Shen. Valley Board fails to meet quorum; honors Students of the Month and hears comments from concerned band parents, staff, and alumni
SHENANDOAH - Five makes a quorum for the Shenandoah Valley School Board, but only four members were present for Wednesday's meeting. Despite this, a larger-than-usual crowd was present, many to support the Elementary and High School Students of the Month from December and January who were to be honored, and many to confront the board about a plan regarding the replacement of the Elementary Music Teacher, following her resignation.
The meeting began with an explanation from Board President Daniel Salvadore of the situation. Five members were required for a quorum, but only four were present.
"Unfortunately, this will not be an official meeting, but we will conduct the meeting for the sake of the student of the months" Salvadore said.
Shenandoah Valley Elementary Vice Principal Ms. Lesley Matus introduced the Elementary Students of the Month for December and January.
Afterward, Shenandoah Valley High School Principal Mr. Phillip Andras introduced the High School Student of the Month Marisol Velazquez, who gave a report on happenings in the high school.
Shenandoah Valley Superintendent Mr. Brian Waite then introduced two Shenandoah Valley students from the Schuylkill Technology Center, Kat Quick and Justice Swartz, who competed at SkillsUSA recently. Waite commended the two for their hard work and dedication to their respective programs.
Waite also reported that March 20th will be used as a snow make-up day. The day was previously scheduled as an ACT 80 Day, a day off for students.
Salvadore recognized that there was a large group of band parents at the meeting, and invited them to bring their concerns up to the board, if they had any.
"If you have anything to talk to the board about, or suggestions, or whatever, you're free to do so. It's not an official meeting, but we don't want you to come here for no reason" said Salvadore.
Shenandoah Valley Band Director Mr. Walter Choplick approached the podium, and brought up concerns about a plan to replace the Elementary Music Teacher position with an Elementary Physical Education/Health Teacher.
The Music Teacher position opened up recently, as Ms. Kayla Stiely, who currently holds the position, informed the school and band that she would be resigning. Stiely is also the High School Assistant Band Director.
"As you may know, there have been countless studies that show correlation between music classes in school and students having a higher IQ score" Choplick said, citing a 2006 study by the American Psychological Association.
"This has a direct correlation to the students here at Shenandoah Valley. Of my students that receive as class rank, which are grades 9-12 only, 40% of the band ranks in the Top 10% of their class, and 60% of the band ranked in the Top 20%. All of the band students in the senior class are in the Top 23% of their class, with all but one having a cumulative average about 100%." Choplick explained.
Choplick went on to explain how the position change would further strain the music program, and explained his current slate of classes and extracurricular activities.
Choplick also cited that no other public school in Schuylkill County has only one music teacher for the entire district.
Choplick also referenced a situation in April 2013 where one music teacher had to cover the entire music program at Shenandoah Valley.
"Some of you may remember, back in April of 2013, when the high school band director was unable to perform his duties at the time, and the elementary director Emily Volek tried to take care of both of the elementary and high school positions at the same time. That was very quickly found to be impossible, and the superintendent at the time, Dr. Rakowsky, called me and asked if I can come in and help get the band through concert season and the rest of the school year. We should not have to relive history" Choplick stated.
However, research by the Sentinel revealed that the Shenandoah Valley band director from 2008 to 2013 Mr. Robert Stoner was in charge of instrumental music from 2008 until 2010-2011 when Emily Volek was hired for the Elementary side.
"Between football games, parades, competitions, and concerts, the band is the most visible aspect of this school to the public, reaching hundreds, if not thousands of people throughout the school year. I would hope that the administration and board would not approve a motion that would negate the progress that has been made over these past years of having multiple music teachers in the district" Choplick concluded.
Waite stated he would not refute Choplick's points on the studies or band visibility.
"I'm not looking to get rid of music. I'm looking to help expand our opportunities for our students in the elementary as well. I know what this gentleman can do and does" Waite said referring to Choplick.
Waite explained Choplick's schedule, and how he believes there is enough space in his schedule to allow Choplick to cover fifth and sixth grade music.
"I believe in him. I believe in what he can do. I've seen what he does with our high school kids." Waite said, stating he believes Choplick's musical instruction would benefit the elementary students.
"(Choplick teaching Elementary Instrumental Music) would give us an opportunity to provide Health and PE to our elementary students. We don't offer right now Health and PE in the elementary at all." Waite explained. "We have students who don't know how to get along dynamically, socially, physical movement, motor movements. Those types of things are studies as well. The only thing that happened here was we had someone who resigned. This would not have been a thought at all if it wasn't for that situation. We have an opportunity now to help our students even more. We can get the best of both worlds. I have somebody I know can do the job 5-12 grade, we can put it in his schedule, I believe it's there to fit now, he has it now, he can do it."
Waite explained how a Health and PE teacher would benefit K-6 grades, and give elementary teachers more instructional time by removing the responsibility of teaching health and PE.
Choplick countered by asking how, if Elementary teachers would then have to teach general music, how they would gain more instructional time. Waite explained that teachers in grades 3-6 have to teach both Health and PE, which they would no longer have to do.
Following Choplick's statement, the board took comments from other attendees concerned about the band program which included: Eric James, SV graduate; and Jordan Franko, SV Band. Percussion Instructor.
The official meeting will be rescheduled to a later date due to the failure to reach a quorum.
Keep a check on this page for our video story from the school board meeting.