Category: Education

Aiken County students expressed their creativity this summer

The Aiken County Public School District (ACPSD) in South Carolina invited 190 third- to 12th-grade students to participate in a free fine arts curriculum program at Langley-Bath-Clearwater (LBC) Middle School from June 5-July 11.

The acGATEWAY program – which stands for Aiken County Gifted and Talented Education with Artistic Youth – has provided students with an intensive, practical education in creative writing, dance, drama, instrumental and vocal music and visual art courses for more than 30 years.

Director Randy Hood said, “These kids had to audition; therefore, they are the top kids in their particular area. And that’s why we can be so concentrated…. We can get a year’s worth of work done in six weeks.”

In fact, high school participants earn a fine arts credit if they successfully complete the program and meet the faculty’s evaluation benchmarks. Students of all levels “must maintain at least a B average in the acGateway program to attend and continue to attend in the following years.”

Sherry Kong used the batik technique of wax-resist dyeing to create a large-scale art piece on fabric. (Photo: D. Krahulek)

Hood, who is also the ACPSD Fine Arts Coordinator, said, “We are using our top teachers across the county who teach in specific areas, and we are able to afford supplies for this program that we can’t afford in our budgets at each individual school. So, therefore, these kids are going to be able to do things they’re not able to do at their schools.

“We have a kiln here and Ms. [Mabry] MacGregor, one of our visual art teachers, is actually going to do Raku firing of ceramics and that, to my knowledge, has never been done here, and it’s not done in the schools either. That is a unique opportunity for our visual artists.

“And I could go on and on and talk about each an every area and what they have that we don’t have to offer [otherwise].”

MacGregor and Sandra Weeks assigned visual art students projects in painting, sculpting, sketching, making pinhole cameras and experimenting with photography. These middle- and high-school level students even created textile art with batik and bagru techniques.

Zachary Dobbs has worked with summer fine arts programs for several years. He said, “Many enter the program a bit under prepared from their regular school programs but learn extremely fast. Their progression is remarkable.”

Dobbs also said, “Students tend to maximize their potential when they are surrounded by other talented and enthusiastic students. Each student wants to be involved and, therefore, are motivated to learn.”

The acGATEWAY faculty challenged students to design a T-shirt that would be worn by all of the students and teachers. Jillian Boys, Angela Johnson and Taylor McGee contributed to this winning submission. (Photo: D. Krahulek)

Steven Cheek, Kelsey Knight and Sonya Terry not only prepared the elementary musicians and vocalists for large ensemble performances, but also developed the students’ self-confidence by having them sing solos in front of their supportive peers. These students also learned how to play rhythm instruments for the showcase on June 28-29.

Music teachers Dobbs, Charla Coffin and Stephanie Threlkeld prepared students for instrumental and vocal performances and taught classes in conducting, music history and music theory.

Fifteen-year-old Leann Deal, who will attend North Augusta High School in the fall, auditioned for acGATEWAY to improve her performance skills for the high school orchestra and, ultimately, audition for college scholarships.

Deal explained her conducting class, “We can take any of our songs or songs we listen to on the radio. We can conduct to them because [Mr. Dobbs] taught us the beats. Like for the march when Darth Vader comes out [in Star Wars], it’s real rigid. And for like “Hallelujah,” it’s really connected and smooth. We’re learning those kinds of things.”

Dobbs added, “This gets them opportunity to be in front of the group instead of just inside the ensemble. I think that they will take some great lessons back to their school programs and be better students after having to be the leader.”

Dr. Christina Hardin taught visual art this summer to the elementary school students. She said, “I’m really proud of them. These fourth- and fifth-graders are stepping up and performing like 15- and 16-year-olds on their activities.”

Bubble gum
Visual art students experienced painting on oversized canvases during the acGATEWAY program. (Photo: D. Krahulek)

Hardin, Kimberly Fontanez and Bruce Sweeting challenged their art student to produce more observational drawings, to paint and etch with different mediums, to use clay and to make plaster casts.

Meghan Gray, 11, said, “I’ve learned about light sources and shadow…. I’ve learned a lot about pottery in Ms. Fontanez’ class.

“I also love the part about how Mr. Sweeting lets us draw what we want,” said Gray, who will attend Aiken Middle School in August. “It’s not forced…. And overall it’s just really fun for me.”

