A day at the movies for schools? Lesson learned

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by JONATHAN BETZ

WFAA

Posted on February 11, 2012 at 12:11 AM

Updated Saturday, Feb 11 at 9:53 AM

IRVING - Two days after Dallas ISD sparked outrage for its movie outing, two other North Texas school districts will be making a similar trip to see the same movie.
 
Saturday morning, Irving and DeSoto schools will be busing close to 1,300 teenagers to see "Red Tails," the new movie about the Tuskegee Airmen.
 
Yet organizers for Saturday’s trip say the similarities to Dallas’ excursion end with the movie.
 
"I don’t know why it was done the way it was done,” said organizer Gregory Mazyck, referring to Dallas’ field trip, which ignited controversy over cost and gender discrimination issues. "I can’t explain that."
 
Mazyck is helping plan the trip for Irving and DeSoto ISD. He’s a 25-year commercial airline pilot and belongs to the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP), which is largely paying for the trip for DeSoto and Irving ISDs. OBAP has been raising donations to pay for the tickets, while an Irving non-profit is covering the cost of buses and lunches. The total cost of the trip is close to $14,000.
 
"I don’t think it would have happened if the school district had to pay for it," said Billy Rudolph, a spokesperson for Irving ISD.
 
Dallas, however, spent close to $57,000 of federal money to bus 5,000 students to the Mesquite cinema - a move now heavily questioned.

Fifth-grade girls were not invited to the Dallas trip - administrators say there wasn’t room. Plus, the district used federal Title I money, and state education officials say a movie outing was not a proper use of the funding.

Dallas ISD says it will pay back the federal tax dollars, if needed.
 
"At the time, the district's grants management office met with the TEA grants consultant, all indicators were this field trip met all of the criteria to be an allowable expenditure of federal Title I funds," said Jon Dahlander, DISD Spokesperson. "If, however, TEA ultimately determines that it is not reimbursable, the district will handle it at the appropriate time."
 
OBAP, which is based in Illinois, has been approaching school districts all over the country and offering to pay for students’ tickets to the film, which portrays the heroic actions of a group of African-American pilots who flew missions in World War II.
 
Mazyck says he approached Irving and DeSoto with the offer, but not Dallas.
 
"We had no connection with Dallas schools," he said. "That is something I just found out about yesterday."
 
Irving and DeSoto’s trip to the movies also includes a documentary and a discussion with surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen.
 
"I think it also motivates kids to do something in aviation and science and technology," Mazyck said.

E-mail jbetz@wfaa.com

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