Matthew Loeb

Riverside Elementary School District 96 has decided to end its job-sharing agreement with Riverside-Brookfield High School for orchestra teacher Matthew Loeb after just a year. 

District 96 superintendent Martha Ryan-Toye said the decision had nothing to do with Loeb’s work as a teacher, but the agreement no longer served District 96 staffing needs.

With the addition of full-day kindergarten next year, District 96 will hire an additional full-time elementary school music teacher giving them three full-time music teachers. Presently, the district employs two full-time elementary music teachers and two part timers.

Kayley Smetana

That leaves Loeb and RBHS choir teacher Kayley Smetana’s future at RBHS in limbo. Since both were technically part-time teachers this year they were, like all part-time teachers at the high school, officially notified last month that they were not rehired for next year. However, that does not mean that Loeb and Smetana won’t be back next year. 

“The high school is in the middle of the staffing process for the next school year, we will have a better idea of teacher schedules and FTE assignments in the coming weeks,” said RBHS District 208 Superintendent Kevin Skinkis in an email.

This year Loeb taught three classes at RBHS while teaching nearly half time in District 96. Smetana was a 0.9 full-time equivalent at RBHS and band director James Baum taught four music classes as well as serving as the instructional coach, akin to a department head, for the fine and applied arts departments at RBHS.

According to student course selections for next year, RBHS has a need for 2.4 FTE music teaching positions next year. Those positions are likely to be distributed among Baum, Loeb and Smetana in some fashion. 

Neither Smetana nor Loeb responded to requests for comment for this story.

Staffing is determined by course enrollment, but Baum says the lingering effects of the coronavirus pandemic has reduced enrollment in music classes for the last couple of years.

“As we continue to rebuild the music programs in this community following the pandemic, my biggest hope is for all stakeholders to realize that the process of building back our programs will take several years,” Baum said in an email. 

A few years ago, RBHS eliminated the Fine Arts Survey class as a graduation requirement. Since music was an integral part of the Fine Arts Survey, eliminating the class reduced the numbers of classes music instructors teach. 

Ever since former band director Kevin McOlgan retired in 2012, RBHS has rarely had three full-time music teachers.

Baum said that he hopes Loeb and Smetana both will be back at RBHS next year.

“Mr. Loeb and Ms. Smetana are really solid music teachers,” Baum said in an email. “RB is a rather unique building where music teachers have to be able to teach more than just band, choir or orchestra, and this goes way back through the Angelo Ivonelli era. This year, Ms. Smetana was asked to teach choir, band and general music. Mr. Loeb was called on to teach orchestra, band and general music, in addition to running the beginning orchestra program for District 96. He taught nearly 500 students across six school buildings, he’s truly exceptional. We’re fortunate to have them as not every music teacher is so versatile.”