Lauren Gehr has been teaching creative writing with acGATEWAY for eight years.

Gehr focused her instruction on helping students develop literary elements like theme, imagery, symbolism, tone and structure into their poetry and learn how to critique each other’s works.

Gehr said, “[My students] set the bar really high each year that I have them, and, this year, they did the same thing again – by creating better and better stuff.”

Student writers also designed their own altered books around a central theme of their choosing.

Antonio Scales directing
Professional actor Antonio Scales teaches drama with the acGATEWAY program. He also choreographed the musical “Hamilton” for the showcase on July 10-11. (Photo: D. Krahulek)

Teryn Harris, 14, said, “This is my first year. Mrs. [Charla] Coffin, the chorus teacher, … every year when she talked about GATEWAY, she would say, ‘Teryn, you should do it.… But this year I was like, ‘Yea, I’ll do it.’”

A rising ninth-grader at Midland Valley High School, Harris registered for the chorus program, played percussion with the full band and played Aaron Burr in the musical “Hamilton” at the showcase on July 10-11.

Hood said, “We don’t offer theater and drama at every single school, so it’s nice to be able to bring somebody with the talents and the education and the experience that Mr. [Antonio] Scales has for our students to put on a proper production.”

Harris recommended the acGATEWAY program to other ACPSD students: “They have dance, creative writing, art, orchestra – well, all the music department is tied together – but really they should apply so they can learn different skills through it.”

The acGATEWAY program concluded for the summer with special showcases by both age groups.

Elementary visual arts students displayed their paintings, sculptures, pottery and casts in the LBC Middle School on June 28-29. (Photo by D. Krahulek)
Elementary visual arts students displayed their paintings, sculptures, pottery and plaster casts in the LBC Middle School cafeteria on June 28-29. (Photo: D. Krahulek)

Elementary students performed for their Disney-themed showcase on June 28-29 at LBC Middle School. This program included vocal and instrumental pieces, several types of dances and a drama called “The Light in the Library.” Young people involved with the visual art curriculum displayed their paintings, sculptures and etchings in the school cafeteria.

Performances by middle and high school students culminated with a showcase on July 10-11. The faculty organized performances to alternatively highlight music, dance, creative writing pieces and a drama called “Unmurdered!” in the auditorium and invited guest to view the entire range of visual art pieces in the cafeteria.

All upper-level acGATEWAY students in creative writing, dance, drama and music participated in a finale that featured six songs from the musical “Hamilton.” Visual art students helped make costumes.

For more information about the acGATEWAY program and details about the application and audition process, click here.

Students and volunteers visit ‘Wizard of Oz’ at Cumberland County Playhouse

Weslie Webster is directing “The Wizard of Oz” with 69 children and adult cast members and five back-stage volunteers at the Cumberland County Playhouse in Crossville, Tenn. This musical will run from Jan. 31 to Feb. 21, and is one of the playhouse’s 50th-anniversary productions for 2015.

Webster said, “It’s a blessing – refreshing – the things [children] say. And I love teaching anyway, and they are sponges, so they just pick up everything that you give them. And they’re so full of life and joy, and they’re so quick to suspend their disbelief. They can make -believe anywhere, so it’s really nice to watch that process with them.”

Webster also serves as the Education Director for the Playhouse Triple Threat education program, which includes classes in theater, music and dance. Many of the children in this musical regularly take classes at the playhouse. She said, “[Lenny Lively, the Tin Man,] has been with us for a long time, and that’s really how he learned to tap.”

In an article posted last October on this blog, Webster said that children benefit from participating in fine arts activities in many positive ways. She encourages children with all levels of theater experience to join playhouse productions. Children do not have to enroll in classes at the playhouse to be cast.

Pleasant Hill Elementary (Crossville) student, Taylor Dearman, 8, who plays Toto, has been performing with the playhouse for seven years. She said, “I just like to move and get active and stuff.” To prepare for her role as Dorothy’s dog, she said, “I try to exercise a lot and move my knees because I’m crawling all over during the whole show.”

Another veteran of the playhouse’s community productions is Katey Dailey, a 17-year-old senior at Stone Memorial High School (Crossville). With more than 20 plays to her credit, she is one of two people cast to play the Wicked Witch of the West.

