Latest News

Catalyst Chicago Magazine - News and Analysis

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Final note before closing

Those of us who are fortunate enough to remain continue to dedicate ourselves to arts educations 100%. 
Our students will excel.
We have again been told  (third year now) at district meetings to advocate for ourselves to the public. 
The district will not advocate for us.  This seems reasonable and we have done this.

The problem is:
We have been told to advocate to the public but the job cuts have come from within the district itself—not from the public.

It is this disconnect that sadly we must overcome.

Phil Fried


The layoffs have occurred and the remaining tenured teachers forced into TOSA positions outside of music.
Elementary instrumental music has been eliminated and shifted to an ALC after school program except in a few schools that have it in their SCIP plans.

Details of the ALC band program.

ALC Band is now part of ALC enrichment. That is pull outs from ALC remedial classes
Only those who are in the ALC remedial programs, or take the ALC enrichment programs can use the district bus service.
Any student can be in the ALC band program if there is parent pick up.
The new ALC band director has been hired but is not an instrumental music person. Her job description (at least on paper) has many other duties.  This means her job only allows for a 50% time allotment to ALC Band.

This will not be less expensive than a daytime program rather it merely a budget switch.
Hiring teaching staff has not taken place yet.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Some Good News From the US Congress

H.CON.RES.275 -- Expressing support for designation of the week beginning on the second Sunday of September as Arts in Education Week. (Introduced in House - IH)

2d Session
H. CON. RES. 275

Expressing support for designation of the week beginning on the second Sunday of September as Arts in Education Week.

May 6, 2010

Ms. SPEIER (for herself, Ms. SLAUGHTER, Mr. WU, Mrs. DAVIS of California, Mr. MCDERMOTT, Mr. NEAL of Massachusetts, Ms. BERKLEY, Ms. MATSUI, Ms. LEE of California, Mrs. MALONEY, Mr. GRIJALVA, Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, Mr. PASCRELL, Mr. POLIS of Colorado, Mr. MORAN of Virginia, Mr. SMITH of Washington, Mr. SPRATT, Mr. CONNOLLY of Virginia, Mr. MCNERNEY, Mr. STARK, Mr. THOMPSON of California, Mr. FARR, Mr. GARAMENDI, Ms. KAPTUR, Mr. TONKO, Mr. SCHAUER, Ms. MOORE of Wisconsin, Ms. WOOLSEY, Mr. KIND, Mr. CUMMINGS, Ms. WATSON, Mr. HOLT, Mr. DEFAZIO, Mr. ACKERMAN, Mr. PATRICK J. MURPHY of Pennsylvania, Mr. MCGOVERN, Mr. PLATTS, Mr. FILNER, Mr. LANGEVIN, Ms. SCHWARTZ, Ms. MCCOLLUM, Ms. CLARKE, Mr. SCHIFF, Mr. CONYERS, Mr. CAO, Mrs. CHRISTENSEN, Mr. DICKS, Mr. PALLONE, Ms. CASTOR of Florida, Mr. RAHALL, Mr. SNYDER, Ms. NORTON, Ms. BORDALLO, Mr. HALL of New York, Mr. BERMAN, Mr. SHERMAN, Mr. ALEXANDER, Mr. ROTHMAN of New Jersey, Ms. HIRONO, Mr. WATT, Mr. GUTIERREZ, Mr. YARMUTH, Ms. SUTTON, Mr. HINCHEY, and Mr. HARE) submitted the following concurrent resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Education and Labor


