable position.  So Rogers, Marcantonio and Adams.... nice try, but "STRIKE TWO"!!

3)  All of the censored materials do not qualify for censorship according to the school policy.  The section of the policy in question states...
The building principal/designee, may delay or stop distribution of any

materials proposed for printing or that have been printed which may be
reasonably forecast to cause substantial and material disruption or
obstruction of any lawful mission. process or function of the school.
The first attack of censorship was against a well-balanced article on the trend of students getting tattoos.  So lets analyze.....
Substantial or material disruption: The article discussed the reasons that kids get tattoos at Timberland High School.  It also contained a substantial amount of information about why not to get tattoo'd.  The "reasonable" impact of this article would have been an educated teen concerning the issues around tattoos.  The "unreasonable" impact would have been a tattoo parlor being set up in the lunch room to service the mass numbers that were influenced by the article.
Substantial or material obstruction: The article contained information on how underage teens get tattoos, and why they should spend considerable time contemplating such a decision.  The "reasonable" obstruction doesn't exist.  However, the "unreasonable" obstruction would be all the time students would have been away from class getting their bodies tattoo'd.  But, since Principal Winston Rogers stated that "they can't get tattoos until they're 18", then even this unreasonable obstruction becomes impossible.

The second attack of censorship was the pulling of a newspaper from the racks that contained a picture of a breast cancer memorial tattoo.
Substantial or material disruption: There is no "reasonable" expectation that this picture would have caused any issues.  However, since this was possibly an attempt by the editorial staff at "freedom of speech", Principal Rogers obviously felt this was a serious disruption to his authority.
Substantial or material obstruction: The photo could not have possibly interfered with any mission of the school, unless that mission was to censor anything that Principal Rogers or the Wentzville School District administration finds "different".

The third attack, which is underway as this is being written, is an attempt to censor student portraits from the Timberland High School Yearbook for "too much skin"
Substantial or material disruption: Seriously???  Does the Wentzville School District administration think that excessivly hormonal boys are going to run wild in the halls if some pictures of their female peers show them with bare shoulders?  If so, I can see where they would think all the commotion could interfere with education, since all the male students will be preoccupied with staring at yearbook portraits.
Substantial or material obstruction: Obstruction of what?  The only obstruction is that happening to the parents that purchased yearbooks, and reasonably expect to see their child.  If the portraits included in the yearbook are that close to pornography, then why does the school allow these pictures in the first place... or at least provide potato sacks for the girls to wear.

So... strike three Mr Rogers, Ms. Marcantonio and Mr. Adams.

Legal costs being incured by the Wentzville School District

It has been confirmed by a parent conversation with Assistant Superintendant Melody Marcantonio and Superintendant Terry Adams that they have now spent money consulting with attorneys to keep a yearbook staffer's parent from attending upcoming censorship discussions. 

So, taxpayers, is this how you want your money spent in the district??  I certainly don't!  I'm going to begin looking into some of their expenses a little closer... I'll keep you posted on what else I find.

Student Yearbook staffers tossed out of their own meeting

The latest news is in.  The student staffers that requested a censorship meeting with Timberland High School Principal Winston Rogers and Wentzville School District administration have been uninvited.  In brief, the meeting was requested by the student staffers to discuss the censorship activities of Principal Rogers.  However, the students will not be discussing anything, since they've been denied access to their own meeting!

Apparently, their position is so indefensible, they can't even defend it against children!

Parents denied access to censorship meetings

It has been reported that a parent of a yearbook staffer was denied by Wentzville School District administration in her request to attend Principal Winston Rogers' yearbook censorship meetings at Timberland High School along with her child.

Not only was she denied three times (by Principal Rogers, then by Assistant Superintendant Melody Marcantonio and finally by Superintendant Terry Adams), Mr. Adams also stated that he was going to retain legal council to make sure it was legal to deny her access!

Huh...what? Did the Superintendant of Wentzville School District just say he was going to spend taxpayer dollars to STOP a parent from participating in her child's education? What in the world is going on in this school district? What are they trying to hide in these meetings?

Not only does censorship cost our kids, now its costing taxpayer money!!

Friday, March 5, 2010

More censorship by Mr. Rogers in the works!

It has been reported that the Timberland High School Principal, Winston Rogers, is currently "editing" the high school yearbook.  What is he editing??  Well, word has it that he is finding some of the student portraits too sexy, and showing "too much skin".