Dailey said, “Rehearsals are amazing. I love being mean. It’s fun. You know, all of the anger from your day – you can come here and … forget about everything for a couple of hours.”

Dailey plans to attend a liberal arts college to study theater arts. She said, “I guess everybody plans to be on Broadway, but … that’s really far away. But I just kind of take it day by day, and I really want to be successful. And I want to be happy with myself and what I’m doing. And I think that’s … how success comes: if you’re happy with yourself and what you’re doing. So I just want to do this. Nothing else.”

Webster said, “Just for ‘The Wizard of Oz’ – because it’s the 50th anniversary season and the playhouse started mentoring to kids … we’ve made it all kids. And there are some roles that are perfect for adult volunteers, so it’s a complete student-volunteer production.”

In 1965, actors Paul and Mary Crabtree moved to rural Crossville, where Mary had family ties. City leaders asked Paul to direct a children’s play, to which community members responded with enthusiasm and requests for more productions. This support raised funds to build the playhouse, now in its 50th season. Their son Jim Crabtree serves as managing director.

The playhouse receives some financial support from sponsors, the Tennessee Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts. However, it earns 80 percent of its operating costs from ticket sales. At the national level, the majority of theaters cover 52 percent of their expenses from tickets.

Marta McPeters teaches life skills and community involvement in Fentress County

Marta McPeters, the family and consumer science teacher at Clarkrange High School (CHS) in Clarkrange, Tenn., helped her students organize a Christmas party for 34 children from the local Head Start school on Dec. 19, in the high school cafeteria during fourth period.

McPeters said, “We had about 34 kids come up with parents and/or grandparents – younger brothers and sisters, too – and visit with Santa to pick up their gifts and have some snacks.”

In November, McPeters set up an Angel Tree in the school lobby to collect gifts for this event. While CHS has less than 300 students, faculty, staff, students and the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) club donated gifts for 110 children of the two Fentress County Head Start programs and for children registered through the Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency (UCHRA).

Throughout the school year, McPeters takes her students on mini field trips to give them opportunities to interact with Fentress County groups. She said that she usually takes students each semester to play with and read to Head Start children and to visit the county nursing home and senior citizen center.

Bethany Atkinson, a 16-year-old junior and member of FCCLA, said, [Mrs. McPeters] is wonderful. She helps out with everything. She does so much in the school and helps everyone out.”

This month, she made a trip with students from each of her 90-minute classes to the Signature HealthCARE of Fentress County nursing home and the Fentress County Senor Citizen’s Center in Jamestown, Tenn. The students delivered Christmas cards and snowflake ornaments while they spoke with nursing home residents and senior citizens.

McPeters’ FCCLA club also fund raises for several national organizations, such as the Leukemia and Lymphoma society and Operation Christmas Child (OCC). FCCLA works in conjuction with the Future Business Leaders of America club to fill shoe boxes for the OCC campaign. She said, “We also do activities with breast cancer awareness and autism awareness, along with several other organizations and groups.

“We have our annual Pink Out activities at a home basketball game. The students sell Pink Out T-shirts, and we donate some of the money that night from the Pink Out shirts and from the Pass the Pink sheet for … the Relay for Life. We are working with some of the other faculty and staff and some other students to have a Relay for Life team this year.”

Senior Stevie Hall, 17, said, “Mrs. McPeters makes everything an opportunity, and everything – she makes it so much fun. If you’ve never been in FCCLA, it’s awesome to try and experience new things.”

To see the video with extended interviews, click here.

Children improve critical thinking skills in Crossville chess competition

The Cumberland County Chess Club hosted its 43rd annual Cumberland County Chess Championship on Saturday, December 12, at the community complex on Livingston Road in Crossville, Tenn.

The five-rounds of competition were open to residents of and people who work in Cumberland County, including people under the age of 18. Harry Sabine, the secretary/treasurer of the CCCC, said, “We have opted to not require [a U.S. Chess Federation membership] at this tournament because we’d like every human in the county to play. …”

Sabine, who is also one of the founders of the club and a national tournament director for the USCF, said that he believes children benefit from learning chess. He said, “I would maintain – as many players would – that chess is good for kids. It teaches them to think. As far as I’m concerned, it definitely helps in their studies and everything else.

