Teacher Fired for Magic Tricks


/ˈɪzəˌbɛl/ pink 5
Presto! Teacher Out Of A Job

LAND O' LAKES - The telephone call that spelled the end of Jim Piculas' career as a substitute teacher in Pasco County came on a January day about a week after he performed the disappearing-toothpick trick for a group of rapt middle school students.

Pat Sinclair, who oversees substitute teachers in the Pasco County School District, was on the phone. She told Piculas there had been a complaint about his performance at Rushe Middle School in Land O' Lakes. He asked what she meant.

"She said, 'You've been accused of wizardry,'" Piculas said.

He said the statement seemed bizarre to him, like something out of Harry Potter. Piculas said he replied, "I have no idea what you're talking about."
He said he also told Sinclair, "It's not black magic. It's a toothpick."

The school district puts a somewhat different spin on the disappearing-toothpick incident. Assistant Superintendent Renalia DuBose said the word "wizardry" never came up on the school district's end.

"That was his rendition of what happened," she said.

DuBose also said "there was a lot more involved" than a simple magic-trick demonstration. She said the principal interviewed students after the regular teacher complained about Piculas' performance in the classroom. The principal then requested that Piculas not return to the school and said he "absolutely should not be subbing," DuBose said. "The toothpick demonstration was minor compared to the other problems," she said.

In a letter the district sent to Piculas, performing a magic trick at Rushe Middle is just one of the reasons the district gives for dumping him from the substitute-teacher list. The others are that Piculas did not follow the lesson plans, he allowed students on computers even though another teacher said not to and he told the fifth-period student peer that she was in charge.

Piculas said those other reasons are just window dressing. He said he finished the lesson plan, another teacher knew the students were on the computers and he never put the student peer in charge.

Piculas said he thinks his troubles all come down to the disappearing-toothpick trick and a student who may have interpreted the trick as wizardry.

The trick requires a toothpick and transparent tape. A sleight-of-hand maneuver causes the toothpick to disappear then reappear. At least, so it seems. In reality, the toothpick hides behind the performer's thumb, held in place by the tape.
"The whole thing lasted 45 seconds," Piculas said. He said the students liked the trick. He showed them how to do it so they could perform it at home.

One student in the Rushe Middle class apparently took the trick the wrong way, Piculas said. He said he was told the student became so traumatized that the student's father complained.

Sinclair wrote Piculas a letter, dated Jan. 28, to say the district would "no longer be using your services." The letter mentioned magic tricks at the end of the list of other classroom offenses he is accused of committing. The word "wizardry" does not appear in the letter.

"I think she was trying to downplay it because it sounded so goofy," Piculas said. Piculas had worked as a substitute teacher for eight or nine months, spending time at 15 schools. He said he also was working toward teacher certification with the dream of being hired full time.

That appears unlikely now. Piculas said he applied for a job as a GED instructor but wasn't allowed to interview.

"My whole career is in limbo," he said.
He's probably genuinely fired for other reasons too but the timing of the district to fire the guy after the "wizardry" complaint from a parent downplayed that.

Seriously, what can be so harmful about a magic trick? I've taught classes before and sometimes, you do things not necessarily related to your subject matter if it helps catch the interest of the class before you move on to boring stuff.


The Original Kiwi
Yea, even using that as any form of reason for him being fired is stupid. If there are other legitimate reasons, great, if not, don't fire him.