Parent Karen Donnelly addressed the Board Of Education (BOE) at the November 6th school board meeting regarding the loss of district chorus and other extracurricular activities – including chess – due to a lack of stipends.
“It makes me a little upset. I know this is a big contract year for all the teachers,” said Ms. Donnelly during the public comment portion of the meeting, “Let me just preface this – you are so very lucky to have the staff that you do. There are so many staff that do so many extracurricular for our students that aren’t getting paid. One of them is district chorus. So since there is no stipend for district chorus, [it] is now non-existent this year which breaks my heart.”
Ms. Donnelly added that men’s and women’s choir had been impacted as well, with one of them being dissolved and the other having its rehearsals reduced from two rehearsals to once a week.
“I also learned in the middle school we have 26 students that are interested in having a chess club,” the parent continued, “but we don’t have the stipend to pay someone to run chess club at the middle school. That makes me very sad.”
Ms. Donnelly remarked, “There [are] several stipends on here from the high school that really need to be looked at again. Now that I have a senior at the high school I’ve seen the goings on and how many hours are entailed in each and every extracurricular activity. It doesn’t add up. It just doesn’t add up.”
In a follow-up conversation, Ms. Donnelly explained that she had noticed that some stipends are for a once-a-month club meeting versus a music ensemble that meets twice a week with the same pay.
“And then you have so many staff that are not getting paid for what they’re doing for our students,” the parent continued at the BOE meeting, “There [are] so many wonderful, wonderful programs that get our students involved. And this is only what I know . . . I don’t know about any of the other clubs and I’m sure there are so many more that go unnoticed but I really am here advocating number one for the music department because it’s really a shame and number two you’re going to end up burning out your teachers to the point where programs are getting dissolved such as the district chorus because we’re not paying them a stipend. So what can we do about that?”
School Superintendent Pedro Garrido responded, “Ms. Donnelly, thank you for bringing them to my attention however these are negotiable types of extracurricular activities that need to go to the union. Individual teachers can write a proposal and they are negotiated with the board when negotiations come around.”
Ms. Donnelly asked, “So what’s happens? The teachers need to get the union involved? What would be the protocol if someone were to start a chess club at the middle school?”
“They can write a proposal,” replied the school superintendent.
Ms. Donnelly then wanted to ask about another issue but the three-minute time limit for the public to comment was up. BOE President Loren Harms notified the resident, “I’m sorry, your time is up.”
Mr. Garrido stated that she could reach out to him for more information.
Ms. Donnelly continued, “What are your plans for the AP statistics teacher to be…”
“Ms. Donnelly, I’m sorry, your time is up. You had three minutes. I’m sorry,” repeated Mr. Harms.
“So there [are] four people here and I can’t ask another question?”, the parent asked.
“You had three minutes and your time is up.”
“Okay,” Ms. Donnelly stated but continued, “The AP statistics teacher is leaving and I would really want a [resolution] for that because apparently…”
“You can call the superintendent,” reiterated Mr. Harms.
“Well, apparently they’re going to replace her with a computer program. I would really like an answer for that,” she said. After a brief exchange which included Mr. Magiera speaking from the audience, Ms. Donnelly returned to her seat, retorting, “And you wonder why people don’t come and talk. Why there [are] six people here. Unbelievable.”
“We have rules and we follow them,” concluded Mr. Harms.
Mr. Harms was referring to the board policy that explicitly limits comments from the audience to three minutes. There are times when a speaker can request an extension of time to either finish a question or a statement. Although this guideline has been adhered to when Mr. Harms has been present, a BOE meeting in April of this year allowed a member of the audience to speak out of turn during a presentation to the varsity wrestling team. That meeting was run by BOE Vice President Christopher Miller.
Regarding her concerns with the advanced placement teacher, Ms. Donnelly relayed that she called Mr. Garrido the next morning and he told her that the district advertised for the position but that math teachers are hard to come by. She commented, “I’m very concerned as this is a college level class and the students can earn college credits if they pass the exam in May and if they don’t find a teacher they will have a computer program to teach them. I’ve experienced Rosetta Stone in lieu of the French 4 teacher last year and it was not successful. This is my concern this year.”