“If you are into mind games at all, it’s the classic. In an hour, you can learn how the pieces move, but then, for a lifetime, you won’t necessarily learn how to play well. I mean there’s no limit to what you can learn.”

The club has had many young members in its 43-year history. Sabine said, “We’ve had kids even pre-kindergarten that play. … The age of the player has nothing to do with how good they are. We had a third grader that was ranked consistently in the top five in the United States in his age group, and he could play adults.”

Wendi Fischer wrote an article for the Johns Hopkins University School of Education in which she identified several skills children improve when they play chess:

  • Thinking strategically
  • Weighing options before making decisions
  • Anticipating consequences
  • Developing self-confidence
  • Increasing academic performance

Kathy Obenberger volunteered to enter data into the computer for the tournament while her son competed. When her children became interested in chess three years ago, she began leading the Crossville Home School Chess Club.

Obenberger said, “I think it encourages people to take their time and think which is something that doesn’t happen much in our society anymore – texting, saying things and regretting having said them. With chess you have to think about it. … And if you make a mistake in life, it’s not the end of the world. Life goes on, and you just have to do your best to recover from it and not just give up. That’s my goal for them learning from chess – in addition to it’s a fun game.”

The top 10 players and winners in seven categories received plaques, and all other participants received medals. Two of the special category winners were high school students. This year’s top player, Bill Hall, received a plaque at the 5:30 p.m. awards ceremony and will have his name engraved on a plaque that hangs in the lobby of the Cumberland County Bank.

The CCCC meets for general play every Thursday at 7 p.m., at Dairy Queen at 760 North Main St. in the Woodmere Mall shopping center.

For more information about membership and local competitions, visit

SMHS choir hosts 4th annual Christmas concert and pancake breakfast

The Stone Memorial High School choir and its booster club hosted a Christmas concert and an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast in the school cafeteria on Dec. 6, to raise money for this music program’s expenses.

Choir Director Blake Saldaña said, “This is the fourth year we have hosted the pancake breakfast at SMHS.”

“We generally raise money to pay for music, choral festival fees, travel, uniforms, and our piano accompanist. We also have students that participate in regional and state honor choirs, which is also paid for by the money that we raise.

“Our group is traveling to New York City next summer to perform at Carnegie Hall, so we are also raising money to pay for the trip.”

The parent volunteers from the booster club collected money and served more than 200 plates of breakfast in less than an hour.

Journey Houston performed a solo of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” and Cheyenne Graff followed with “Where Are You, Christmas?”

Tais LeBaron and Alung Tung sang solos in “I Saw Three Ships,” and Anna Kemmer and Jason Lambert sang in front of the choir during “O Holy Night.” The choir also performed “Ding Dong Merrily on High,” “Hush, My Babe,” “Angels We Have Heard on High,” “Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel, Joy to the World,” “We Three Kings of Orient Are” and “Carol of the Bells.”

The choir’s trip to New York City in June 2015, will be a joint performance with the Festival Chorale of Fairfield Glade, Tenn. Brian Bacon will direct the group in “Gloria” and “Te Deum.”


Crossville teacher uses problem-solving in visual art classes

Dale Torri-Safdie teaches visual art at Stone Memorial High School in Crossville, Tenn., as both a creative and an academic subject.

This video highlights the strategies Dale Torri-Safdie uses to teach her Art I students how to build clay animals.

Over the past two weeks, Torri-Safdie has been teaching her Art I students how to make clay animals. Students started by drawing the animals they wanted to sculpt and then breaking down their drawings into shapes. They learned how to use pinch pots, slabs and coils to build their animals and how to slip and score their pieces.

The biggest lesson of this project has been problem-solving. Torri-Safdie said, “It’s not just, ‘We’re all going to do this together, and you must follow the steps.’ They have to conceive of what their animal is and figure out what building technique will work for them to get the effects they want. So there’s more experimentation and problem-solving that they have to do.”

Torri-Safdie also incorporated geography, physics and mathematics into her art lesson. In her presentation to ready students for the project, she asked them to identify the location of an artist’s home country and to use the clay terms they had learned to speculate how artists prevented their works from being top-heavy. Just before students started to build their animals, she showed them a 25-pound block of clay and asked them to figure out how she should divide it to give each of them approximately three pounds.

