Mundy Elementary School after school programs

Mundy Elementary School's guitar teacher Mathew Foley helps a student learn his chords during the school program in Fairfield, Dec. 2012. (Conner Jay/Daily Republic)


Nonprofit, union tangle over Fairfield music instruction

By From page A3 | January 31, 2014

FAIRFIELD — A teachers union challenge to music instruction provided by a Vacaville nonprofit – after budget cutbacks ended music instruction in the Fairfield-Suisun School District – has meant rescheduling instruction and the loss of more than 100 students from the program, the nonprofit says.

Wanda Cook, artistic director for the Young Artists Conservatory of Music, said the prohibition on instruction during teacher prep times about 30 minutes before and after school came after a Green Valley Middle School teacher questioned the music lessons.

The Fairfield-Suisun Unified Teachers Association sent a cease-and-desist order in September to the school district, contending the instruction violated the teachers union contract.

A contract between the teachers association and the district, Cook said, prohibits on-campus instruction seen as replacing regular classes – or instruction offered during teacher preparation time. The nonprofit instruction is not offered during class time.

Music Matters, one of the programs the nonprofit conservatory provides, has had to cancel some instruction and reorganize other classes. Parents pay just under $7 an hour for the instruction by Music Matters. About 450 children were getting music instruction from the nonprofit, but that number has been reduced by more than 100, Cook said.

Similar instruction on art and robotics offered outside of classes, she said, hasn’t faced the same union challenge.

“We’re kind of confounded,” she said.

Laurel Salerno-White, president of the Fairfield-Suisun teachers association, said the union’s concerns only involve the time of Music Matters instruction.

“They just can’t operate during our working hours,” Salerno-White said. “They’re trying to intrude on our workday.”

“Would you like someone to come in and do your job when you’re not at work – but not pay you?” she asked.

Salerno-White said the union supports music instruction that all children’s families can afford.

She teaches chemistry and said if a private organization arrived to take over her job that, “I would really resent that.”

Salerno-White also said the teachers union provided $268,000 to help fund art, music and physical education instruction by Fairfield-Suisun teachers.

Nonprofit representative Cook said parents of children who receive music instruction by the nonprofit feel like pawns in a political war – and the instruction a victim of a turf battle by the teachers union. She said grants could pay for more Music Matters instruction but that the teachers union challenge complicates such grant funding.

Separate funding from Fairfield-Suisun School District will allow an hour a month of music education by teachers in the school district but that’s not adequate time for a music program, Cook said.

Music instruction by the nonprofit began in 2010 after Nelda Mundy Elementary School parents asked for such instruction. Additional sites were added to reach a total of nine schools in the district where Music Matters instructs children.

“It was wildly successful,” Cook said.

“We’re championing arts education for everyone,” Cook said. “It isn’t about taking jobs away.”

Dave Gaut, a trustee for the Fairfield-Suisun district, said of the Music Matters issue, “This is not a school board matter. It’s a teacher union matter.”

He noted the union contribution to help pay for art, music and P.E. instruction. The funds followed the statewide passage of Proposition 30 and Gaut said teachers could have decided to add the money to their paychecks but instead helped fund classes.

The school district is adding instruction after years of budget cuts by the state but can’t immediately restore all art, music and P.E. programs, Gaut said. Supporters of such instruction want more, he said.

“People don’t want to go slow,” he said. “I understand.”

Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or [email protected]

Ryan McCarthy


Discussion | 8 comments

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  • B. ThiemerJanuary 31, 2014 - 6:17 am

    "“Would you like someone to come in and do your job when you’re not at work – but not pay you?” she asked." That's how it typically works. If I am not at work, and someone else is doing the work, I don't get paid; they do.

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  • Teach5thJanuary 31, 2014 - 7:01 am

    Once more the union shows that it's not about the best interests of the students. What a ridiculous shame that kids miss out on something that enhances their education and makes them happy. Why do parents put up with it?

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  • S KJanuary 31, 2014 - 7:13 am

    Why do parents put up with the school district not having a regular music program, that evolves in the pupils getting in the school orchestra, concert band, marching band, Rotc Band, etc. etc.??? Where the heck does the school district and parents think that future musicians will come from? IMO the music program is just as important as the math, science, and any other dept. And yes those teachers deserve to have their jobs AND BE PAID FOR IT. Against unions???? How has that worked out??? Just take a look at working conditions for many, many workers, low pay, no benefits, retirement, vacations, days off, sick pay,etc. etc. WalMart is a good example. OH there are 401Ks now you say for retirement. Don't think so, since so many PPL live from pay check to pay check, having no extra for a 401K. And if they do, the next BIG MARKET CORRECTION, down turn will wipe that out. And then there are the GREEDY cheap corporations, companies that stab their employees in the back, taking their medical away upon retiring. Enjoy working till you're in your 80s, those of you are are against unions, or till you drop, whatever comes first!!!!!

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  • Tani CymanskiJanuary 31, 2014 - 7:04 am

    That music teacher is an ass. Music Matters does not interfere with instruction time. It is 100% before school and 100% after school. I should know this because my son, who is a 7th grader at B. Gale Wilson, was in Music Matters in 5th and 6th grade at K I Jones. I am glad that Music Matters was there because my son was one of 2 students who actually had musical experience at the beginning of this school year. I know that the teachers complained a little bit when it first started, but Music Matters was totally accommodating by rearranging. Music Matters, at the time, was the only alternative to music since music was cut from the elementary schools about 4 years ago. If there is the money for music at the District level, then hire the music teachers back at the elementary level so that the regular classroom teachers can have a little break like they use to back when music was in the elementary schools. So just stop complaining about music.

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  • BaseballmomJanuary 31, 2014 - 7:07 am

    Ah yes..... The CHIIIIIIILDREN.....that's what the union cares about.... Btw, I have a bridge to sell you... It's in Brooklyn, the deed is in my closet....

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  • Stu DyntJanuary 31, 2014 - 8:13 am

    I've got news for some. The teacher's union is there to look out for the best interest of the teachers. That's what it is there for. Why don't you hold, you know... the school responsible for looking out for the best interests of the students? They could do just that by making decisions that both benefit the students and the teachers. -- Janitors, administration, capital projects, bus drivers, etc. also work for/in the school. They should all also give-up anything and everything if a decision made by the school will benefit the children somehow?

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  • mescJanuary 31, 2014 - 8:31 am

    Change the contract ASAP. Support the Children, not some whiny group of professional thugs. Music is important and an aid to learning other subjects. VOTE out anyone who supports the teacher's unions when they make unreasonable demands against our children. ATTEND MEETINGS. VOICE YOUR OPINION. VOTE YOUR OPINION.

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  • Deborah MooreJanuary 31, 2014 - 10:08 am

    What is incredulous is that this challenge boils down to the music program only. Seems art and robotics continue on. Why is that? As for Salerno-White, no one is taking her job. School district negotiations, including pay negotiations for teachers, compelled cutting the music program. Once parents found some kind of resolution to bring music back to the students, the teachers denounced it. If this is "all about the children" and if taking away music programs harms the kids, then the union's response is hypocritical. In reality, the message is: If teachers don't get their way, then the children ought to go without. This is all about political leverage, and it is shameful.

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