August 16th, 2010 5:33 pm | by BETH SLOVIC News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Schools

Updated: Group Emerges to Save Grant High's Choral Director

In the upside-down world of Portland Public Schools where last-minute budget maneuvers have delayed staffing efforts, a handful of teachers are just now learning that they've been laid off.

At Grant High School, the news hit the choral director, Katy Wagner-West, on Friday, less than four weeks before the start of school. And, just like the emergence of a Facebook group to save PE when it was on the school district's chopping block, an online fan club has formed to try to save Grant's current choral director.

Wagner-West has been at Grant for two years. Her departure doesn't mean the choral program will disappear at Grant. Another more senior music teacher in the district will likely fill her job, due to complex "bumping" rights built into the teachers union's contract. The state teaching endorsement for music instructors is good for any grade in K-12, which means an elementary-school music teacher with more seniority can bump a high-school music teacher.

Wagner-West's supporters don't want that to happen, and they're holding out hope PPS will change course.

"[W]e all know there's a huge difference between a K-6 general music teacher and a middle school band director and a high school director of choral and vocal activities," writes Stephen Marc Beaudoin, a former WW freelance music writer who started the Facebook support page for Wagner-West.

Update at 12:30 pm: Matt Shelby, a PPS spokesman, adds that it wasn't a decision at Grant that forced this bumping. It was a host of decisions at other campuses in response to the budget cuts that prompted the changes. Across PPS, 24 music teachers have been affected, he says. Six of the least senior music teachers, including Grant's, have been laid off. If all goes according to plan, the remaining teachers should be reassigned, as two already have.
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