Torri-Safdie said, “I always feel rewarded when I see them doing this because it’s really something to see a project that totally absorbs every student. Everyone – when they’re doing this – is pretty much on task and focused and just happy about the whole process.”

Stone Memorial High School band works and plays hard

CROSSVILLE, TENN. (Oct. 30, 2014) Stone Memorial High School band members practice their finale of "Wake Me Up" for the last 2014 football game. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)
Stone Memorial High School band members practice their “Wake Me Up” finale after school in Crossville, Tenn., on Oct. 30, 2014. The band performed at the last regular-season football game at Rhea County High School in Evensville, Tenn., on Oct. 31. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)

Stone Memorial High School, located in Crossville, Tenn., touts an award-winning marching band made up of 36 musicians and 14 color guard members. Members performed at all home and away football games and two competitions during the 2014 season.

Sophomore Holli Wetzlich said, “I view the band as a family because we’ve been together for so long. We practice almost every day for two hours: Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays. Then we have football games on Fridays and competitions on Saturdays. Blending and cooperating brings us closer together.”

Under the direction of Josh Squire, Stone Memorial High School band started practicing its show at band camp during the last two weeks of July and finished its season at the football game at Rhea County High School near Dayton, Tenn., on Oct. 31. The band performed “Thnks fr th Mmrs” by Fall Out Boy, “Creep” by Radiohead and “Wake Me Up” by Avicci.

Percussionist Breanna Miller plays marimba as the Stone Memorial High School color guard and other band members run through their show finale during practice on Oct. 30, in Crossville, Tenn. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)
Percussionist Breanna Miller plays marimba as the Stone Memorial High School color guard and other band members run through their show finale during practice on Oct. 30, in Crossville, Tenn. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)
CROSSVILLE, TENN. (Oct. 30, 2014) Sarah England plays for the climax of the "Wake Me Up" finale. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)
Trumpet player Sarah England plays for the climax of the “Wake Me Up” finale during band practice on Oct. 30, in Crossville, Tenn. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)

The band also hosted its fifth annual Stone Memorial Invitational marching band competition on Oct. 11.

With nine years of experience as a band director, Squire is in his first year at Stone Memorial High School. Wetzlich said, “He definitely pushes us. He has an equal balance between praise and correction. He’s hard enough where he gets the job done but in a positive fashion.

“His way got us first place in every category [of competition],” said Wetzlich.

CROSSVILLE, TENN. (Oct. 30, 2014) John Farley, Trevor Noll, Allen Bowles, Charlie Lewis and Corey Garrison keep the band in rhythm during the finale.
Drummers John Farley, Trevor Noll, Allen Bowles, Charlie Lewis and Corey Garrison keep the band in rhythm during band practice on Oct. 30, in Crossville, Tenn. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)
CROSSVILLE, TENN. (Oct. 30, 2014) Elisha Jackson congratulates Ely Wortham on a successful practice and for his last band practice as a Stone Memorial High School band member.
Sophomore Elisha Jackson congratulates senior Ely Wortham on a successful practice and for his last band practice as a Stone Memorial High School band member on Oct. 30, in Crossville, Tenn. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)

Learning fine art skills improves classroom and personal success

Since President Barak Obama launched the Educate to Innovate program in 2010, states have legislated more testing of and graduation requirements for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. However, fine arts teachers and arts program advocates have long recognized that visual, performing and musical arts can significantly increase success in core subjects and beyond the classroom.

Research shows that children who participate in fine arts classes have more success in school and benefit long-term. (Graphic by D. Krahulek)
Research shows that children who participate in fine arts classes have more success in school and experience more long-term benefits. (Graphic by D. Krahulek via

Weslie Webster, the director of education for and a resident member of the acting troupe of the Cumberland County Playhouse in Crossville, Tenn., said, “There are so many benefits to participating in [arts] classes. They build confidence and communication skills. No matter what job they go into they can apply that to any profession, not just an arts profession.”

Quinn Cason teaches children (ages 7 to 9) in Acting I class. (Photo by D. Krahulek)

Researchers with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching concluded that young people involved with community arts programs typically:

  • take on leadership roles in their schools
  • earn high grades
  • do not miss school often
  • choose to attend art events
  • learn to accept feedback as a learning tool, rather than a criticism
  • take risks in creating art and in critical thinking
  • develop a strong sense of community service.

