It seems to happen every spring. Parents of students in the music program at Riverside-Brookfield High School are upset that choir teacher Kayley Smetana has only been offered a limited part-time job at the school for the 2023-24 academic year.
Just like one year ago Smetana, no relation to Assistant Superintendent Kristin Smetana, was technically not rehired, and next year she is only being offered a 0.2 full-time-equivalent position, teaching only one class per semester.
In 2022-23, Smetana, who is completing her second year at RBHS, taught three classes and supervised two study halls to get up to a full-time pay. RBHS has two other full-time music teachers in James Baum and Matthew Loeb.
Music parents and choir students are fearful that Smetana will get a full-time job elsewhere and leave RBHS. Smetana did not return an email from the Landmark seeking comment about her plans.
At the May 9 meeting of the RBHS school board, Riverside resident Lisa Janunas, a Music Sponsors board member, made a public comment expressing her “extreme disappointment” at the possibility of losing Smetana. Janunas praised Smetana’s accomplishments in her two years at RBHS, pointing out her contributions to the spring musical, in helping develop five all-state choir students and establishing a cappella groups.
“These artistic accomplishments bring prestige and accolades to RB and the wider community, leading to the programs’ growth and student enrichment,” Janunas said. “And much of that is due to Ms. Smetana’s guidance these past two years. Does that count for anything?”
Janunas complained that the school administration failed to tell music parents about the reduction in Smetana’s teaching load.
“We heard about the possible loss of Ms. Smetana through rumor and speculation, whispers among parents and teachers in the hall after a concert,” she said. “We weren’t given the chance to respond or to prepare our kids for a cut in the music classes offered next year or possibly not having a choir at all.”
Assistant Principal Kylie Lindquist said no music classes are being cut next year and that three choir classes will be offered next year, just like this year, even if Smetana does not return. Loeb, who came to RBHS in 2020, one year before Smetana, will teach some choir classes next year.
“Every music class that typically runs is running next year,” said Lindquist in an email to the Landmark. “And Matt Loeb, who will likely be picking up two classes of choir, has taught choir for nearly a decade at his previous school, so he is more experienced even than our current choir teacher, so the students will be in capable hands, just like they have been with Kayley.”
If Smetana does not return to RBHS next year, the school will seek to hire a part-time music teacher to teach the class that Smetana would have taught.
RBHS will offer 11 music classes, including three choir classes, next year. A proposed new choir class, called Buddy Choir, proposed by Baum will not run because only five students signed up for it.
The number of students enrolling in music classes at RBHS had been dropping in recent years, falling from 501 students in the 2020-21 school year to 394 this year.
For next year, only 336 students have registered for music classes, a drop of nearly 15% from the current school year.
Baum said that he hopes Smetana will return but wouldn’t blame her if she left RBHS.
“She’s a great teacher,” Baum said. “I totally hope she stays but I would also understand why she would leave. Wouldn’t take it personally.”