Update: On March 12th, KSL Channel 5 reported that the Box Elder Board of Education announced that Lee Burningham will be reinstated effective March 25th, 2008. No further sanctions will be imposed upon him. Neither Burningham nor Superintendent Martell Menlove would disclose the nature of the agreement. Nonetheless, all's well that ends well.
In an effort to counter a rising groundswell of support for embattled Box Elder High School pottery teacher Lee Burningham (pictured at left), the Box Elder (Utah) School District is selectively leaking more derogatory information about him to the media. Reported by KSL Channel 5, which, surprisingly, remains the only local mainstream media outlet interested in the story.
District Superintendent Martell Menlove has finally shed some light on Burningham's employment status. He told KSL that Lee Burningham won't be fired over the asbestos concerns. But he disclosed that part of the reason Burningham's job is in limbo is because he's taken pottery students to out-of-the-area events. Dr. Menlove claims that school officials have expressed concerns that it's a liability.
However, Burningham demurred. "I'm an artist. Artists are supposed to be renegades," Burningham said. He says he has no regrets taking students to national ceramic conferences, even if it is against the advice of Box Elder school officials. "It's all about giving them the exposure to see what's above and beyond," Burningham explained.
But when asked if that was the reason the district put Burningham on paid leave, Dr. Menlove ducked the question. "I can't comment about that", Dr. Menlove quacked. Yet, off camera, the superintendent still claims there's more than what is on the surface with this story. [Ed. Note: The field trips seem like a red herring. If the school didn't want him to go, they could have ordered him not to go on the field trips. To pin this on him now is second-guessing and front-running. These wankers are desperate to cover their asses.]
What orginally sparked the controversy, as described in my previous post, was that stduents, in the process of cleaning up the classroom, kicked up floor tiles with asbestos in them, and Burningham allowed the students to throw the tiles away. The district says, for safety reasons, only custodians should do that. Subsequently, school officials evacuated and locked Burningham's pottery class.
Burningham is being required to write up a report about what happened. "I was told it will either hurt or help my future employment at Box Elder," he said.
The Utah Department of Environmental Quality is still testing the tiles for health risks, and they haven't finished. However, the district had their own batch of tests run, which indicated only minimal asbestos in the air.
The Box Elder Board of Education will be holding their regular meeting on Wedensday March 12th at 6:30 P.M. at the O'Jay and Tamra Call Education Center. According to a comment posted to the March 7th KSL story, this will be preceded by a public informaton meeting to be held by the Clay Crew in the Diamond Room at the Brigham City Crystal Inn to begin at 4:00 P.M. Many community members and students already plan to show up to express their support for Burningham. However, his job status is not on the public agenda, as those types of issues are normally discussed behind closed doors in executive session. Those who show up at the meeting ought to force the board to confront the issue, not by engaging in acrimonious debate, but by simply delivering a short message of support for Burningham.
Commentary: The response by Dr. Menlove is still very cryptical, equivocal, and most unsatisfactory. Community members need to let Dr. Menlove know, in no uncertain terms, that only complete transparency and candor on his part are acceptable.
I noticed in periodically checking one of my stat counters that some people are obviously sending e-mails, citing my previous post as a reference (that's how I know). Excellent, but we must keep the pressure on.
If you want to help Mr. Burningham get reinstated, I suggest you e-mail Dr. Menlove at the following address:
Please be reasonably civil; no physical threats or "f-bombs".
Send info copies (either CC or BCC) to the following individuals:
Darrell Eddington, Box Elder High Principal
Brent D. Shaffer, President of the Box Elder Board of Education
Send a separate e-mail of support to Lee Burningham at: