Tuesday, October 21, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Nonprofit music says it’s in fight for life due to teachers union

Mundy Elementary School after school programs

Mathew Foley helps a child learn his chords during the Music Matters program at Nelda Mundy Elementary School in Fairfield in this December 2012 file photo. The Music Matters program in the Fairfield-Suisun School District has since scaled back its availability to local children. (Conner Jay/Daily Republic file)

By
From page A4 | March 21, 2014 |

VACAVILLE  — The nonprofit Young Artists Conservatory of Music says it’s in a financial fight for its life and that founder Wanda Cook will defer her $28,000 salary because the Fairfield-Suisun Unified Teachers Association blocked children from attending music conservatory classes – an assertion the union disputes.

The nonprofit said it needs $5,700 immediately to continue operations in March and must raise another $14,300 through June.

The music conservatory said in a Thursday release that the teachers union action to block children from attending classes caused 150 children to discontinue before- and after-school music enrichment classes. That meant the loss of nearly $10,000 in monthly revenue to support the remaining 500 children in the nonprofit’s programs, the conservatory said.

Laurel Salerno-White, president of the Fairfield-Suisun teachers association, said the nonprofit’s description of the teachers unions blocking children from attending classes is inaccurate.

“We didn’t do that,” Salerno-White said.

The teachers association provided the music conservancy with opportunities to teach classes at times other than the workday for instructors in the school district. It’s not the fault of the teacher’s union if the nonprofit didn’t pursue that opportunity, Salerno-White said.

“We’re simply trying to maintain our own jobs,” she said, “and our own working conditions.”

Budget cuts for music instruction in the Fairfield-Suisun School District helped spur the nonprofit instruction. Cook has said union actions led to a prohibition on instruction during teacher prep times about 30 minutes before and after school.

Music Matters, one of the programs the nonprofit conservatory provides, has had to cancel some instruction and reorganize other classes, Cook said in January. Parents pay just under $7 an hour for the instruction by Music Matters.

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.

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

Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or rmccarthy@dailyrepublic.net.

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Discussion | 8 comments

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  • Donna IngramMarch 20, 2014 - 9:22 pm

    I find the way the DR chooses to lead this story quite biased. Why doesn't it say, "Non-Profit has Loss of Revenues, Refuses to Compromise with Teacher's Union. Fight for life? Not if they negotiate with the union. Report the news, DR, don't slant it to your opinion.

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  • Shame on the UnionMarch 20, 2014 - 10:11 pm

    The truth is that the teacher's union continues to make it difficult for Music Matters to exist. It seems they would rather see no children have music, than allow some to have it. It's the union's way of trying to strong-arm the district into putting music back. Or perhaps they are hoping to get the parents mad enough to yell at the district, in an effort to convince them to bring back music. I don't see the union setting up roadblocks for sports or art classes. Aren't teachers supposed to be all about what's best for the kids? I have heard the director of Music Matters publicly express her willingness to work with anyone and everyone to see if music can be provided to ALL children. Makes you wonder which group is really interested in the kids and which one is not.

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  • Innocent VictimsMarch 20, 2014 - 10:15 pm

    What about the kids? The issue is that the Teachers Union waited until halfway thru the third year of the program to drop this 'Cease and Desist' bomb on the kids participating in Music Matters. If they had done so at the end of last year, the parents and the program may have been able to make changes that would not have had such a negative impact on these kids and the program. Our kids are up at 6am now to be at school by 7am for a music class we pay for. The Union answers were to start class at 630 am so it could be done by 7:35 when the "teacher workday" time officially starts... (class starts at 8:10) Or to take the instruction off campus... Does the Teachers Union believe it is a good idea to have kids starting their day at 5:30 am? My kids and I have walked the Orange Lines carrying signs in support of teachers, we have been at the school board meetings fighting against cuts... it is beyond me how the Teachers can now stand behind such a hurtful move in the middle of a school year. We parents are all for music returning to the FFUSD... Why punish these kids in the meantime?

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  • Enough is EnoughMarch 21, 2014 - 1:25 pm

    Why is everyone so ready to attack teachers? They have a contract to work during specific hours, Monday through Friday. The majority of these teachers are still required to work BEYOND their contract hours for their students. It's admirable that the district will donate space and utilities for a nonprofit to come in to provide a music program, but any outside program should not interfere with the main reason kids are at school - to learn. Starting the program before or after the regular contract hours is appropriate. No, I do not work with the district. I think people need to step back and be thankful that their children can receive music lessons at their school instead of having to pay for music lessons every evening or weekend through a private business.

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  • Innocent VictimsMarch 21, 2014 - 7:23 pm

    Eno is Eno -- 6:30 am... that is what the union offered. After 2 full years of the program starting at 7am and ending 15 minutes before classes started (with the unions blessing). The Teachers Union smelled money in the water and placed a 'cease and desist' on the classes only offering off-site classes or 6:30 am classes on school grounds... We all know there is money in the budget this year... and I truly want music and PE to be back in the mix at our schools. But what the union has done to these kids is sad at best. Do you think what they have offered the children in Music Matters is a real option? Up at 5:30/5/45 am to take a private music lesson. As it is now the kids show up at 7am and only are allowed 35 minutes of instruction, after that all instruction must stop. There is no defense of the position the union has put these children in.

