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Catalyst Chicago Magazine - News and Analysis

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.