After a summer of pressure by music supporters at Riverside-Brookfield High School choir teacher Kayley Smetana is back and teaching the same three choir classes that she taught last year.
In the spring, Smetana’s teaching load had been cut to just one class and many music students and their parents feared she would leave RBHS. For three consecutive school board meetings over the summer, music parents, alumni, students and some community allies, turned out in force, imploring the school board to fund three full-time music teachers at RBHS.
Last week, the school board approved increasing Smetana’s teaching load this year to three classes, up from the one that she was given last spring. That is still shy of the five classes that a full-time teacher teaches, so this year Smetana, who is starting her third year at the school, will be paid $39,344.46 as a teacher.
She will also earn $21.50 an hour working as a study hall supervisor and also will be paid $930 to serve as the faculty sponsor of the A Capella Club.
The administration freed up two classes for Smetana by splitting the jazz band class into two sections and having the school’s other music teachers, James Baum and Matthew Loeb team teach the symphonic band class.
Those adjustments mirrored recommendations made by music supporters and came after three music advocates met with Superintendent Kevin Skinkis, Assistant Principal for Curriculum and Instruction Kylie Lindquist and school board president Deanna Zalas on Aug. 1.
Skinkis and Zalas said that the decision to increase Smetana’s teaching load was made prior to the meeting.
While the music supporters are happy Smetana will again teach all three choir classes, they said that they would continue to press school officials for three full-time music teachers.
“The work is not over because we want her to be full time,” said Lisa Janunas, the president of the RBHS Music and Theater Sponsors parent organization. “We still have work to do.”
After the open portion of the school board meeting ended on Aug. 8, school board member Bill Durkin briefly spoke to music advocates.
“Thank you for making us aware,” Durkin told the five music supporters.
Music advocate Kara Kesselring said the summer of advocacy and organizing had been empowering.
“It’s been nice rallying the community,” Kesselring said. “It feels powerful and awesome.”
School officials have always maintained that staffing decisions are driven by enrollment and that the only way RBHS can support three full-time music teachers is to increase enrollment in music classes.
“I think we had a good discussion with them, and they understand the number of enrolled students need to increase,” Zalas said of the meeting with the music supporters.
Zalas said that bumping up Smetana to three classes this year gives music supporters more time to work to increase interest in music classes among younger students.
Skinkis said music teachers at RBHS must build interest in the program.
“They need to continue to work to build enthusiasm for the music program so that we can sustain numbers that warrant the [staffing], or if those numbers could go up maybe we can add more,” Skinkis said
The 35 students who signed up for Jazz Band are being split into two sections, an Honors Jazz Ensemble led and taught by Baum and the Jazz Band taught by Loeb.
The symphonic band class to be co-taught by Baum and Loeb has 47 students in it the first semester but will drop to 36 students second semester.
The three choir classes that Smetana will teach — Chamber Choir, Concert Choir and Madrigal Singers — will have a combined enrollment of 67 students this semester.
Smetana did not respond to a request for comment from the Landmark.
Other music classes being taught this year are Concert Marching Band, Honors Chamber Orchestra, Honors Wind Ensemble, Rock Band, String Orchestra and two classes in studio music production.