Few have opportunity to speak against prior review at board meeting

MISSOURI –Most students and parents planning to addressongoing issues of censorship and the resignation of journalism adviser CathyMcCandless at Timberland High School were prevented from speaking at theWentzville School District board meeting yesterday. According to schoolboard policy ,public comments are welcome at each regular board meeting during the designatedtime period, and those who plan to address the board must sign in before themeeting. Each person is allotted three minutes to address the board.

Board President Dale Schaper made a statement that comments would belimited to 15 minutes and that there was only time for the first five people whosigned up to speak, according to the “Stop THS Censorship” blog ,run by a parent. Four of the first five speakers were supporters of PrincipalWinston Rogers. The last speaker was Nikki McGee, editor-in-chief of TimberlandHigh School’s The Wolf’s Howl. Rogers was not in attendance at the meeting.

Schaper and AssistantSuperintendent Melody Marcantonio, who was also present at the meeting, couldnot be reached for comment by press time.

“They did a disservice to [the parents] because I’m not the only oneaffected by this. They only heard one person’s perspective. They didn’t hearwhat the parents thought at all,” McGee said.

McGee spoke about her experience learning under McCandless, who advises thenewspaper and yearbook.

According to a report form the St. Louis Post Dispatch,those who spoke in support of Rogers justified his decisions to preventinappropriate material from being published. Others said the students were beingused by adults who had a personal agenda against Rogers.

McGee said “they all spoke on the same topic which was that parentsshouldn’t be putting their kids up to things like ‘Team McCandless’ andprotesting something that’s not educational and it’s a waste of time.

Lori Caballo, a parent of Wolf’s Howl Sports Editor Devon Caballo,created a Facebook page titled, “Team McCandless” in order to stop censorship atTimberland and support McCandless as journalism adviser. McGee said those whospoke in support of Rogers called the Facebook page “a hate group on [the]principal.”

McGee said Rogers is not the main focus of their cause and that they aredealing with censorship, but she wants the school district to considerpersuading McCandless to remain in her position by lifting prior review andstopping censorship.The newspaper staff still plans to stay in theireditorial positions, and McGee said working through difficult issues withadministrators has only made their passion for journalism stronger.

“I’m not going to give up on this paper. My job as an editor is something Ican’t give up, even if the times get tough, I’ll be here until the position isfilled by someone else next year,” McGee said.

After the public comments were finished, no action was taken on behalf ofthe board.

“They didn’t discuss the issue at all. They didn’t make room for us on theagenda,” McGee said.