Newport This Week

MHS Needs Full-Time Music Educator

To the Editor:

The following letter was sent to the Middletown School Committee, the Middletown Town Council, Superintendent Rosemary Kraeger and Middletown High School Principal Jeff Heath:

I’ve been a resident of Middletown for 54 years and my three children attended Middletown schools. It is with great concern that I am writing this letter.

It has come to my attention that the full-time music position at Middletown High School is not being filled. To my knowledge, Jennifer Vaillancourt informed the administration on Feb. 1, 2022 of her plans to retire at the end of the past school year. Imagine my surprise that the music position at MHS was posted on Aug. 24 not as a full-time position, but as a .2 position. This is outrageous and unacceptable.

As a music educator, the former supervisor of fine arts for the Portsmouth school system, and a music teacher supervisor for URI, it is my opinion that a full-time music educator is essential for the continuation of the excellent programs that Ms. Vaillancourt developed and maintained during her tenure at Middletown High School.

The full-time music educator at MHS has had an advisory group, Piano I, Piano II, chorus and vocal ensemble. A full-time music educator is important not only to teach these music classes, but also to provide a “safe haven” for those students who need a place to go and a teacher to confide in. Especially with the issues involved with COVID-19, students need social and emotional support. With the availability of music programs and their educators, that social and emotional support can be accessible to our students. This availability isn’t possible with a .2 educator, i.e., a teacher who shows up, teaches one class period, and then leaves the building.

It is also my experience that although music educators are “certified” pre-K through 12th grades, it is essential to place music educators in positions in their area of music expertise in order to make optimal use of their skills for our students.

Furthermore, it is my understanding that at the Town Council meeting on July 5, a motion was made and approved to allocate $200,000 for the athletic and the arts programs. I also understand that the council increased the school budget by 4 percent and that the monies for COVID-19 relief would help cover any deficits. Therefore, money should not be the issue here.

Please reconsider and restore the full-time music position at Middletown High School. I would be more than glad to serve on a search and/or interview committee.

Susan Woythaler Middletown

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