Long-time readers know that I take a certain amount of pleasure in mocking Florida, where I was born and raised. There’s just something … unique a
May 11, 2008

Long-time readers know that I take a certain amount of pleasure in mocking Florida, where I was born and raised. There’s just something … unique about it.

Take, for example, a Tampa-area school firing a substitute teacher for doing a magic trick for his students.

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.”

Oh sure, it’s a toothpick today. But what about tomorrow? What will we tell parents when a substitute teacher starts trying to do spells? Or shows kids pictures of Willow from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”? Or accidentally turns someone into a newt? Hmm?

As Piculas — who, as far as I know, is not a warlock — explained it, he got a call after doing his trick from the head of supervisor of substitute teachers. “He says, ‘Jim, we have a huge issue, you can’t take any more assignments you need to come in right away,’” Piculas said.

The disappearing tooth pick was, apparently, the “huge issue,” and led to the disappearing job.

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