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  • Stacy NygardMarch 21, 2014 - 4:13 pm

    I have been the PTA liaison partner with Music Matters since the program was started at K I Jones. I spearheaded the project to bring music back to school after the on-site full time credentialed music teacher position was cut from the school's budget (along with every elementary school's music and PE staff budget). Why was I so driven? I've never played a musical instrument...can barely carry a note with my voice. So why, indeed, did I fight so hard to make this work? I watched as our elementary school "extras" (music, PE, teacher release time, reduced K-3 class size) were decimated in order to salvage what programs they could at the high school and even middle school levels. Yes, this was during the unprecedented state and federal public education budget cuts that came as a result of the 2008 recession. I know all branches of the district took their lumps. However, when my boys were in Kindergarten at KI Jones with 20 students, and students in those same rooms 3 years later started their Kindergarten year with 34 students, our school no longer had a librarian, nor Mr. Young as our PE teacher, nor Mr. McDaniel as our Music teacher, and my colleagues (yes, as a PTA board, we think of the school administration, staff, and teachers as partners to our children's education) had lost their prep/release time, something inside of me said, "ENOUGH!" on the backs of our elementary students! This is our (Music Matters) 3rd year on campus. The first year was rough! (-: But parents, YACM (nonprofit affiliation to MM), the administration and staff, and yes THE TEACHERS at K I Jones were/continue to be FABULOUS partners in providing a place for children at K I Jones to benefit from the extracurricular activity of music education! Would I prefer music, PE, class size reduction and librarians were brought back to the elementary programs at no additional private expense to parents? You bet I would!! I would support the PTA being allowed to fund these components entirely or even share the expense with the district in order for all children to benefit. But as anyone who's ever tried any kind of thinking outside the box or to be solutions driven knows, these organizations cannot be bothered with the likes of parents trying to nose into THEIR world. Yes, yes, they're our children, but don't go around thinking you get a say in what the District or Union decides about how to best educate our children. I met with Laurel Salerno-White, the president of FSUTA, to discuss a collaborative team approach between PTA, Music Matters, FSUTA and FSUSD. Her answer to me was, "as long as you don't work during our hours, you can do what you want." When I asked why she objected to Music Matters extracurricular program when there were so many obvious benefits to the students' attendance, academic performance, etc., she told me, "How would you like it if someone was taking your job?" When I told her that it wasn't the students, or the parents who cut the budget, I was given the shrug of the shoulders, indicating that collateral damage is not FSUTA's problem when it comes to a fight. When she mentioned that FSUTA teachers had offered up $ from their own coffers to support FSUSD's attempt to bring back music to the elementary schools for 2 hours a month, I asked her if she felt that was comparable to 2 hours of instruction a week. Her response was, "It's a start and it has to be nurtured." Well, as a parent, I'm not willing to let my children lose YET AGAIN while the behemoths that are FSUTA & FSUSD work out the growth of this new seedling. To be blunt, this current crisis has been brought on solely by the teachers' union-FSUTA. Not the teachers themselves, mind you, but the organization that they are required to be members of. Teachers throughout the district are supportive of the great things that Music Matters has done for the students. Administrators have been gracious about hosting MM at their schools because they see the benefits to the students and the school as a whole. Even the District--FSUSD has been as cooperative as they can be with their hands tied by this cease and desist choking them. YACM, Music Matters, and the music instructors have been BEYOND accommodating to anything and everything the district has asked in order to preserve the program. Parents have rearranged their kids' schedules and other activities to accommodate the mid-year changes. And ESPECIALLY THE CHILDREN...they--those boys and girls who have spent their own allowance to buy or rent an instrument, who get up early or stay late to attend music classes, have been PHENOMENAL at accepting the tweaks to their routine. We’ve all compromised to align with FSUTA’s demands. But it’s not enough. So the CHILDREN MUST PAY. So, if you--parents, community members, teachers of FSUTA (I know it's hard to fight against your union), random supporter of the arts want to seek out whom to blame, it's simple: The Fairfield Suisun Unified Teachers' Association is doing all that they can to dim this beacon of light. They have taken what was a wonderful example of a public/private partnership for the betterment of our community and ruined it. So write and call the school district. Request a meeting with the director of Elementary Education, Call FSUTA's offices--demand answers. Contact the media; let it be known that it's their fault. Because the truth after all the acronyms and she said, she said, and finger pointing, and yada yada yada, is that the kids lose again. The community loses again. The parents with means pull their kids from public to private again. And if you didn’t hear me the first 5 times, THE STUDENTS LOSE AGAIN.

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  • Mr. SmithMarch 21, 2014 - 5:38 pm

    Yes, Ms. Nygard, it is what it seems to be--the teacher's union (F-SUTA) does not give "two hoots and a holler" for the children of this district when their leadership perceives an encroachment has taken place upon the welfare and benefits that they feel their members are entitled to. That is their only reason to exist. These union leadership "school teachers" are nothing more than thugs with college degrees when you cross them. The problem, of course, is the fact that our kids end up losing the most in any struggle between the district administration and the union. The proof is before us once again.

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  • Stephen ToddMarch 22, 2014 - 6:15 am

    Two points: First, Music Matters originally came to the schools at the invitation of the PTA- that is, the teachers. It is the union leadership that is crying “cease and desist”. Second, the district does not “donate space and utilities for a nonprofit to come in to provide a music program”. Rather, Music Matters pays for the use of these spaces. When the union succeeds in removing Music Matters from the campuses, the district will actually lose revenue. I hope that the editors of the Daily Republic will print portions of these comments. I believe they provide additional insight into this issue.

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