December 6, 2012
KINGSTON – Rumors flew as fast as electrons after Wyoming Valley West School Board approved a resolution Monday night giving the green light on a review of instrumental music courses.
By Wednesday morning there were 1,300 signatures to an online petition claiming the board had approved the elimination of all instrumental programs, and a call for music supporters to show up en masse at the Jan. 9 board meeting.
The problem, according to Superintendent Chuck Suppon, is the rumors are wrong.
We are absolutely not talking about eliminating any programs, Suppon said, stressing the vote Monday was to look at the way the district delivers elementary instrumental instruction. It has no bearing on the middle school; it has no bearing on the high school. Those programs are going to remain intact.
The district is studying the elementary program with an eye on saving money while maintaining the lessons. We're looking at all programs, trying to provide the same quality of instruction, but in a more economic way, Suppon said. In this case, it may be better to reduce small group and individual instruction time and teach the elementary students in larger groups, he added.
Such a change could result in the elimination of a position, and the board vote helps the district comply with the teacher union contract. If we're going to alter or change any program which might involve a reduction of staff, we have to notify the union by Dec. 10, Suppon said.
But it's the decision to take board action before that date that causes concern, said union President Linda Houck, who teaches instrumental music.
What's sketchy about this is the timing. Eliminating positions is nothing new, Houck said. They don't have to take this kind of action to eliminate a position. But they do have to take a public board action if they are going to eliminate a program, she said.
The move was also made without any discussion with the teachers, Houck added. It was done with no notice. Our department chair had no knowledge this was going to happen, she said. This is not how you deal with people, and this is not how we want to teach our kids to behave. The best way to teach is by example.
And, Houck argues, the timing of the move Monday gives the district the opportunity to eliminate other music programs at other grade levels, again because the district can now send the union notice of such eliminations by Dec. 10, meeting contractual obligations.
Whatever their intentions are, Houck said, their actions give them those options.
But Suppon was unequivocal in his insistence program cuts are not on the radar. The board vote was an OK for me to draft a letter to the union regarding possible cuts in positions for elementary instrumental instruction, Suppon said. There are five positions, and rescheduling or reworking how the lessons are offered could trim one or two.
That's all that's being looked at, and at the end of the year nothing may be done. It may remain as it is.