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Music teacher layoffs loom

By Theresa Harrington
Monday, April 19th, 2010 at 7:29 pm in Concord, Contra Costa County, Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Music, Theresa Harrington.

By Theresa Harrington
Out of about 350 pink slips issued by the Mt. Diablo school district, 180 have been rescinded, the assistant superintendent for personnel told me this afternoon.
That leaves about 170 teachers and other credentialed employees wondering if they’ll have jobs in the fall.
Music teachers have been hit especially hard because the school board has agreed to eliminate fifth-grade instrumental music next year.
In addition, the district is trying to negotiate the elimination of elementary school prep time currently covered by vocal music teachers. Music teachers who hold more than one credential, such as Elizabeth Emigh and Mundy Viar at Clayton Valley High School, did not get pink-slipped because they could teach other subjects.
Emigh could teach English and Viar could teach U.S. government and civics. But both teachers said music is their passion.
“Why would I want to give up something I’m an expert in and give kids less than my expertise?” Emigh said.
The district issued 25 pink slips to music teachers and has rescinded eight, said Gail Isserman, assistant superintendent for personnel services.
“We had to go very high up in seniority, if we were going to eliminate music prep — way higher than we were going to eliminate any other subject areas,” she said. “So, that’s why we needed a separate music list.”
The district has posted lists of all pink-slipped employees on its Website at The music list is alphabetical and includes teachers hired as early as 1987.
Here is the music list:
Patrick Abbott
Jennifer Batson
Josephine Bromley
Gregory Brown
Stella Brown
Deborah Bullard
Geoffry Cartner (rescinded; hired in 1987)
Gary Coartney
Kathryn Crandell
Christian Emigh
Magic Jaquez
Johnny Johnson
Nicole Kellersberger (probationary teacher)
Jason Klein
Pamela Madsen
Michael Mares
Loretta McNulty
Emilie Patton
Judy Ryken
Lisa Shedd
Amanda Smythe
Linda Snyder
Eric Thompson (probationary teacher)
Joffria Whitfield
David Wright
You can see a video of Delta View Elementary school’s instrumental music program here:
Isserman said the district has not yet begun negotiations with the teachers’ union. Teachers who have received preliminary layoff notices can attend public administrative hearings regarding credentials and/or seniority April 27-29 at the Willow Creek Center in Concord.
Gary McAdam, principal of Concord High, said both his instrumental and vocal music teachers — Gary Coartney and Christian Emigh — have received preliminary layoff notices. The absence of Coartney and Emigh next year would be devastating, McAdam said.
“It’s horrible,” he said. “It will destroy a top music program. And, this is some of the reason students attend. It’s not just the three Rs, it’s those electives — sports, music and drama — and everything else you do.”
Budget cuts have forced Concord High to eliminate German language and zoology classes and to reduce sections of auto shop, drama, ceramics, bowling and biology, McAdam said.
Teachers will receive final layoff notices in May.

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10 Responses to “Music teacher layoffs loom”

  1. KIss the Ring Says:

    if band and choir are so interested in saving their rograms and teachers maybe they should consider cutting some of their VERY expensive trips

    band camps
    new orleans

    and didnt cctimes run an article asking for help sending the chs choir to china???

    also many music students are taking more than one section of music per year with some taking 3 different music electives their junior and senior year. while music is important if it is the “education” that is important then students should be allowed to take one class per year, afterall its not like kids are taking algebra, geometry and calculus all at once. otherwise what music education becomes is a district funded extra-curricular. so keep raising hundreds of thousands of dollars but dedicate it to maintaining your classroom programs or remove sections and continue to travel as an extra-curricular. music education is the last of the sacred cows. and if it means saving math, science, and english then it is time to accept some cuts as everyone else has

  2. J Carson Says:

    I respectfully point out to the commenter “Kiss the Ring” that the school district does not pay for band camp or music trips. Parents and students work at many fund raiser to sponsor these activities. Individual families pay the difference. Many band students work part time jobs to pay their expenses. It is no secret that many of the band students are also excellent students, due in no small part, to the self discipline and self confidence they gain by participating in band. Both my children were active in band. Both received scholarships and significant financially aide because of their participation in their school music program. We need to provide a comprehensive education for all students. To do so we must offer opportunities for students to participate in fine arts,including music, art and theatre. Let’s not snipe at each other, instead let’s work to solve the real problem which is the undermining of public education in California. Our anger and frustration needs to be directed toward Sacramento, not at individual curricular programs.