Webster said, “Last year, we had three of the four valedictorians and salutatorians [from the Cumberland County high schools] here. They took classes here.”

Other studies support the Carnegie Foundation’s research. The National Endowment for the Arts sponsored a study that showed a strong correlation between strong arts education programs and academic and personal success in students of low socioeconomic populations. These students had higher GPAs and test scores in science and were more likely to graduate from high school and college than their peers who did not take arts classes. The researchers also showed an increase in “civic and social participation” in both low and high socioeconomic groups.

Harvard University President Drew Faust wrote, “Interpretation, judgment, and discernment will always be in demand, and they are cultivated and refined in the humanities. … Students in the humanities learn how to think critically and communicate their ideas clearly, and those transferrable skills lead to rewarding lives and careers in every field of endeavor.”

In an article for ‘Parenting’ magazine, Nancy Kalish summarized the results of a study by the Dana Foundation, which supports advanced, responsible brain research:

  • “Musical training improves reading by helping children distinguish the sound structure of words.
  • “Acting boost memory and the ability to articulate ideas.
  • “Strong interest in a performing art leads to better attention and memory.”

Webster recognizes these skills developing in students every semester. “They can often find success here,” said Webster, “whereas, sometimes in the classroom something may be harder to them. Some of the discipline they learn here can be applied to those things, too, so it does build self-confidence, [and] a sense of pride that they can carry with them forever. … We graduate confident, contributing members of society and people that want to give back to society, too.”

Caitlin Schaub teaches Pointe classes. (Photo by D. Krahulek)
Caitlin Schaub teaches Pointe classes. (Photo by D. Krahulek)

The Cumberland County Playhouse offers music, dance, writing and acting classes for children and adults five days a week. The registration form, 2014-15 class schedule and list of instructors can be downloaded from the playhouse education page.

Fair Use copyright law includes restrictions even for schools and teachers

Many believe that their usage of copyrighted materials is acceptable if they use them as teaching tools. (© Michael Jastremski for

Because educators spend more than $500 per year on classroom resources, using copied materials saves them and under-funded schools money. However, their efforts to cut personal and local expenses may cost them even more if sued for infringement of U.S. copyright laws.

According to the United States Copyright Office, educators may incorporate portions of copyrighted materials if used for “teaching, scholarship, and research” into their lessons. However, teachers must measure their use of the material against it being “for nonprofit educational purposes” and “the amount … of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.”

Many believe that their usage of copyrighted materials is acceptable if they use them as teaching tools and are not financially compensated. posted a five-part series addressing copyright and fair use issues for educators. In the “Is Fair Use a License to Steal?” article, Linda Starr quoted Nancy Willard, who once worked as a copyright attorney, to say that these educators are misinformed.

Melissa England, a teacher at Clarkrange High School (Tennessee), said, “I don’t remember [copyright] being addressed in my education classes or in my Master’s classes.

Teacher Melissa England said, “We’re so focused on finding materials for our students….” (© Darren Hester for

“We’re so focused on finding materials for our students that we don’t consider the legal ramifications. We address [plagiarism with students], but are we modeling it with everything we do? We are so busy trying to find information that we don’t take time to give credit.”

In his article “Do the (Copy)right Thing,” Neal Starkman wrote, “It’s that widespread assumption that copyright simply doesn’t apply to education that can, and has, gotten districts into trouble.”

Willard, who also serves as the director of Embrace Civility in the Digital Age, told Starr, “’The essence of the fair use doctrine is that a person is not using the work in such a manner that is, or has the potential of, diverting income from the creator.’”

The Las Vegas Review-Journal, reported in 2013, that author Jeff Gray sued Clark County Schools for posting his book online rather than the administration buying copies for its employees. When Penn State sent a cease-and-desist letter to a school in Buna, Texas, for using their trademarked mascot logo, Russell Heistuman, a graphic designer in Idaho, helped the school redesign and market an updated logo. The SunSentinel (Ft. Lauderdale) reported a dispute between the Walt Disney Company and the owners of three daycare centers who had painted copyrighted characters on their exterior walls.

Based on Starr’s guidelines, educators should copy no more than 10 percent of books, poetry, articles, short stories or essays or one graphic from published works. She also added that teachers should not copy works with the intent to avoid purchasing materials or forget to source authors, even if using materials under the fair use law.

