'Rising Stars' Could Be Headed Down
Public concern was raised at Monday night's District 41 school board meeting that the privately run show choir program will be nixed in light of a staff grievance.
The fate of the partnership between The Rising Stars Showchoir Workshop and District 41 may not have been center-stage at a school board meeting that featured talk of a new building in the district and the summer 2011 construction plans, but the issue brought to light by two audience speakers Monday night could have a large impact on the 65 students who participate in the program and their families.
According to District 41 superintendant Ann Riebock, there was a grievance filed by a district staff member in reaction to the presence of Rising Stars, a privately run showchoir program, at Hadley Junior High and Forest Glen Elementary, where similar school-run programs are available.
The grievance, Riebock said, contends that hosting Rising Stars is, “Out of sync with our practice of not offering space to programs that run directly in competition with our current programs.”
According to the superintendant, the complaint is justified.
“Whenever there is a belief that we have in some way an infraction in our collective bargaining agreement [with the teachers’ union], people have a right to file a grievance,” Riebock said. “What happens then is problem solving.”
Riebock did not want to discuss any specifics about the grievance, who filed it, or the status of the program. She said she was “disappointed” that the grievance has become a public matter.
It became a public matter when Joie Scott, the mother of a sixth-grade Hadley student who participates in Rising Stars, and Kate Wild, a sixth-grade participant herself, took to the microphone at the outset of Monday’s meeting at Abraham Lincoln School.
“Do the teachers decide what goes on in our buildings after school hours, or do you, the school board and the superintendant?” Scott asked.
Scott said she was not aware that Hadley had a chorus or choir that competed with Rising Stars and said she would welcome a competitive showchoir run by the school if it was available.
Wild said, “Rising Stars is a serious source of musical education. It’s not just fun and games. The rising stars directors teach us so much about music, performing and the hard work and discipline that it takes to be successful.”
The sixth-grader has been in Rising Stars since she was 4 years old.
“Many of us don’t play basketball or volleyball or soccer. We sing and dance,” Wild said. “Hadley Showchoir is our team and the Rising Stars directors are our coaches and this is our sport.”
Riebock likened Rising Stars to a club sport. Students have the opportunity to play basketball for the school and/or play for a private traveling team that the school does not house. According to Riebock, some students prefer school programs, others prefer private.
“In this case, we just have a mixture of the public and the private together and we're trying to sort that out,” she said.
Scott warned that removing Rising Stars from the District 41 campuses will not necessarily mean those participating will join the school choir.
“In fact, the ill will alone on this issue already has people upset with Hadley’s staff,” Scott said. “Such a decision would prove an already commonly shared belief that some of the teachers in our district are not interested in what parents and students want or even what is a proven success story.”
Scott said her daughter would stay with Rising Stars if it was forced to move elsewhere.
This school year is the first District 41 has lent its buildings to Rising Stars, Riebock said. The extracurricular is an after-school activity at Hadley and a before-school activity at Forest Glen.
Other school board doings:
- On Presidents Day, a holiday on which District 41 did not excuse its students from class, the board discussed the 2011-12 calendar and voted to approve a change in the use of legal school holidays that allows the district to waive its right to dismiss kids on those days and hold institute days and other functions then if so desired. The calendar will be voted on at the March 7 meeting.
- Board member Bob Solak presented to the entire board the process by which the Finance and Facilities Committee came to the four possible solutions to the District's space problem, which were discussed at the Feb. 7 finance and facilities committee meeting.
- Bob Ciserella , assistant superintendant of finance, facilities, and operation introduced for discussion a proposed renovation to Hadley's courtyard that would turn the currently unused plot into an outdoor learning area that could welcome two to three classes at a time. The estimated cost of the project is close to $200,000, up significantly from original proposal last fall. The project will be voted on at the March 7 meeting.