On with the Show

When budget constraints forced Citrus High School in Citrus County, Florida, to let an instructor go before this school year began, the principal decided to eliminate a drama teacher. So parents and students alike were extremely happy when Judy Poplawski volunteered to teach drama classes at the school for free. Not only was the price right, but Poplawski had directed the local Playhouse 19 Community Theater for years. She also ran popular summer acting camps and had created several internship and scholarship programs. Several of her students have even gone on to Broadway.

One group affiliated with the school, however, was disturbed by the seemingly perfect arrangement: the local teachers union. The union argued that Poplawski should not be allowed to teach the classes. She's not state-certified, said the union, and those summer camps create a conflict of interest (exactly why that's so went unexplored).

Despite the union's opposition, Poplawski has been allowed to teach the classes and is apparently doing a fine job. But the incident suggests that student education is a low priority for the union. It also created a little morality play with the union filling the role of villain, and provided journalists with easy metaphors. "The union's concerns do not seem to me to be those of well-meaning people working for the benefit of students," wrote a columnist for the St. Petersburg Times. "It's time to fetch the hook and yank this thinly plotted sham from the stage."

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