However, these are not student taken photos, these are the professional pictures that all American kids get every year.  Sources say that his opinion seems to hinge on how cute your daughter is, and if the top she was wearing had sleeves.  So... if your daughter goes to Timberland High School in Wentzville, and she was wearing something with spaghetti straps, don't expect to see her in that yearbook you bought.

If I can get specific examples, I will post them here.

More interesting links

The initial censorship of the Wolf's Howl newspaper garnered a lot of outside opinions.  Here are a couple..

Here, you can find a condemnation of the Winston Rogers' censorship from the Executive Director of the Student Press Law Center.

This is an interesting blog piece urging the students to resign (after Ms. McCandless leaves), and start an independent newspaper.

If you want more, go to google, and type in "Timberland High School Cen"... oh, wait!  It automatically fills it in!!  Looks like Timberland High School and the Wentzville School District are getting the reputation they want!!

Links to pieces of the story

Hello again,

Here is a list of links to pieces of the story of the abuse of "prior review", and a request to join "Team McCandless" on Facebook.  The facebook group is located at!/group.php?gid=342173120338

First, here is the story about the former District Superintendant that appears to have sparked this vendetta against the Timberland High School journalism program.

Next, here is the story run by the Suburban Journal in O'Fallon, Missouri regarding the first act of censorship of the current principal, Winston Rogers, and the shot about the journalism program that was taken at Cathy McCandless by Melody Marcantonio.

Here is the page about tattoos that was censored by Principal Winston Rogers in Wolf's Howl.  As you can easily see, it was fair, balanced and educational. (PDF)

Next, is the followup article published in the Suburban Journal in O'Fallon, Missouri, in which Principal Winston Rogers and Melody Marcantonio try to backpedal on their actions.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch ran a small article on the story, which prompted a lively online debate about Winston Rogers actions in censoring the paper.

more links to follow, stay tuned.....

History of censorship at Timberland High School, Wentzville MO

Hi All,
As promised, here is the background on the issue of censorship at Wentzville's Timberland High School by principal Winston Rogers.  This has been republished from the facebook group that was set up by Wentzville school district parents in response to the outragious activity that has been allowed to continue by the Wentzville School Board.  Please take the time to read, as it will familiarize you with all the players in this nonsense.  Also, I will post links to all of the relevant data that is referenced as needed.....

To: Students and Parents who want to end Student Censorship and Support Team McCandless

From: Team McCandless

Date: 2/25/2010

Team McCandless supports the students’ right to publish their work free from the censorship of the school administration and/or the school board. After speaking to current students, former students, other journalism professionals, parents and many, many supporters of the student’s right to be censor-free, we have compiled an outline of the issues, some background based on the opinion of those who contributed to this outline, former and current students and some information that is public record and documented. Team McCandless does not guarantee that all the information in this outline is completely accurate and wants the readers to know that the only way to educate yourself on this issue, is to research, ask questions and find out for yourself the facts. We do not endorse rumors or opinions. You should make your own informed decision as to where you stand on the issue of censorship of student led publications and the resignation of Cathy McCandless as advisor. If you feel that things need to change or you feel strongly that Cathy McCandless should stay on as advisor and be given the opportunity to do what she does best, speak out. We have created a Facebook group (Team McCandless) to give everyone the opportunity to discuss these issues. We asked a parent (Adult) to be the Administrator of the group to try and keep things organized and respectful. We request that everyone be mindful that the only way to change something is to become involved. We request that everyone respect the opinions of others, be mindful that we encourage meaningful dialogue and that saying what you think on Facebook alone won’t bring about change or let the “powers that be” know where you stand. If you really want to impact a change and let your voice be heard you have to contact the school administration, the superintendents and the board members. Imagine what an impact 300 emails might make. At least we will know that they heard us and we are watching and waiting for them to respond. Let’s encourage them to open a dialogue and act on an issue that is important to those opposed to censorship.