Expressing support for designation of the week beginning on the second Sunday of September as Arts in Education Week.
Whereas arts education, comprising a rich array of disciplines including dance, music, theatre, media arts, literature, design, and visual arts, is a core academic subject and an essential element of a complete and balanced education for all students;
Whereas according to Albert Einstein, `After a certain high level of technical skill is achieved, science and art tend to coalesce in esthetics, plasticity, and form. The greatest scientists are artists as well.';
Whereas arts education enables students to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills, imagination and creativity, discipline, alternative ways to communicate and express feelings and ideas, and cross-cultural understanding, which supports academic success across the curriculum as well as personal growth outside the classroom;
Whereas the nonprofit arts sector is an economic engine and plays a significant role in the economic health of communities large and small with direct expenditures of wages and benefits as well as goods and services;
Whereas to succeed in today's economy, students must masterfully use words, images, sounds, and movement to communicate;
Whereas as the Nation works to strengthen its foothold in the 21st century global economy, the arts equip students with a creative, competitive edge;
Whereas the arts provide the skills and knowledge students need to develop the creativity and determination necessary for success in the global information age;
Whereas where schools and communities are delivering high-quality learning opportunities in, through, and about the arts for children, extraordinary results occur;
Whereas according to a study by the Arts Education Partnership entitled Third Space: When Learning Matters, schools with large populations of students in economic poverty can be transformed into vibrant hubs of learning when the arts are infused into the culture and curriculum;
Whereas studies have also found that eighth graders from underresourced environments who are highly involved in the arts have better grades, less likelihood of dropping out by grade ten, have more positive attitudes about school, and are more likely to go onto college;
Whereas attracting and retaining the best teachers is vital and can be achieved by ensuring that schools embrace the arts, becoming havens for creativity and innovation;
Whereas arts education has the power to make students want to learn not just within the arts, but other areas of study;
Whereas art is integral to the lives of United States citizens and essential to the health and vitality of communities and the Nation; and
Whereas the week beginning on the second Sunday of September would be an appropriate week to designate as Arts in Education Week: Now, therefore, be it
    Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That Congress--
      (1) supports the designation of Arts in Education Week;
      (2) calls on governors, mayors, and other elected officials from across the United States to issue proclamations to raise awareness of the value and importance of arts in education; and
      (3) encourages the President to issue a proclamation encouraging the people of the United States to observe such week with appropriate activities.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Urgent message

The time to contact the board is now! 
Write them snail mail 360 Colborne -see the info below in older posts.  
Call them.
Tell them to save the program that works!  
Tell them what music means to you!
Tell them how music made a difference in your,  or your family's, life.
Don't wait! 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

More from Paul SPFT

Parents need to know:

1) Because of the possible illegality of laying off tenured music teachers (due 
to the probationary TOSAs) there is a real chance to get the board to reconsider 
their decisions about music cuts. Is the school board really going to say that 
SPPS prefers to place world-class music teachers in non-classroom positions when 
we could eliminate those TOSA positions (none of which provide direct services 
to children or families) and use the money to return teachers to their music 
positions? It is HIGHLY unlikely that the administration has framed the question 
in this way to board members but this IS the choice they have to make.

2) NOW is the time for board members to hear from parents that they prefer 
spending money on music in our schools rather than preserving these 
administrative positions.

3) SPFT is fighting for music in the SPPS and has been for some time. There has 
been some misinformation circulating among parents suggesting that our union is 
to blame for layoffs of less senior teachers as a result of these proposed 
budget cuts. The Minnesota Teacher Tenure Act (MN Stat 122A.41) establishes the 
rules for cutting teacher positions - not our contract. That same law prevents 
the district from laying off tenured teachers when there are positions that 
their license would allow them to hold that are currently held by probationary 

I can't attend the meeting because it conflicts with my daughter's 4th birthday 
party this Saturday.

Let me know if you have questions.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Hold it! Music Layoff are on Hold till July

 A message from Paul


I got the following email this morning from HR confirming that the district will
not be bringing the proposed layoffs of tenured teachers to the board tomorrow
night. This delay is the result of a concern the union has raised about the
legality of laying off tenured teachers (in areas such as music) when there are
as many as 40 probationary teachers holding various TOSA positions that require
a teaching license but not a license in any particular area. It is the union's
position that tenured teachers have rights to those TOSA positions and may not
be laid off.

The district has said that it intends to "study" this issue over the next month
and could choose to bring the proposed layoffs to the board at its 7/20 meeting.

