Budget Cuts Hit the Music Program

Olivia Knight, Staff Writer and Editor

The Roseville Area High School Music Department is being cut from 6 Full time Teachers to 4.5 full time teachers. This change will be starting in the 2019-2020 school year and is due to reduced enrollment and district wide budget cuts.

The district has to absorb budget cuts of $800,000 for next year. As Principal Hester explains, “We have 2300 students. When you get more students, you feel the budget cuts more.” The budget cuts are across the whole building, and are directly linked to the enrollment of those subjects. The music program is one of the more noticeable programs to have these cuts at RAHS. However, Hester points out that “this is not about music. The district has has to look at how it is spending money and what their expenditures are and what their income is. It is just like a checkbook – you can’t overspend your checkbook.” Starting in the 2019-2020 school year, the program will be reduced from 6 full time employees – 2 in each of the band, orchestra, and choir departments – to 4.5 full time employees. These teachers will be distributed unevenly across the departments.

The band program is going to be one of the three departments within the music program to receive budget cuts. The predominantly junior and senior Symphonic band will no longer receive lessons or small group work. According to Mr. Dehnel, the current plan is for the person replacing Mr. Moriarty to teach lessons at RAMS first hour and then come back to conduct Concert band, Varsity band, and teach Allegro band lessons. Mr. Dehnel will continue to conduct Allegro and Symphonic band and will teach lessons for Concert and Varsity band. As Dehnel points out, “The biggest thing you will see is that there won’t be two band teachers in the house all the time… some of the extracurriculars in the morning will be bumped up to 6:45, so that the person (Mr. Moriarty’s replacement) will be able to get over to RAMS on time.” The availability of a band teacher for questions will also be less before school, and in between classes.

The choir is another of the three departments receiving the budget cuts. The program is being reduced from 4 choirs, to 3 choirs because the teaching staff is being reduced to 1 full time teacher, with a teacher coming only to teach Concert Choir lessons. As Mr. McMillan stated, “Except for Concert Choir….The biggest change with lessons is that they will all have to be done at lunch and outside of class.” The cuts have also affected students. As Freshman Choir Student Alex Bailey stated, “I was disappointed when I heard about it (the budget cuts), and I’m sad to see one of the kindest teachers I’ve ever had be let go.”, referring to Ms. Ellson leaving RAHS. Ms. Ellson is currently exploring other employment opportunities.

The orchestra program is the last department of the music program to be experiencing the budget cuts. Similar to the band and choir programs, the lessons and small group work in the top orchestra, symphony, are being cut. Dr. Jannings states, “With the exception of the cut of symphony lessons, and small groups… Things should still function like they have.” But, “We don’t know if we are going to be able to offer as much as we have in the past for extracurriculars.” Ms. Kelly will be splitting her time between teaching general music at Parkview and either teaching concert and philharmonic orchestra lessons, or conducting at RAHS, depending on her Parkview schedule. Nathan Behrens, a cellist in Symphony Orchestra, said “Our music department is one of the strongest in the state and has always been a significant part of our school’s identity… I fear that the short-sighted decisions of the district will cause irreparable damage to our beloved music program and the remarkable opportunities it provides.”

Dr. Jannings stated, “We were surprised… I don’t think anyone around here anticipated such a big cut to the teaching staff.” However, Ms. Hester has experienced budget cuts while working both in the North St Paul and Robbindale School Districts. She states that “No decision is ever an easy decision. For me, it’s what can you do that causes the least amount of harm. Which is tough, no matter how you slice it. Someone is not going to be happy about what you did.” Niamh Mee, a 9th grader in band and choir stated, “The music department and program at this school are phenomenal in comparison with many other high schools around the Twin Cities, and though I am grateful for the amount of funding that we receive, having money is part of the reason why the programs here are so vibrant and it’s a shame that the district doesn’t realize that.” Jannings also stated that “The music department is obviously disappointed about the cuts, as any department would be. If we were to have our way there wouldn’t be these cuts, but at the same time we understand that the staffing that we are given is what we have to work with for next year and we are going to do our best to maintain and expand the program.” However, all is not lost. Ms. Hester states music will not be cut completely. “I’m a former band kid, so I don’t think we should be cutting music at all. There are districts that will cut their art program, their music program – those are usually the things that are on the chopping block right away. That is not the that space we live in, especially in this district.”