Written by Don Ratzlaff Tuesday, 15 June 2010 16:21
Nobody is excited about not having a full-time band director on staff for the coming school year at USD 410. But Superintendent Steve Noble is hoping the inconvenience for students and staff will be temporary.
“It’s a short-term deal, and I want it to be a one-year deal,” Noble said.
When band instructor Gregg Walker resigned his position late in the school year after 10 years of duty, the board decided not to fill the position for 2010-11.
For one thing, Noble said, the district needed to reduce expenses because of reductions in state funding. The other reason was to give the board more time to find a quality successor.
“I have said on the record, and the board, I believe, is behind this, that when things improve, this is a cut we’re going to put back in (the budget) sooner rather than later,” he said.
“We’re going to reestablish this position separate from the vocal music position, so that both programs can thrive.”
In the meantime, the district has adjusted staff assignments and will be eliminating private lessons in instrumental or vocal music in the coming yer.
“We’ll have the exact same band classes we’ve had in previous years,” Noble said. “We have combined the (vocal and instrumental) programs, which limits our abilities to provide individual lessons to kids.”
Noble said group classes for students in fifth grade though high school will remain as they have been, and jazz band again will be offered during the study period prior to lunch.
“All the group offerings in vocal music will all remain,” Noble said.
To provide instruction in those areas, the workload for elementary school music instructor Shirley Baltzer will increase from seven-tenths to full-time.
“She’s going to teach the fifth-grade band down at the elementary school—we won’t transfer kids anymore, so we’re going to save lots of instructional time,” Noble said. “So there’s a (financial) benefit there.”
“We’re also going to have her do at least one vocal music class at the middle school.”
With Lynn Just adding band duties to her full-time duties in high school vocal music, total staffing will decrease from a 2.7 full-time equivalency to 2.0 for the coming year.
Noble said the situation for next year is not desirable.
“Will quality of program and instruction possibly suffer? Are there unintended consequences as a result of this decision? Yes, I believe there will be,” he said.
Just said not offering individual lessons will affect students’ ability to develop their skills, especially at the middle-school level.
“This will cut out most, if not all, solos and ensembles during the year, specifically during contest season,” she said. “The private lessons have allowed students to get the experience of solo work before they reach high school, where the judging is much more difficult.
“It also allowed students to work with their specific instrument, be it a band instrument or voice, which made them better, more confident over-all performers. In some ways, this will affect the quality of our performances.”
In the high school, Just said the Mixed Chorus (grades nine and 10) will be combined with Concert Choir (grades 11 and 12) to create one choir of about 80 voices.
“Also, due to budget cuts and limitations on my time, an administrative decision was made to only perform the spring play—so there will be no musical during the upcoming school year,” Just said.
She said students and parents have voiced concern about the changes.
“The students have been understandably upset about the changes and the ‘not knowing’ what is going on,” she said. “Many have been very supportive of me teaching band next year, which I appreciate.”
Walker, meanwhile, said the changes could be “catastrophic” for the band program.
“This is not because Lynn is not capable,” he said. “She is an energetic and talented choir director. But, by her own admission, she knows very little about how to be a band director.”
Walker said asking a vocal director to cross over to a different discipline is akin to asking a football coach to step in and lead the volleyball team.
“That be exhausting and insane—but it would be for only one season, not the entire year like they are asking Mrs. Just to do,” he said.
Walker said it is likely the high school band will continue to play at athletic events next year, but not to perform as a marching band.
“I feel they will lose kids if their emphasis is that band is primarily to perform at athletic events,” he said. “The band kids already feel that band is not important to the school, community or administration.”
He added, “I think (students) are watching very closely to see if the administration and the school board will be hiring a new band director the following school year.”
Noble said he sees excellence in fine arts as one of the four “legs” of the educational “stool” for USD 410.
“I’m out not only to protect the program, but with our staff in place, to build the program,” he said. “Music is awesome stuff. When you have great music programs, it is another source of pride for a school district, along with excellence in academics, athletics and clubs and extracurriculars.”
Noble said a smaller school district can be excellent in all four areas, but it can’t be excellent in every possible expression of those disciplines.
“We can’t offer 50 sports, but in the sports that we do offer, be good at them,” he said. “Likewise, it would be great to offer strings, orchestra, percussion ensemble classes, but we can’t.”