Those of you who had been expecting official layoff notices should be getting
contacted by Julie Coffey over the next several days to explain that those
notices will be delayed. It is our hope that they never come at all. However, if
the district does send notices out in July, we would encourage any impacted
tenured teachers to request a hearing to challenge your layoff. The union will
provide legal representation to members at that hearing at no charge. That would
be the venue for us to formally make this argument about the legality of the

One unintended consequence of this delay is that teachers who thought they would
be receiving formal layoff notices should hold off on filing for unemployment
for now. You still have a "reasonable expectation" of reemployment in the fall
unless and until we learn otherwise from the district in July.

Please call if you have any questions about this. Also, please come to this
afternoon's meeting with Jan Spencer (4:15 today at the SPFT office) so we can
raise some of our concerns about the proposal to move elementary instrumental
music into ALC.



Forwarded Message: Paul - Just an FYI that we are not taking layoffs to the BOE on 6/15 for approval until we can get better clarification on the TOSA issue. We'll plan to take - probably in July. I need to notify teachers that are affected and will do so in the next day or two.

As mentioned in the previous post about the Monday Meeting we do not know what happens if these lay offs are canceled.
Will the music positions also be reinstated?
Or will these teachers will become TOSA's themselves?

The scoop

At the meeting; the district gave information and requested our input on the new ALC instrumental music program and we gave it.

  1. half hour lessons
  2. more than one teacher at each location; at least 2 teachers at 4 hours each
  3. phone number for the new program asap -- transparency is a must
  4. quality control, and performances
  5. instrument rental and collection details
  6. start a pilot program first then expand
  7. teach fewer instruments 
  8. recruitment can not be limited to after school
The district could not, or did not have, answer these questions:
  1. What is the total budget?
  2. Who are our partners?
  3. Who will be hired?
  4. Who will do the hiring?
  5. Are music experts involved with the above decisions?
  6. If we spps music teachers give input will it be used?
  7. If we spps music teachers give input will it be paid for?
  8. How will quality control be implemented?
  9. If the layoffs are stopped will those music teachers positions be restored or will they become TOSA's? 
  10. How is one TOSA going to create quality control for 30 plus weekly locations and 3 Saturday locations? 
  11. Will schools that retain daytime instrumental music also have an ALC instrumental program?
  12. How will this program be integrated with the elementrary school experience?
  13. How to maintain continuity.
  14. Explain what is our, the remaining music teachers, or the perspective ALC music teachers buy in?
  15. What is the time line to have all details in place?
  16. How do you address all the different needs of students who want and need instrumental music?
  17. How many teachers will be in each location and how long will they work?
  18. Who will recruit and when? 
  19. How will instruments be distributed and collected, inventories maintained and protected?
  20. What are the student costs?
What did we find out?

  1. The $150,000.00 figure will not be used for instruction but will be use to find outside partnerships. Also it may or may not be used to fund the new TOSA ALC instrumental music director. 
  2. Instrumental music will be part of several different enrichments added to ALC to give it more variety. (So whats bad for the schools is good for ALC)
  3. There may be a partnership ahead (My bet--MacPhail -others say Walker West)
  4. ALC will fully fund the program for its complete length.
  5. ALC requires fully licensed staff, but they might be able to bend the rules a little. ( Bus funding requires licensed staff to teach)
  6. Local control of the program will devolve to each particular ALC school lead teacher.
  7. The program will take place at all ALC locations and at 3 different locations on Saturdays.
  8. I infer that the program will not be centralized.  In any event the ALC instrumental music director will be hard put to create uniformity at so many locations at once. 
  9. The ALC music TOSA has not yet been hired.
    Sorry to say folks I was almost in tears after the meeting.  SPPS have no plan just space and an idea and limited funding. That might be enough yet it is not clear that there is any cost savings to be realized from this proposal other than the use of the different ALC budget line (An anonymous source mentioned the SPPS was looking for volunteer music teachers).  Nor is it clear that a viable replacement standards based music program up and running by September can be developed in this manner. 

    Paul said this new program is a joke as there is no workable model to be found. Or its a strategic maneuver to make it look as if SPPS were keeping the instrumental music program intact.

    Stay tuned for more info.


