Faced with stiff resistance, schools reverse music cuts

A Woodbury school, operated by several school districts, will reinstate its band and orchestra program after initially disbanding in the wake of the layoff of the only teacher licensed to teach it.

Last week, Connie Hayes, the superintendent of Northeast Metro Intermediate School District 916, said the teacher didn’t have the seniority to survive the layoff, and the band program would be eliminated at the Valley Crossing School.

This week, however, Hayes met with other superintendents — South Washington County’s 822, North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale’s 622 and Stillwater’s 834 — and reversed the cuts. She says the orchestra and band will be restored to match current offerings at the other districts’ schools, according to a letter sent to parents Thursday.

  • The three sending districts will provide us with a final enrollment declaration by April 1 and we will
    honor this number to make final budget and staffing plans;
  •  Band and orchestra will be recommended to be reinstated to be consistent with the offerings at all three sending districts;
  •  If the April 1 enrollment numbers are at or above the current projection of 630 students, we will also recommend reinstating two classroom teachers based on seniority. The initial reduction of these two positions was intended to provide a cushion for loss of students.

The reversal is the latest case of music programs surviving initial cuts. Earlier this year, the South Washington County School District canceled plans to eliminate music programs in elementary schools.

And this week, the Farmington School Board pulled back from its intention to cut a fifth-grade band program in the face of a $700,000 shortfall, the Farmington Independent reported.

The elimination of the fifth grade band program got most of the attention from residents when the district introduced its list of proposed cuts earlier this month.

Parents and teachers argued against eliminating the program, citing its benefits to both the high school music program and students’ academic abilities. Several school board members said early on they would not support the elimination of the program, and board member Tera Lee said Wednesday she received a petition from a fourth grade student who collected signatures from his friends in support of the band program.

Elementary band isn’t entirely safe, though. Superintendent Jay Haugen included the program on a list of possible cuts for the 2016-17 school year, when the district will have to cut an estimated $2.7 million.

“Elementary band is one of those big places in the district where for that period of time we’re paying for two seats,” Haugen said.

The district will increase class sizes instead of moving ahead with the original cuts.

(h/t: Andy Kruse)