Confirm Action

Are you sure you wish to do this?

Confirm Cancel
User Panel

Site Notices
Posted: 5/10/2003 3:28:33 PM EDT


Tunkhannock Area says no to Air Force uniforms

By Chris Birk , Times-Shamrock News Writer

Beckoned by an old friend, U.S. Air Force Capt. Christy Lee stopped by a high school English class at her alma mater last week to stir up inspiration and empowerment.

Instead, it was her uniform that raised a stir. And a principal's request to leave it home has some within the Tunkhannock Area School District up in arms.

While on leave from Edwards Air Force Base in California, the 1993 Tunkhannock Area High School graduate was asked to speak to a class of 11th-graders taught by longtime friend and high school English teacher Tara Trivelpiece.

Capt. Lee is a flight test engineer and co-author of the B-2 bomber tactics manual. Along with her husband, also an Air Force captain, Capt. Lee planned to show up April 24 in uniform, she in her flight suit and her husband in his dress blues.

Life lessons of hard work and goal setting - not recruiting - were the topics of discussion, said both teacher and flight engineer.
The high school has a specific policy for college, business and military recruiters.

A few days before their arrival, high school Principal Jack Gallo asked Trivelpiece to tell her guests not to wear their uniforms, saying he was wary of the informal chat being perceived as recruiting, Capt. Lee said.
The principal declined to comment, saying he'd be happy to at an appropriate time.

Capt. Lee's father, Lake Winola resident Ken Alexander, said he spoke with the district Superintendent Stephen Moyer the morning of his daughter's visit, expressing his displeasure with the decision.

According to Alexander, that chat elicited an apology from Moyer, as well as a phone call from superintendent to high school principal.

The uniforms remained in the car.
Alexander remained incensed.
And Capt. Lee, now back in California, is still disappointed.

"I still think we were effective, but the potential just wasn't there," she said. "We were disappointed that the students didn't have a chance to get all out of it that they could."

Moyer declined to discuss the details of his conversations with Gallo. But he did say the district "is still in the process of ascertaining what happened" while also trying to contact Capt. Lee personally.

"We had someone who was coming in for a very positive experience," Moyer said. "We now have a situation that doesn't give the perception that the Tunkhannock School District is in support of activities and programs that are supportive of the United States.

"Our track record in the past has been the complete opposite."

A frequent speaker at schools and science expositions, Capt. Lee said schools almost always prefer her in uniform, regardless of whether recruiting is involved.

"Recruiting is saying what the Air Force has to offer individuals and to find an individual match between an Air Force specialty and an individual," she said. "If you're going in to explore and open opportunities for kids ..., one is a topdown, the other one is inspiring from within."

School board President Stephen Franko said the uniform flap has been blown out of proportion.

"The school is very active, participates with all armed forces, but we have to balance off the recruiting efforts," he said. "Some parents have concerns about their kids' exposure to recruiting.

"There were some misunderstanding and things got taken out of context."

Despite the dispute, Trivelpiece said her students are the better for that April 24 discussion with two Air Force captains in civilian clothes.

"My class has improved, they are motivated and more on task as to what they are doing and can see there's much more of a purpose," Trivelpiece said. "I feel that all of that is being neglected and not seen.

"That was my goal - to improve my classroom."
Link Posted: 5/10/2003 4:31:35 PM EDT
Link Posted: 5/10/2003 4:39:06 PM EDT
I get the Citizens Voice when I'm at home.

That area is chock full of Vets. The area is the [i]last[/i] place you want to pull this kind of shit.

