The district has taken heat for its lavish August "convocations" in the past. Last year, the much-maligned, bloated bureaucracy was criticized for spending more than $20,000 (about half of it public money) to put on what amounted to a glorified pep rally at a time when the underachieving school district was facing tough choices on how to spend scarce dollars.
Last week, a microscopic article in The Kansas City Star mentioned that some teachers' feathers were ruffled when Clarence Cole, head of a principals' organization, asked the employees of the city's public schools to pray.
But Sell tells this rump roast that the brief note in the daily paper hardly did justice to the weirdness that has become a hallmark of Superintendent Bernard Taylor's annual end-of-summer celebrations.
Sell was one of about 3,500 employees who were told their attendance was mandatory; the entire district was bused to Independence to the 5,000-seat auditorium of the Community of Christ church.
For the Paseo special-ed teacher, it was his second year being bused to the church facility, which he says is an odd place to stage a public school rally. Not that Sell has anything against religion. He's an ordained minister himself, but one who still has a firm grip on the Constitution's mandate to separate church and state. "They're violating something, I thought to myself," the philosophical educator declares.
But Taylor's propaganda minister -- er, "director of public information," Edwin Birch, tells the sirloin of local media that the choice wasn't unusual at all. "It's held in the auditorium, not the temple of the Community of Christ," he says. Past events have been held at Municipal Auditorium, but some teachers complained about a lack of parking. There was nothing religious about the church's auditorium, Birch says.
Say what? "It has an organ. And a choir section," Sell counters. "It might not be their official temple, but you could tell it's used for religious purposes."
After a musical group kicked things off, Cole began preachifying about the Big Guy from Bethlehem. "Then everyone who got up after him made a reference to God or the church," the teacher says.
That included the event's master of ceremonies, KMBC Channel 9 weekend anchor Natalie Moultrie, Sell adds. "She said, 'I'm so happy to see that God is still in our schools.'"
The Strip dialed the perky Moultrie to see if she remembered endorsing religion in the public schools, but the television journalist didn't return this side of beef's call. Cole didn't call back, either.
Nothing like a little religious indoctrination to kick off the school year, we guess.
The Strip asked Birch why Taylor feels compelled to put on his expensive, annual fetes.
"We have them because it's an opportunity for the superintendent to address his staff," Birch responded, sounding a little defensive.
Jesus. Couldn't he just send a freakin' mimeographed memo?
Register This! Part Two
Almost a year ago, this meat patty did a service to its loyal readers, helping to foil an annoying marketing scheme by The Kansas City Star.
It was last October that the Star began a registration ploy, asking online readers to submit personal details if they wanted to so much as peruse a story in what passes for a daily newspaper in this town.
The Strip volunteered its own username (email@example.com) and password (hamloaf) so readers could surf the Star anonymously because, really, who wants to admit publicly to reading the whiny, liberal bleatings of the Star's editorial board anyway?
A few weeks later, the Star struck back. In a gossip column, the Star pointed out that -- aha! -- the Pitch requires personal information from readers who e-mail Pitch staffers or send letters to the editor!
Morons. The Star oughta know that a newspaper like the Pitch can't publish letters without verifying that they've been sent by the people who supposedly signed them. And as for e-mailing staffers, only computer dumbasses don't know that a reader can get a staffer's e-mail address from our Web site and then send messages directly from the reader's own mail program, bypassing the Pitch Web site's request for information entirely.
Anyway, this porterhouse brings all of this up again only because the geniuses at the Star have gone and messed with their registration system, requiring that new passwords have at least one character (like, say, an exclamation point) which isn't a letter.
So, in the future, if you feel compelled to visit the Star online, feel free to take advantage of the Strip's unchanged username (firstname.lastname@example.org) and new password: hamloaf!