Band director raises concerns over proposed LEA contract, middle school schedule.

August 19, 2020

Band director raises concerns over proposed LEA contract, middle school schedule.

LUDINGTON — A viral Facebook post by Ludington Area Schools Music Director Keith Kuczynski has created a stir around the school district. As a result, the school district and the Ludington Education Association, teacher union, released a joint statement today in defense of the proposed collective bargaining contract with the union. 

Kuczynski wrote on the Ludington Bands Facebook group: “Today, I found out that there is an issue that is severely threatening the future of Ludington Bands, as well as the LASD Performing Arts Department and is extremely detrimental to our students. It was shared in a meeting with the Ludington Education Association this morning that they want to change the schedule at OJ DeJonge Middle School from a six class day to a five class day. This would lengthen each class but most importantly, would only allow each OJ student to take one exploratory class daily which includes band, choir, art, physical education, shop and more.

“Even further, each student is required to take a physical education class during each grade level. Simply put, this would be the end of year round Band for our OJ students as they would need to leave band for a trimester for PE. Students that take a remedial math, reading or ELA (English language arts) class would not have an option for any exploratory classes. Those students that love art and shop? band and choir? They would need to choose. Does your student currently take band? They will need to choose between band and other exploratory classes.

“Please know that this is not COVID related, even though it may be framed this way. It was stated this morning that this would be a permanent change at OJ. This contract needs to be approved by the LASD teachers and is being voted on shortly. However, this change is also tied to other negotiations that will benefit teachers. Therefore, I know that for many of my colleagues, this will be a very hard one to vote no on. Please know that they are not voting on only this measure, this is a yes or no to the contract as a whole. If this contract is approved by the LASD teachers, the vote will lie with the LASD School Board on if they approve it or not.”

The school and LEA released the following statement today: 

We are writing this in response to misinformation that has been put out on social media about the proposed LEA contract and its supposed detriment to the arts programs at LASD. Both the union and the administration strongly support the arts and believe they are an essential factor in our students’ growth and well-being. In fact, the proposed schedule increases elective opportunities for students in the middle school.

This is quite the opposite of what has been shared with our community. The LEA has been grateful to work with a district that has continuously supported the arts, even through times when other districts have cut the arts.  Jason Kennedy has demonstrated his enthusiastic support for all the arts – whether it be Quiz Bowl, Robotics, BPA, Choir, Art, Band, etc. The proposed contract change for the middle school is being done for the following reasons:

  • It allows scheduling to meet the needs of in-person and virtual learnings.
  • It allows us to address a variety of problems that the 6-period day in the middle school created for the building as a whole, specifically an equity issue that needed to be addressed for staff.
  • It makes it easier to share staff among the high school and middle school, especially during the start of the day and the end of the day when it can be most difficult to find coverage for classrooms where substitute teachers are needed.
  • It increases elective opportunities for middle school students. These opportunities are imperative in helping our students grow and experience multiple pathways.
  • It focuses instructional time in a manner that will help the district support student growth after a school building closure due to COVID-19.
  • It increases safety procedures in the buildings for students and staff, namely by allowing us to reduce class sizes and maintain social distancing, as much as possible. This also provides a greater ability to meet health department mandates.
  • This is simply a new way of thinking about how the instructional day is scheduled.
  • It promotes the financial stability of the district.

In the times of COVID-19, we are faced with unprecedented challenges in how to best teach our kids.  This will allow us greater flexibility to best meet these challenges, while improving opportunities for students.

A variety of schedules have been looked at for a 5-period day that honor the middle school experience, exploratory classes, and the arts. The A and B classes will be approximately 45 – 50 minutes in length, while the other hours will be approximately 62-72 minutes in length. This allows the high school and middle school schedules to align for much of the day, while allowing for elective and lunch flexibility in the middle of the day. A few samples of the new schedule that is being developed are outlined below, as examples:

We have supported the arts in a 5-period day in the past, and will always continue to support them. Our children have been in Ludington Area Schools and participated in the arts.  It is an invaluable part of their experience.

We hope that this helps clarify this issue and clear up much of the misinformation that has been communicated with the community.

In summary, students will be able to continue taking the elective classes that they are accustomed to taking, while also taking additional elective classes. This was a tremendous effort put forth by both the Association and the District and we are committed to balancing the health, safety, and well-being of our students and staff, with the need to provide high quality programming to our students. This agreement is a win-win solution for both our students and our staff, and we are committed to the continued placement of value on the arts and elective programming for students.

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