    Dr. Phil

    Saturday, June 12, 2010

    "Music for All" Saint Paul Music Education - Meeting to Form Advocacy Group

    Saturday, June 19, 2010
    2:00pm - 3:00pm
    Hamline Midway Library - Auditorium
    1558 Minnehaha Ave W
    Saint Paul, MN

     Facebook page

    Thursday, June 10, 2010

    Sad News


    It is with regret that I report to you that SPPS has cut music.  These cuts which include hires up to 1999 were even deeper than expected, and include classroom music specialists. We have lost more than 30% of our teachers even though the SPPS only experienced a 5 % cut. Instead of evenly spreading out the cuts SPPS chose to eliminate the entire program.
    What this means:

    SPPS will go forward with its plan to outsource elementary instrumental music teaching (classroom music also), replacing full time positions with part time workers either before/after school and on Saturdays.   The details of this plan will be made public to the remaining music teachers on Monday. Details will follow here.

    Those of us who remain are now placed in the position of supporting this plan whether we think it good policy or not.

    It means that this is no longer just a music issue, but also an issue of  total quality instruction, full participation, school culture, and identity.

    Schools are not factories. 

    Related Problems:

    Elementary Classroom Music.

    By law elementary classroom teachers are just as able to teach music as specialists are.  Classroom teachers take only 2 classes to be qualified.  In addition, classroom teachers are allowed to interpret the standards in their own way i.e.  The State Elementary Music Standards have no standard so they have no meaning.

    Why this is bad

    There is no need for classroom music specialists.  They are expendable.

    Outsourcing isn't cheaper.

    Commercial music schools and instrument rentals are much more expensive than SPPS in house music specialists and school rentals.   Commercial music schools have mostly private lessons and few ensembles.

    If outsourcing isn't cheaper how is this going to work?

    Fewer participants?
    Short term artists in residences?
    Outside funding?

    Details will follow Monday's meeting.

    Saturday, May 8, 2010

    Do elementary instrumental teachers just teach music lessons?

    Do elementary instrumental teachers just teach lessons?  They can do that after school can't they?

    No.  We do not just teach lessons.
    We teach ensembles and direct concerts
    We build and create teams.  
    These teams can continue all the way through to high school.

    Sunday, May 2, 2010

    What to tell the board

    We believe that the board has been misinformed about the nature and and extent of the cuts to elementary music.

    1.Music will be completely removed from school's curriculum as many Schools have no classroom music specialists. 

    A classroom teacher singing a song or showing a picture of a violin is not a substitute for learning music. 

    2.The proposed ALC music program has nothing to do with the current itinerant music program. 

    Those teachers, 10.6, are scheduled to be laid off.
    They will be replaced with part time workers.

    3.There is no evidence that day time pull-outs inhibit learning.

    4.There is no evidence that removing music from the school day will increase efficiency.

    5.Rather there is evidence that removing day time music will cause the loss of students and the funding that comes with them. 

    It will not save money.

    6.The effect of these cuts on the quality of the middle and high school programs will be substantial.   

    Besides the program continuity issue the entire music staff will have to be reshuffled.

    7.No one knows what this after school program is or what it will be.

    8.We do know that the proposed after school music program represents approximately an 85% cut in funding and a 90% cut in face time. In addition it may involve outsourcing.   

    How can this program reach more children?
    The issue of Friday scheduling (fewer teaching days) became a problem only because of the directives and inflexibility from the district.  This is not even a problem for every teacher.  For the few it does concern many have found creative solutions.

    9.The proposed after school music program is essentially vaporware. 

    Accountability starts now.

    10.Music still bares the brunt of layoffs.  

    Just like last year. 

    11.Who knows where or when the cuts to music will end.

    Did music have to be cut? 
    Could cuts have been made elsewhere?

    The board voted April 20th to cut only 8 administrative positions out of the proposed 20.

    From Paul Rohlfing:

    Allow principals to decide whether to spend building dollars on Coaches instead of mandating coaches as has been the practice at the district in recent years. Making the hiring of building coaches an option would result in schools being able to prioritize more dollars to direct service to kids and families.

    From Mary Cathryn:

    Currently 300+ teachers on special assignment or TOSA positions.

