Interview concerning class presentation

Ozark School District Retaliation Against JROTC

Read the story of how the Major was forced from his position by the Ozark, MO School District. 

Interview Concerning Class Presentation

I had been made to wait over one month since the beginning of this attack, but now it seemed that I might get a chance to find out what was causing a problem…

I was finally permitted on 10 January, over a month after being suspended, to meet with Gerald Chambers, the Director of Secondary Learning, to answer questions about my presentation. Dr. Brownfield, the high school principal, was present as well, recording notes about the meeting on his computer. After Mr. Chambers asked me a few basic questions about the presentation, I requested that he explain to me what was concerning about my presentation.

He said it was both the images and the message. They were purportedly sexist. Since he had the slides printed out there, I laid them out on the table and requested his help identifying what images in the presentation were inappropriate. He couldn’t identify any that were problematic. So he reiterated that the overall message was a problem. I then summarized the message as encouraging kids to establish their identity, and hence their value, in something deeper than their superficial appearance and then asked why that would be inappropriate to teach kids. I asked him whether he believed the message was really something else or what objections the District had to this message.

JROTC-cadets-and-Major

“He couldn’t identify any [slides from the presentation] that were problematic.”

He then said that it isn’t a teacher’s job to tell kids what to wear. I pointed out that nowhere in the presentation do I attempt to do so. I only point out how their identity, and hence their value, is affected by what they wear. He then said that it is not a teacher’s job to tell students how to develop their identity. That is better left for the counselors to address individually with kids who are struggling. I responded that JROTC is a unique kind of class, and that we are privileged to teach attitudes and values, not just facts. He acknowledged that as well.

“JROTC is a unique kind of class, and that we are privileged to teach attitudes and values, not just facts. He acknowledged that as well.”

Mr. Chambers then asked me if I had any questions for them. So I asked why the district hadn’t come to me immediately with their concern over my presentation. Mr. Chambers explained that the first step when a concern like this is raised is to put the teacher on administrative leave. This purportedly protects both the district and the teacher. The district then begins gathering all relevant information about the case. I pointed out that the district did not begin gathering all relevant information. Instead of coming to me about this, they went straight to the school attorney. (He had already noted that this investigation would have been quicker, but once attorneys get involved, it slows everything down.) He protested that the school did not go directly to an attorney, as I alleged. He said it was my getting an attorney that slowed the process down. I then pointed out that I didn’t get an attorney until a full week elapsed with the school’s having made no effort to contact me about their concerns. He offered no further explanation for why it took so very long for them to summon me to answer basic questions about the presentation, something that should have been step one of any fact-finding investigation. (Incidentally, since they still hadn’t spoken to any witnesses, cadet or instructor, about the presentation, it appears all that occurred for the first few weeks was the District’s positioning itself legally for whatever they had ALREADY decided to do with me.)

“Since they still hadn’t spoken to any witnesses, cadet or instructor, about the presentation, it appears all that occurred for the first few weeks was the District’s positioning itself legally for whatever they had ALREADY decided to do with me.”

I then asked Mr. Chambers what policy it is presumed I was in violation of. Rather than citing any particular policy, he just explained that this was not district-approved curriculum and that teachers are bound to teach only district-approved curriculum. He said all curriculum taught in the school must go through the curriculum council that meets twice per year. He further indicated that my presentation wouldn’t have received approval. This was dishonest as curriculum review doesn’t examine lesson material. There wouldn’t be time enough for the district to review every lesson taught by every teacher. As Dr. Carson, Assistant Superintendent of Learning, later confirmed to me, the curriculum approval process reviews units or modules more than individual lessons. It considers the learning objectives, the big ideas, the general outlines. It does not examine the actual material being presented in the classroom.

Interestingly, this is the first I have heard of this curriculum-approval requirement. While it shouldn’t be surprising that public school content is subject to curriculum review, the District has never reviewed JROTC curriculum. I suspect that the curriculum for many of the other electives has similarly not been reviewed either. The JROTC curriculum is developed and provided by U.S. Army Cadet Command. There are a number of core modules and a number of elective modules. We are repeatedly encouraged to heavily supplement the lesson material with our own original content. In fact, Cadet Command insists that we do so. It is one of the inspection checkpoints on our accreditation inspection, to ensure we are adapting the curriculum to our own particular strengths and the students’ needs. My annual professional development plan (a requirement for every Ozark teacher) has at least twice before identified revising my lesson plans as being my priority for that year. The school never suggested that they would thereafter be subject to review before I could teach them.

Dr. Brownfield received my lesson plan previously for another class which he reviewed as part of a concern raised about videos I showed in that class. It was clear from that material that I include substantial original content in my lessons. If the District was concerned about its all being subject to curriculum review, this was an excellent opportunity for them to make this point. Dr. Brownfield has likewise sat in on and complimented other classes I have taught (specifically a class on self-deception), even while it was clear that lesson was based largely on original content.

“Dr. Brownfield has likewise sat in on and complimented other classes I have taught (specifically a class on self-deception), even while it was clear that lesson was based largely on original content.”

It has never been communicated to JROTC before that our curriculum is subject to review by the school district. And the district has made no effort to review our curriculum before (despite the Army’s recently revising it). This is clearly NOT their real concern. It would appear to be simply a requirement which is generally loosely applied that they now intend to apply very strictly to my case so that they can find justification for condemning something they already pre-decided to condemn and now just needed to find grounds for condemning.

“[Curriculum review] is clearly NOT their real concern. It would appear to be simply a requirement which is generally loosely applied that they now intend to apply very strictly to my case so that they can find justification for condemning something they already pre-decided to condemn and now just needed to find grounds for condemning.

The continually shifting nature of Mr. Chambers’ accusation of my class fairly well confirms that the District didn’t have a legitimate concern about my presentation but was instead fishing for grounds to dismiss me. The presentation was merely a convenient ruse.

"The District didn’t have a legitimate concern about my presentation but was instead fishing for grounds to dismiss me. The presentation was merely a convenient ruse.”

In the course of the interview, I asked Mr. Chambers where he got the slides. He reported that he got them from Dr. Brownfield. I asked Dr. Brownfield where he got the slides. Dr. Brownfield said he received a concern that the presentation was taught in MSgt Mozingo’s class. He then talked to Dr. Link, the Ozark Junior High School principal, before asking MSgt Mozingo about it. She said it was my presentation. So he got the slides from her. This is false. Or if true on some level, it was a deliberate effort to evade the real question. The district already had the slides before Dr. Brownfield informed me of my suspension. He had no knowledge of the details of the presentation. When he informed me of my suspension, he knew only what was in the email he received from the district office. So someone at the District office solicited the slides from MSgt Mozingo and then decided to pursue action against me before ever asking me about them. Mr. Chambers and Dr. Brownfield collectively declined to provide honest insight into how this occurred.

Mr. Chambers concluded the interview stating that he would discuss all of this information with Dr. Bauman and would then call me back in another day or two to explore the next step. He stated that he and Dr. Brownfield were both eager to move beyond this and get me back into the classroom. Whether this was disingenuous or whether he simply wasn’t aware of the extent of the superintendent’s agenda remains unknown.

“whether he simply wasn’t aware of the extent of the superintendent’s agenda remains unknown.”

Eleven days later, I would be presented with a startling ultimatum…

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