What have we learned from music controversy?
Now that we all know the music department assignments at Chase County Schools will stay the same in 2017-18, all is well and good.
Or is it?
From the very beginning, what was really a compliment to Vocal Director Randy Hayes’ abilities as an accomplished music teacher turned, unfortunately, into something else the past few weeks.
He and a group of supporters, most of them adults, not only continued to question and challenge the school administration’s decision on what the music teachers would be teaching next year, some patrons took to social media to make personal attacks. Some who wrote Letters to the Editor to this newspaper or put up Facebook posts encouraging others to contact school board members with their concerns, or passed petitions, didn’t even talk to board members themselves on the issue.
In more than one instance at the recent school board meetings, Supt. Joey Lefdal lauded Hayes’ abilities as a music teacher, noting his talents could only make the high school band program better.
Unlike some misinformation being spread, band teacher Agnes Strand supported the changes that added junior high vocal music to her schedule, which had previously been assigned to Hayes. Strand would continue to teach elementary band classes, while Hayes would direct 9-12 band and also continue to guide the high school choir and 9th St. Singers.
But Hayes and others would have none of that for his performing groups; he wanted only to teach vocal music in grades 7-12. He made a point at the June board meeting to emphasize all the awards his music students have received, and felt that was in jeopardy if he also had to direct high school band.
Many of his supporters, and Hayes himself, inferred that he was the only one who could build the foundation for high school music in the junior high choral programs.
During all of this, there has been an overflowing of praise for director Agnes Strand and her work with the 5-12 band program from both sides, but it appeared no one but the administration trusted that her enthusiasm, and success, could extend to grade 7-8 vocal students.
I certainly would have loved to have my kids experience Agnes as their junior high vocal music teacher, followed by another great teacher in Randy Hayes in high school.
Besides the attempt to make high school band better, there were other reasons for the music schedule changes. Other teachers had approached the administration about Hayes’ less than full class load while earning full-time pay. And having covered school board for decades, this year was not the first time those concerns have been an issue.
It’s not the first time either for teachers at Chase County Schools, or I would guess in most schools, to have teaching assignments changed they didn’t agree with, or like.
I can think of several instances when teachers here were assigned a different class or two. Many in our elementary grades were reassigned entire grade levels just recently. Several years before that, one of our high school science teachers was given different classes to teach. Some teachers weren’t very happy about it, and took their concerns to the board, much like Hayes did. Yet, they accepted the new assignments without further public challenges.
At the June 13 meeting, even after Supt. Lefdal said he would reverse his decision on Hayes’ 2017-18 assignments, the choral director still responded, “And what if I resign?”
It was Hayes who made a comparison that just as athletic teams work toward a good showing in the playoffs or regional contests, so, too, do music students work toward superiors and Best of Class in their end-of-year contests. That’s all commendable for sure, but just winning awards isn’t what’s important in education, whether we are talking academics, music, sports or other extra-curriculars.
While winning is great, the process in getting there is more important. The hard work along the way and lessons learned from the example of teachers, directors and coaches breed success.
As the saying goes, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”
It’s likely all of the music programs at Chase County Schools would have continued to excel with the proposed changes. I wouldn’t have bet against that and I don’t believe our programs would have become “mediocre.”
But I also wonder what this ordeal has taught our young people. I’m not sure a great lesson was learned here.