    ·      Prioritize bricks & mortar spending on energy efficiency for long-term cost savings

    ·      Limit the use of outside consultants and use the expertise of the 3,200+ licensed staff already employed by SPPS (look for internal solutions—like for cultural competency, literacy instruction, etc.)

    ·      Moratorium on initiatives and limit the current initiatives.

    ·      In considering school closings, set criteria for closing that includes respecting the impact on the school and neighborhood community AND define how we will better meet the needs of students and expand their access to high-quality, licensed and non-licensed staff at the same time.

    ·      Work together on a student recruitment campaign because we still have so much to offer in St. Paul Public Schools we can coordinate how we showcase the district’s attributes.

    ·      Make a decision about busing, have a rationale for it, and move on.

    ·      Eliminate leased space-cost neutral to the district but critically important to St. Paul as we look to our referendum renewal (Currently 20 levies operating for St. Paul Public Schools, only 1 is voter-approved).

    ·      Rethink how we deliver ALC programming, to better meet the needs of our students AND be more cost-effective with the money at the same time.

    Friday, April 30, 2010

    Contact the board with your concerns

    Go to the Board of Education meetings!!
    May 4, 4:30 PM at 360 Colborne Street.

    Folks can talk to the board at these meetings:

    May 13, 2010                                       
    7:00 p.m.                                               Board of Education Listening Session
                                                                    Neighborhood House
    Heitmeyer Room
    Wellstone Center (Neighborhood House)
    179 Robert Street, St. Paul
    May 18, 2010                                       
    4:30 p.m. & After BOE                         Committee of the Board
                                                                    Standing Item:  Budget Update
    May 18, 2010                                       
    5:45 p.m.   (You can talk to the Board)                             Board of Education Meeting
                                                                                                   360 Colborne
    May 20, 2010 (Thursday)                  
    4:30 p.m.                                               Committee of the Board
    ·   Standing Item:  Budget Update

    June 1, 2010                                       
    4:30 p.m.                                               Special Board of Education Meeting
    Action on Non-Renewals

    Tell them to keep daytime elementary instrumental music in the Saint Paul Public Schools!

    Friday, April 23, 2010

    The Saint Paul School Board has said that elementary classroom music will continue.

    The following St. Paul elementary schools DO NOT have classroom or vocal music:

    1.       Ames
    2.       Barack and Michelle Obama
    3.       Cherokee
    4.       Como Park
    5.       Daytons Bluff
    6.       Farnsworth lower campus
    7.       French Immersion
    8.       Galtier
    9.      Hancock
    10.    Highland Park Elementary
    11.    Highwood Hills
    12.    Homecroft n/a
    13.    John A Johnson
    14.    Mann
    15.    Nokomis
    16.    North End
    17.    Open
    18.    Prosperity Heights
    19.    Randolph Heights
    20.    World Cultures/AIM
    21.     Frost Lake, Grades 4-6

    The following St. Paul elementary schools have part time music or culture/integrated arts (which may or may not include music study):

    1. Phalen
    2. Longfellow (.5)
    1. JJ Hill
    2. Eastern Heights integrated arts
    3. American Indian 
    4. World Cultures
    5. Capitol Hill
    6. Frost Lake, K-3 

    The following St. Paul elementary schools  DO have full time classroom or vocal music:

    1.          Adams
    2.          Battle Creek Elementary
    3.          Ben Mays
    4.          Bruce Vento
    5.          Chelsea Heights
    6.          Crossroads Arts, Science, Montessori
    7.          EXPO
    8.          Four Seasons
    9.          Franklin Music Magnet
    10.      Frost Lake
    11.      Groveland
    12.      Hayden Heights
    13.      Jackson
    14.      Linwood
    15.      Maxfield
    16.      Mississippi Creative Arts
    Scheduled to lose 1 Music position
    17.      Monroe 
    18.      Museum
    19.      Wellstone
    20.      Riverview
    21.      Roosevelt
    22.      Sheridan
    23.      St. Anthony Park


    No vocal for Farnsworth
    Hazel park (half time)
    Highland Park (no vocal)
    Murray (No vocal)
    Open (no vocal- or band only strings K-6)


    Arlington (.5 total)
    Central (.5 vocal)
    Creative Arts High School - no music
    Gordon Parks- no music
    Highland Senior (.5 vocal)
    Leap ???
    Johnson Senior (.5 vocal)
    Open- NO music

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010

    The Board has not saved our program they have gutted it instead

    The SPPS school board has decided to remove instrumental study from the elementary school day into a two afternoon after school activity.  This effectively kills and outsources the program.  