  3. Bill Says:

    As a product of the Music program the importance of music is just as important as any of those other subjects. It has been proven to increase a students abilities in all other subjects. To be a well rounded musician you have to be involved in many aspects of the craft. What about the athletes who are in football, baseball, basketball…why not limit them to one sport? The trips are not at the expense of the District. These kids and their parents work hard to hold all kinds of fund raisers and many times provide all the transportation to the event. Kiss the Ring has obviously not been involved in either the music program or has seen their children grow spiritually and emotionally by being involved in the arts. This is not to say that sports does not do the same thing. All of these “extra” activities makes a child a better person and keeps them involved in life and many times describes their future. We owe it to their future and ours to keep these programs at all costs. How about each person in the state be assessed $10 per year…that would not even pay for lunch and could stop all of these cuts. To me the problem is at the management level of the District and further up to the State Administration.

  4. tharrington Says:

    Here is the link: I just tried it and it worked. The lists are part of Exhibit A.

  5. KIss the Ring Says:

    There is a huge difference between playing more than one sport and taking more than one section of band. When a school dedicated 5 elective sections to band that means othe electives must be cut. At Concord High School we have completely cut both ASL and German, but we still have 5 sections of band, servicing the same 100 kids. A kid playing more than one sport effects no ones ability to take UC level classes.
    I agree that the students do a tremendous job fundraising for the trips. My point is that if the families want the music EDUCATION then that fundraised monies should go to playing for the 2 extra sections of band and 2 extra sections of choir, and maybe compete locally until the sections are returned Again no one is saying that music education is not wonderful and important, but I am saying that access to other electives for all students is.

  6. P Filstrup Says:

    In response to Kiss the Ring: As a parent of 4 students who have all been involved in band during their MDUSD school days, I do not agree and take great offense at this commentary. It is obvious to me that you do not understand these music programs at all. Yes, we take a variety of trips – and we pay for them all by working hundreds and hundreds of hours with Bingo, car washes, annual march-a-thons, dinner dances, buying scrip and on and on. Our students work many hours on learning difficult and challenging pieces of music to perform and compete on these different trips. Our band and choir directors spend countless hours with our students working to make these programs and students successful. These music programs do change students’ lives! Many of us also have students in sports which we also pay for them to participate in. These same students are many of the top students at their school taking AP and Honors classes. Their music classes make them better, well-rounded students. As far as taking cuts, take a better look at the these programs. You obviously have no idea the time, dedication, passion, work and money everyone dedicates to these music programs. Believe me, we have taken our share of the cuts! I might add that many of us are also dedicating our time in working with the Music Foundation to earn funds for the entire district music program. I invite you to attend the event on May 15th at the Concord Pavilion and listen to these students and perhaps you would get a better understanding of how important these programs are to our students. While it is obviously very important that students succeed in all areas – math, science, history and languages – music is just as important!

  7. KIss the Ring Says:

    one question, why should we have 5 sections of band?

  8. Seriously Says:

    to kiss the ring- get educated on music and on the workings of the school before you go offending so many involved in arts programs and products of arts programs- students drive the schedule- if not enough students sign up for GERMAN than the class gets cut. If an elective is attracting so many students, the sections will be there. Each section of band has a different emphasis, just as jazz is so different than classical music.

  9. KIss the Ring Says:

    I understand far more than I am given credit for. And I know how elective sections work. So you have the same 120 kids signing up to fill those different 5 sections and taking elective spots for UC APPROVED electives. I am not trying to cut away at music ed for other programs. I want my kids to be able to take non-music electives. believe me I don’t care who I offend. And before it goes any further, then if there is no JazzII class then it would useless to take Jazz more than once because the class has a structured curriuculum? Just as it would be useless to take life science more than once. But we all know that is not the case. There is no structure or curriculum. It is rehearsal time for the extra -curricular “gigs”.

  10. Lucy Says:

    To Kiss the Ring:
    Are you saying that music classes have no structure or curriculum? I hope not, because you couldn’t be more wrong. Also, most, if not all music courses are UC approved courses. And why? Because it’s an academic subject, just as are all other VAPA courses. VAPA courses are not “extra-curricular” activities anymore (or shouldn’t be – for those schools behind the times and haven’t figured out, or are in denial, that the arts are the core of any good education.

    I understand that if there are too many elective choices at a school, then something is always going to get the short end of the stick. And that needs some serious consideration and discussion. But I don’t agree that the solution is just to cut sections. We should not deny students the opportunity to take advanced classes in any subject, especially if there are students who know that their college/career path will be in the arts. No different than someone who wants to go into medicine and wants to take as many bio classes as possibler.

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