Link Posted: 5/10/2003 4:49:39 PM EDT
I was fortunate in having been allowed to talk to several high school classes while I was in service.  Always in uniform.  My favorite was a senior class at my own school that were freshman when I was a senior.  They knew me then.  I had several of their brothers and sisters as class mates.   It wasn't just a study hard, get good grades and advance type of speech.  I could tell them what effects my grades had on what aspect of my job.  How certain hobbies helped and how some things hindered.  I came right out and told them that the Army is not for everyone.  But, I also showed them what it had done for me.  One feels more proud wearing the uniform when representing ones service and nation than just being back at post doing their job.  To be told that I couldn't wear my uniform would have been insulting.  To hell with perceptions.  It is time for a lesson in reality.
Link Posted: 5/10/2003 4:51:53 PM EDT
I suppose Capt. Lee had a reason for capitulating... but I don't see it.  She is obviously a successful Air Force officer and you don't get to that point in life by NOT being an Air Force officer (if you get my drift).  I personally would have said "the hell with you" and wore my uniform anyways.  The question is, does Lee always wear her uniform when on leave or only when she wants to impress people?  Is the uniform and rank part of HER or is it part of her JOB?
Link Posted: 5/10/2003 4:58:25 PM EDT
This principal should be skewered, and I suspect he will be.
Link Posted: 5/10/2003 5:05:20 PM EDT
I would have just had a nice life size cardboard cut-out picture made in uniform for FAIRNESS, TOLERANCE AND COMMUNICATION.
Link Posted: 5/10/2003 9:52:33 PM EDT
I lived in and around Tunkhannock PA for many years, and this episode strikes me as totally out of character for the majority of people in that part of the state.  My guess is the principal came up through the NEA.  It's a safe bet that he'll catch a lot of well deserved heat from the local community on this one.
Link Posted: 5/10/2003 10:44:38 PM EDT
that principal should be fired
Link Posted: 5/10/2003 11:10:06 PM EDT
Link Posted: 5/11/2003 5:04:21 AM EDT
I wonder if Firefighters, EMS, and Police Officers responding to an emergency at the school are told to come in plain clothes?  Unbelievable!  
Link Posted: 5/11/2003 5:59:29 AM EDT
Another version from a Tunkhannock newspaper.


BY MARY BALDWIN , The New Age-Examiner  05/07/2003

Tunkhannock Area High School Principal Jack Gallo said a recent incident in which two U.S. Air Force captains were told not to wear their uniforms when they spoke at the school was a "miscommunication."