    What this means:
    10.6 full time teaching positions will still be cut.
    These positions will then be replaced with perhaps a 4-8 hour a week part time work.
    In essence less than 1 day of teaching per week when their used to be five full days.

    How can the Board say its continuing the itinerant music program and yet not retain its teachers?
    The reduced SPPS Staff will simply have to look elsewhere for full time jobs.
    The after school programs will go to either other SPPS teachers as additional work or to outside contractors.

    Isn't music still in the schools?
    It may be but it is no longer central to students education or school experience.  
    Few elementary schools have classroom music. 

    Won't there be greater access to music for our kids? The school superintendent said so? 
    Cutting a program by approximately 80%  cannot improve access.
    Rather, it is severely diminished.  

    To call a new after school program connected to ALC the "itinerant  music program" is misleading and as proposed untrue.

    Why these cuts are bad:
    The experiment to turn elementary schools into learning factories has no scientific basis only a financial one.
    There is no evidence that this procedure will improve test scores or help schools reach AYP.

    A School is more than test scores!
    Bring the Itinerant Music Teachers Back! 

    Saturday, April 17, 2010

    We are back because the cuts to instrumental music are back!

    SPPS has proposed to eliminate itinerant instrumental music program for grades 4-6, to save $900,000. 
     These cuts involve 10.6 full-time-equivalent positions. 

    Call the board!!
    Go to the next Board of Education meeting!! 
    April 20, 5:45 PM at 360 Colborne Street.
    Wear Red!!
    Tell them to keep elementary instrumental music in the Saint Paul Public Schools!
    More information will follow!
     Facebook connect

    If you wish contact all Board members with a question or concern, please e-mail your question or concern to Marilyn Polsfuss, Secretary to the Board (click on name for e-mail form).  On receipt it will be forwarded to all Board members.

    Elona Street-Stewart, Chair 651-291-8569
    John Brodrick,

    Keith Hardy,

    Jean O'Connell,

    Anne Carroll,

    Kazoua Kong-Thao,

    Vallay Varro,


    The following Board of Education meeting will be held in the district Administration Building at 360 Colborne Street unless otherwise noted
    360 Colborne Street -- Saint Paul, MN 55102 -- (651) 767-8149

    April 20, 2010                                      
    4:00 p.m.                                               Committee of the Board
                                                                    ●      Standing Item:  Budget Update
    April 20, 2010                                      
    5:45 p.m.                                               Board of Education Meeting
    May 4, 2010                                         
    4:30 p.m.                                               Committee of the Board
    ·          Quarterly Financial Update
    ·          Presentation of Recommended 2010-2011 SPPS Budget (including Referendum Report & ARRA Update [as necessary])
    May 13, 2010                                       
    7:00 p.m.                                               Board of Education Listening Session
                                                                    Neighborhood House
    May 18, 2010                                       
    4:30 p.m. & After BOE                         Committee of the Board
                                                                    ●      Standing Item:  Budget Update
    May 18, 2010                                       
    5:45 p.m.                                               Board of Education Meeting

    May 20, 2010 (Thursday)                  
    4:30 p.m.                                               Committee of the Board
    ·          Standing Item:  Budget Update

    June 1, 2010                                       
    4:30 p.m.                                               Special Board of Education Meeting
    ·          Action on Non-Renewals
    June 1, 2010                                       
    5:30 p.m. 5A                                         Committee of the Board
    ·          Standing Item:  Budget Update
    ·          Work Session:  (PLA & Procurement/Minority-Owned Businesses Discussion)
    June 15, 2010                                     
    5:45 p.m.                                               Board of Education Meeting