Carol Simpson, a professor and consultant on copyright issues in schools, concurs with the 10 percent rule in her teacher resource calledHow much material may I use in my PowerPoint® presentation?

Starkman also wrote, “Without a mandate from the district or a push from principals, teachers remain inattentive to and unschooled in copyright law as well, exposing their districts to litigation and modeling unlawful behavior for their students.”

England said, “We could have professional development, but, again, I don’t know, that if we do that, who would monitor it or make sure everyone is following the rules.”

Ready for note taking (© Sue Atkins for

Resources for school and teachers on copyright compliance

Resources for educators to teach copyright compliance

Open Meetings Law allows journalists and parents to attend board of education meetings

The Cumberland County Board of Education meets at the central services office at 368 Fourth St., Crossville. (Photo by D. Krahulek)
The Cumberland County Board of Education meets at the central services office at 368 Fourth St., Crossville. (Photo by D. Krahulek)

With so many changes occurring from Tennessee’s commitment to the Race to the Top initiative, journalists and parents are taking an interest in the local board’s policy votes. Under the Tennessee Open Meetings Law (often called the Sunshine Law), any citizen may attend Cumberland County’s board of education meetings.

Heather Mullinix, assistant editor at The Crossville Chronicle, said, “In Tennessee, any legislative group must publish its meetings and not have any secret votes. The business of the public will be conducted in the public.”

Heather Mullinix, assistant editor at The Crossville Chronicle, covers most education news in the county. (Photo by D. Krahulek)

The board holds its meetings on the fourth Thursday at 6 p.m., in the central services office at 368 Fourth St., in Crossville. The group also publishes its agendas online.

Mullinix, who covers most of the education news in Cumberland County, attends the meetings regularly. She said that the CCBOE does allow the media to ask questions after all business has been concluded. “They offer it as a courtesy,” she said, “because they don’t technically have to provide time for questions. I use it to clarify things that happened during the meeting.”

Since the meetings are public, independent journalists (which includes bloggers) may also attend the board meetings. Mullinix recommends that journalists introduce themselves to the board members before meetings to explain why they are present. “Some bloggers try to write behind shadowy names,” she said. “I don’t think that is right. You have to build credibility and trust in order to get the information you need.”

Mullinix also said, “And get it right. If you don’t understand what’s going on, ask.” She added that some votes can be confusing and that journalists must ask questions to clarify details rather than publish what they think was said.

Heather Mullinix works at her desk at The Crossville Chronicle. (Photo by D. Krahulek)
Heather Mullinix works at her desk in The Crossville Chronicle building at 125 West Ave. (Photo by D. Krahulek)

Parents and Other Individuals
Although not required by law, the CCBOE allows the public to address issues just after the call to order under the agenda item called “Welcome to Visitors.”

If a parent or another individual wants to speak before the board, he or she must submit a request in writing to central services eight days prior to a scheduled meeting. If the executive committee adds the issue to the agenda, the individual may address the group for three minutes.

“The board will not respond to your comments,” said Mullinix, “but they will keep them in mind when making decisions that are related.”

Public Accountability
On July 18, Eddie Bruce Overholt of Bybee, Tenn., was removed and arrested by law enforcement officers from a public meeting of the Greene County Industrial Development Board when he asked “that the board members speak more loudly at the meeting.” County Mayor Alan Broyles considered Overholt’s request to be “an ‘outburst.” Overholt will attend a hearing on Sept. 22, to address his charges of “interfering with a public hearing and resisting arrest.”

Video: “76 Year Old Veteran Arrested for Asking Public Official to Speak Louder”

The Greenville Sun (Tenn.) reported that the Industrial Development Board held the meeting around a conference table with no microphones. Several board members were facing away from the audience, and a rope barricade also separated the audience from the closest board members by a few feet.

In an editorial posted on Aug. 18, in response to Overholt’s case, Deborah Fisher, the executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, said, “The Tennessee Open Meetings Act is more than just a law to be followed. It is the essence of how we believe government should work in a representative democracy.”

Fisher also wrote, “While the Tennessee Open Meetings Act’s wording doesn’t directly lay out the right of citizens to hear the deliberations in a public meeting that they attend, it would be hard to find someone who would argue that having a public meeting where the governing body could not be heard makes too much sense.”