Band students make a stand for popular music teachers

FLINT TWP. — Carman-Ainsworth music teachers reached a mutual agreement about job assignments next school year that may come as music to the ears of avid middle school band students and parents.

A group of eight students and three parents attended last week’s school board meeting to protest what they believed to be staff changes affecting the middle school music program. In particular, the group sought to retain middle school music teachers Sue Miller and Milissa Kenworthy.

Each student and parent spoke passionately, sometimes choking up tearfully, about the family relationship shared with the two teachers and the great strides CAMS music program has made under their direction including higher scores in band competitions.

Student Noah Vanderhyde said the teachers provide life advice as well as music guidance.

“Our lives will be changed if they don’t keep their jobs,’’ he said

Danielle Crowder made similar statements saying: “They made me the person and musician I am today.”

Alexis Menard added: ““They’re like my best friends. I tell them everything.”

Parent Sheri Pangerl said: “Some teachers you just tolerate and other inspire. These teachers inspire.”

The school board heard all 11 speakers out but Superintendent Bill Haley said their concerns had already been resolved. He did not have firsthand details but spoke of a recent re-staffing meeting between Assistant Superintendent Steve Tunnicliff with music teachers that resulted in assignments that all concerned were happy with.

Haley also explained that school administrators are contractually bound to honor teacher assignments by seniority.

Tunnicliff was not at the board meeting to provide more detail about the outcome of the restaffing meeting but later confirmed what Haley said.

“We have a very structured and specific staffing process that we follow when under staff reduction (as we are this year),” Tunnicliff said. That procedure was followed for all departments including the music staff, he said.

Teachers with the most seniority and certain qualifications are given first preference in open positions, he said. The most senior music teachers were granted their preferences next year in the staffing process and those with least seniority were placed according to contract language.

But a few days after this process was completed, the music teachers requested permission from the union and Tunnicliff to let them work out different staffing arrangements Tunnicliff said.

“We all met on Monday, May 14 for this purpose and literally every music teacher left pleased with their staffing assignment,” he said.

Miller and Kenworthy – the two teachers the protest group were trying to retain _ will stay in the majority of their positions at the middle school next year, Tunnicliff confirmed.

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