Team McCandless believes that Coach Mac is the key to the success of the journalism program at Timberland. Coach Mac inspires these young journalists to be creative, to have their finger of on the pulse of what is of interest and important to the student body. She doesn’t micro-manage them. She teaches them to think for themselves. She wants them to stretch themselves and to make decisions on their own, using the skills she has taught them. These are bright, enthusiastic students who want to learn from someone who knows journalism and has the education and experience to help them produce great work they can be proud of. The success of the journalism program at Timberland under Coach Mac’s direction speaks for itself and cannot be denied. To give some background on Coach Mac, we’ve included a summary of her educational background and just some of the accomplishments under her direction:
• She has taught for 14 years, 9 of those in the Wentzville School District.
• She holds a Master’s degree in Journalism Education.
• She has her Master Journalism Educator status which is awarded from JEA. (
• She taught at Ball State University’s summer journalism camp for 3 years.
• She teaches at a local yearbook camp and created a newspaper section for that camp.
• She was the Alabama Advisor of the Year in 2000 and 2001.
• She and her students have won 100s of awards at both local and state levels.

Some of these include:

• 2009 – 1st Place in the nation – Newspaper page design (Dean Kelly)
• 2009 – HM (4th place) in the nation – Feature Story (Nikki McGee)
• 2007 – Pacemaker Finalist (top 56 publications in the nation) both Newspaper and Yearbook. This is the HIGHEST award a publication can receive.
• Numerous “Best of Show” placements at the national convention, including:
• 2nd Place – yearbook (2006)
• 3rd Place – newspaper (2007)
• 9th Place – yearbook (2007)
• 7th Place – newspaper (2009)

Both the newspaper and the yearbook operate in the black EVERY year. Budgets are $5K and $50K respectively. The newspaper is self funded through advertisement sales by the students.

As you can see, Coach Mac is clearly qualified to teach and lead these publication students in the newspaper and the yearbook. To many of them, she provides a memorable high school experience, lasting friendship and positive reinforcement. What you may not know is what led her to resign her position. Here is a brief summary of events that we believe led to this decision:

In 2006, the Wentzville School District Superintendent was fired. According to former students, the school newspaper ran the story. (This story was the subject of many local papers and was a topic of interest in the community). According to former students, they believed the school board president tried to censor the story on Dr. Byrnes. The students fought hard and wrote an editorial on censorship. This, according to these students, did not set well with the board. The students believed that the board at the time thought the controversy of the editorial outweighed the controversy created by the actions of the superintendent. Since that time, the newspaper has run spreads on a variety of subjects chosen by the students. These included, tattoos, marijuana and alcohol without being censored or “approved”. Coach Mac teaches her students to cover topics relevant their readers, but insists the articles be balanced and to present both sides of a story. The school newspaper is not intended to be a newsletter but strives to be a real newspaper. According to past and present students, until recently, no one demanded a “prior review” of the paper before being sent to press. The last two Timberland principals did not require this of the newspaper. Last year, the paper had an anti-abortion ad in the first newspaper. The students were upset by this and got attorneys to help them fight this censorship. Letters between attorneys were exchanged but Coach Mac was not a part of this. After this incident, Dr. Waters (principal) indicated that he would review the ads in each issue but not content.

According to current students, during this past summer, Melody Marcantonio held a meeting with advisors and editors from both schools to discuss the upcoming year. Coach Mac was unable to attend this meeting. Coach Mac did call a meeting with the school administration and her students in the beginning of the year, but in the opinion of those who attended on behalf of Timberland, the meeting was largely negative in nature and the district was only interested in talking about how to avoid a lawsuit. Coach Mac wanted to talk about all the positive things that could be done in the new school year and expectations of all parties, but was met with what these students perceived as indifference.