"It was not my intent to bar a uniform," Gallo said Friday.
"What I failed to communicate was that officers coming in have the option to wear their uniforms.
"I didn't communicate clearly, and I apologize for that."
While on leave from Edwards Air Force Base in California, Capt. Christy Alexander Lee, a 1993 Tunkhannock Area graduate, was invited to address the 11th grade English class taught by her friend, Tara Trivelpiece.
Lee is a flight test engineer and co-author of the B-2 bomber tactics manual.
Lee and her husband, U.S. Air Force Capt. Maurice Lee, planned to address the class April 24 in uniform, she in her flight suit and he in his dress blues.
A few days before their arrival, Gallo spoke with Trivelpiece about the speakers. He said he does this routinely whenever any speaker is scheduled to address a class.
"We talked about the visit and she mentioned her close friend was a captain in the Air Force," he said. "I asked if the purpose was recruiting and she said no."
Trivelpiece told him the topic of Lee's talk would be "making it in the real world;" specifically, how English skills relate to success.
It was at this point that the miscommunication occurred, Gallo said.
Christy Lee said last week that that Gallo asked Trivelpiece to tell the Lees not to wear their uniforms because he was wary of their presentation being perceived as recruiting.
According to Gallo, he intended to let the teacher know that wearing a uniform is an option for military speakers. Some choose not to wear their uniforms so their presentation will not be construed as recruitment, he said.
"We've never kept anybody from wearing a uniform," Gallo insisted. "People come and go in uniform all the time."
In fact, he said, "I'll invite you into the building anytime and chances are there will be someone in uniform there."
Gallo's concern about recruitment stems from a law that permits parents to exclude their children from being contacted by recruiters.
The school district has a system in place for visits by military, business or college recruiters, he said.
"The doors are open and we encourage recruiters of all kinds," he added.
Such meetings are set up in advance and publicized. Students who sign up are issued a pass to leave class and go to the office to meet with the recruiter.
"We ask that recruiters not go into the buildings beyond the office," he said, "so as not to infringe on the academic process and so that we know who is speaking to the kids."
The district provides lists of juniors' and seniors' names, addresses and phone numbers to recruiters, Gallo said.
Parents have a legal right to have their children's names removed from the list, he said. Over 100 have done so.
"We have to assume they don't want them exposed to recruitment," Gallo said.
Balancing the objectives of recruiters, the needs of students and parents' wishes, he said, is like "walking a tightrope."
Gallo said on the day of the Lees' presentation, he stopped by to greet them, which he customarily does with all speakers.
"She (Christy Lee) didn't seem upset at all," he said. "We had what I thought was a pleasant conversation. I thanked them for coming and invited them back."
That same morning Superintendent Steve Moyer received a phone call from Christy Lee's father, Ken Alexander of Lake Winola, informing him that his daughter and her husband had been told by Trivelpiece not to wear their uniforms when they addressed the class. He said they took the uniforms with them anyway "thinking they might be able to wear them."
Alexander said Moyer apologized, but did not correct the problem.
Moyer said he didn't have the opportunity to take any action because the Lees "were already there doing the presentation. With everything else going on, I did not have the opportunity to get to Mr. Gallo. The presentation had already started."
Alexander admitted that he's more upset about the incident than his daughter. "All of the apologies were there, but nothing got changed," he said. "There was plenty of opportunity for it to be changed."
Christy Lee said she and her husband were "disappointed that the students didn't have a chance to get out of it all that they could."
Lee speaks frequently at schools and science expositions. She said schools almost always prefer her in uniform, whether or not recruiting is involved.
A letter to the editor of this newspaper written by Lynn Stevenson of Clarks Summit made the situation public last week.
In the letter, Stevenson says Gallo "gave his permission (for the couple to speak), but with the condition that they not wear their uniforms as that would be too `controversial.'''
"I never used the word controversial," Gallo said.
Stevenson's letter touched off a flurry of angry phone calls to Gallo, Moyer and school board members.
Gallo said he's been trying to contact Lee so he can apologize to her personally.
"I never intended to dishonor the uniform," he said.
"All I want people to understand is there was no malice or dishonor in my intent, only inadequacy in my communication."
"As superintendent, I also apologize to Capt. Lee," Moyer said.
"Mr. Gallo's actions and the actions of Tunkhannock Area School District have constantly been to support positive American values," he said.
"We fully understand that the perception now is varied with regard to what we stand for.
"We realize it's going to take time for people to understand that this one issue should not be used to judge all the positive programs we have in evidence."

Times Shamrock writer Chris Birk contributed to this report.

Link Posted: 5/11/2003 10:52:31 AM EDT
I love the irony of this - the topic of the visit was the importance of English skills in the real world, and now the principal claims that his English skills were inadequate to communicate the "optionality" of U.S. military uniforms.

Glad to hear that he's backpedaling full speed on this, wonder how many people are buying it.  

I wonder where his assumption that parents don't want their kids exposed to recruiters comes from.  The district policy as described on the 2nd article sounds clear in it's opposite assumption, since student names are provided by default and parents need to opt out if they want to keep their kids away from recruiters.  Surely the 100 who have opted out can't constitute a majority.
Close Join Our Mail List to Stay Up To Date! Win a FREE Membership!

Sign up for the ARFCOM weekly newsletter and be entered to win a free ARFCOM membership. One new winner* is announced every week!

You will receive an email every Friday morning featuring the latest chatter from the hottest topics, breaking news surrounding legislation, as well as exclusive deals only available to ARFCOM email subscribers.

By signing up you agree to our User Agreement. *Must have a registered ARFCOM account to win.
Top Top