Thursday, February 26, 2009
The school day is almost over, but the drama is just getting started.
On the afternoon of Monday, Feb. 23, about 25 grown-ups filter into Seaside High School’s music room to discuss the possible layoffs of the district’s music teachers. Later that evening, a similar meeting takes place at Monterey High School.
“Right now you have a bunch of upset parents,” says Carl Sedoryk, father to two Monterey High students and president of the school’s Music Boosters Club. (He’s also CEO of Monterey-Salinas Transit.) “There’s just a lack of information.”
Parents became concerned during the Feb. 17 school board meeting, when members discussed the “reduction or discontinuation of particular kinds of service and layoffs of certified employees,” including music teachers.
Like just about every public agency in California, MPUSD is facing crippling cuts, according to school board Vice President Helen Rucker.
“Because of the state unrest, we had to give teachers notice that maybe they will be laid off,” she says. “Unfortunately, music and art teachers are more prone to be laid off. No Child Left Behind is making it so hard for us to retain teachers who teach subjects other than what you have to test children in, like math and science.”
That’s little comfort to Sedoryk, who says teachers are the district’s main contribution to the Boosters. The club already raises funds for most of its instruments, including a grand piano recently bought with a Chapman Foundation grant. “We’re serious about our support of music programs in this community, and we’d like the school board to be serious about it as well,” he says.
Ewalker James, a member of the Seaside Cultural Arts Group and the Monterey Jazz Festival board, agrees. “I’m a firm believer that music and sports play a major role in those children who are not academically inclined,” he says. “If it wasn’t for those kinds of things, we would lose those young people.”
James, who has been organizing musical performances at Seaside’s Oldemeyer Center since 1989, says school music programs benefit the entire community, including senior citizens who come out for concerts. He notes that several MPUSD students have gone on to become professional musicians, including pianist Milton Fletcher and trumpet player Tanya Darby.
District officials were in budget meetings and unable to comment by press time.
In the meantime, music supporters are rallying for the next school board meeting.
“Let them know that please, don’t cut music programs at our schools,” James says.