Mr. Rogers (this year’s principal) indicated that he wanted to “approve” each issue of the paper and the newspaper staff backed out of production (a huge inconvenience) for the first issue to accommodate his request. After the first issue, Mr. Rogers indicated that there was some concern about a tattoo ad. He indicated that the district Central Office had come to him questioning the tattoo ad? Ironically, the back page of the next issue (that was to go to press in 4 days) was on tattoos and had other similar ads in the publication. The tattoo article was balanced and discussed many of the concerns around them. Mr. Rogers asked the students to run a disclaimer which they agreed to do. The day before the publication ran, Mr. Rogers changed his position and pulled it ALL! According to the students, he indicated that he would not give a reason, because he didn’t have to according to board policy. Both the students and Coach Mac were upset by this and the way it was handled. During this time, several students and parents became aware of the censoring issue and a local paper wrote a story on it. District official, Melody Marcanotonio made a statement in the article wherein she indicated that the newspaper hadn’t met district expectations in the last four years. Obviously, this was news to many, including Coach Mac. Many parents, students and Wentzville School District patrons responded to the article and many have offered their support of Coach Mac in defending her reputation as an outstanding educator. Clearly, the awards and accolades she and the students have received during her tenure dispute this. If this has been an issue since the students ran a story on Dr. Byrnes and “reasons” for his dismissal, it was interpreted by some as a retaliatory action for the students writing the editorial. The school district seems to be making up the rules as they go and left the students and Coach Mac in a position that makes their “jobs” difficult if not impossible to do in a timely fashion. According to students, the newspaper was once again delayed in December after a picture of a tattoo was included on a cancer spread. This was a small picture. This incident occurred at a time when Coach Mac was out on long-term medical leave. The students were not given an answer that they considered acceptable as to why the issue was pulled and were told that they didn’t need to explain why the issue was pulled when other students asked. In a sense, some felt they were being asked to “lie by omission” as to the reason. They felt the principal wanted to keep it quiet. To date, according to the students, Principal Rogers continually returns things late, holding up production and the students with no regard for timelines, student schedules or common courtesy. These students work hard to produce a quality product and his seemingly lack of concern for their time indicates his position on the matter. The students feel he is unapproachable, unfair and acts on behalf of the school board without giving the benefit of explanation or a clear picture of what he considers acceptable and why he gets to chose the topics they write about. They feel that he does not respect their hard work and the reputation of the newspaper and yearbook.

With all the “issues” regarding the newspaper, it was no surprise that in January of this year, Mr. Rogers informed the yearbook staff that all pages need to be approved by him. This creates a HUGE issue for these students. The yearbook staff has one week to return proofs. Mr. Rogers wants more than 4 days to review. That gives the staff 1 day to review and edit them before they must be returned. Not only is this unfair, it’s impossible and puts a tremendous burden on the timeframe for the yearbook staff. Turning in pages late to the publisher also adds extra fees to the cost of the book. According to the yearbook staff, there are 5 small photos on each spread. Mr. Rogers wants to see the original digital photos rather than the photos integrated into each page. This creates more work. For a period of time, he indicated that he would not “sign off” on them in writing. They also have 8 six inch images on one particular yearbook spread and he wanted the original digital photos of these as well since the actual size color proofs aren’t as clear as the actual yearbook page. The students say that they were told that Mr. Rogers claims he needs to make sure they are “appropriate”. They say that he indicated recently that he would (was told not to) sign off on yearbook proofs. This is the method of keeping track of what he had and hadn’t seen and approved. Essentially, it seems to the students that the principal wants to be the yearbook advisor and these extra steps are impeding the student production of what has been an award winning product that has been delivered on time and on budget with NO cost to the district. He has essentially put himself in Coach Mac’s job and tied her hands and prevented her and the staff from doing what they have been doing just fine for years. It is another form of censorship and it needs to stop.

Coach Mac has tendered her resignation and as far as we know, no effort was made to retain her in this position. The job has now been posted as open for the next school year. Several students on both the newspaper and the yearbook staff considered resigning as well in a show of support for Coach Mac and as a message to the principal and the school board. Coach Mac asked them not to. If she hadn’t, it’s likely that there would be no student led newspaper or yearbook next year. The students respect her. The students support her and want her to stay. If Coach Mac leaves this position, it will be a tremendous loss for our students. The students involved in journalism want to learn from an experienced, knowledgeable teacher who guides them without micro-managing them. There is a proven track record of success. Students, parents and community members are saddened and upset that the situation has gotten to the point that Cathy McCandless feels pressure to resign. We support Cathy McCandless and want her to stay on as advisor. She has proven her ability, her worth and her professionalism.

Many students and parents have asked what they can do to make sure the school administration and the school board know how we feel and what effect this will have for the journalism program at Timberland. To this we say:

• Voice your opinion to the School Administration – let them hear you!
• Voice your opinion to the School Board – they work for YOU!
• Join our effort and support Team McCandless.
• Show the Board that we will not be CENSORED!


Welcome to the Stop THS Censorship blog. This blog is dedicated to the erradication of the practice of "prior review" of Timberland High School publications by the prinicpal, Winston Rogers. It is also dedicated to stopping the practice of abuse of the Journalism students and staff at the hands of the district administrators, such as Assistant Superintendant Melody Marcantonio and Superintendant Terry Adams.

I will be posting the history of this issue shortly, as well as updates to the continued abuse of power that seems to be condoned by the Wentzville R-IV School district in Missouri.