USD 489 music instructors hope for increased community support

Hays Post

Hays High Choral Director Johnny Matlock

HHS choral director Johnny Matlock

A steady six-year decline in state education funding combined with staff cuts at Hays USD 489 have music educators at Hays High School worried about the future of the district’s music program — but they remain hopeful community involvement can turn things around.

USD 489 recently agreed to 16 staff cuts including the elementary music teacher at O’Loughlin (who also taught at Washington) and a full-time choral teacher at Hays Middle School in order to help cut into the $1.3 million deficit the district is facing for the 2014-15 school year.

Members of the school board have stated the cuts might not be permanent as the board works on next year’s budget, but the teachers had to be notified in order to meet a May 16 deadline.

According to HHS band director Craig Manteuffel, if the cuts are permanent, he and HHS choral director Johnny Matlock, HHS orchestra director Joan Crull — who already are teaching music classes at the middle school as well —  and Hays Middle School band director Marcus Bishop are prepared to be “shifted around” to teach elementary music classes as well,  classes they are not trained to teach.

“Every level of music of education is very important,” Manteuffel said. “The general population may think because we teach middle school and high school, we can just pop into the elementary school classroom and teach music. That is not the truth. If elementary programs are not strong, we are going to be seeing that in the band, orchestra and choirs as (the students) are coming up. ”

Both Manteuffel and Matlock are also worried about finding the time to teach more classes while keeping the district’s music program from slipping from “exceptional” to “average” and “status quo.”

Matlock noted the choral department recently won 17 Jester Awards for High School Musical Theatre Excellence from Music Theatre Wichita — “more than any other in the state” — for this year’s musical production of “All Shook Up.” Twenty-five of his vocal students qualified for the state finals.

HHS band director Craig Manteuffel

HHS band director Craig Manteuffel

The band department also frequently wins state awards and, this year, four students qualified for state competitions competing against “schools in Wichita, Kansas City, the cream of the crop.”

“That just doesn’t happen,” said Matlock, noting the process starts with learning the fundamentals in elementary school and an “exceptional” staff that “goes above and beyond and works many, many hours.”

Matlock said taking on more classes is just not something “we can physically do” and  still maintain the excellence the music program is known for statewide.

“I think the (USD 489) board is being forced to make very tough decisions because they have to do that,” he said. “Look at the slow decrease in school funding by the state since 2009. Had (state education funding) not decreased we would be $2 million on the other side of this.”

According to information from USD 489, base state aid per pupil has decreased from around $4,400 per pupil to a little more than $3,800 per pupil.

“I know our administrators support us,” said Mantueffel, who is also vice president of Kansas Music Education Association.

The solution to the problem, they say,  will have to be local.

“The community can change things, that is what is going to make a difference in this. … The community is going to have to take ownership in what is going on and we can make a difference,” Matlock said. “They need to let lawmakers know at the state level this is what is happening to our schools. … they need to let them hear that”

“Being negative is not going to change anything,” Monteuffel added. “I know our music parents have been very supportive. If there are other  people out there who have ideas on how to get this switched around and get some positions back in, I know the (USD 489) school board is very open to listening to ideas, and I know you can email any board member or even the superintendent. I’m sure they would listen to ideas.

“It’s not just (about) the education of the USD 489 family here. It is the entire community of Hays and surrounding towns … everyone needs to get involved.”








  • bopsterr

    music and arts? who cares. school board already has sent the message they don’t care about this type of stuff. let go of unnecessary asst. principals? don’t think so. but one thing is sacred. just don’t try tackling the football program with cuts. not gonna happen my friend.

  • Already giving a lot

    How about cutting salaries and benefits…also holidays, just think how smarter kids would be if the school year was 200 days instead of 170 days! Support and giving should come from both sides.

    • so it goes

      “just think how smarter…”

      Yes, some need more days of school a year, but I’m not sure it would help everyone.

    • About time

      Like that will solve anything. Hays already can’t attract teachers as it is. How about cutting sports funding. My vote is make all sports self supported and it’s about time you implemented a pay to play fee. Stop making all the cuts to classes (teachers, music, band, etc). Cut the extra curricular activities after school and let them join Hays Rec if they just have to play ball.

      • Informed

        Yes, more days teaching kids will drive away qualified and good teachers. Good teachers cannot teach that many days. These teachers are only looking out for the good of students unlike the BOE. If these kids must learn for 200 instead of 170 some days this would destroy education. Not to mention the HNEA. Who would this hurt more students, parents or teachers? I am guessing this is a union issue and not a student issue.

        • Guest

          The union is teachers. The teachers already contribute a huge amount of time and money to make things better for their students. Most spend hundreds of dollars to provide things kids need. I know teachers who have given students everything from a snack to a home.

    • Not a chance

      Yes, an extra 30 days of school is a great idea! 30 more days to pay cooks, custodians, aides, paras, secretaries, heating/air/electricity. Then they can cut even more teachers!

  • curtis wolfe

    I support education. Tried telling the board that closing Kennedy wasn’t a good idea. I guess know I can say I told you so. The board needs to listen instead of already having their minds made up.

    • informed

      How did that vote come out Curtis?

  • truth

    Public education is a failure. Get over it all ready.

  • Stop hurting education

    I hope the community and parents show the board that all these cuts to teachers, their pay, what is expected of them, class sizes, etc needs to slow down and direct some of these savings in the sports area. The board has already shown us they could care less about education by funding sports and giving all they can to them. Make it pay to play! Make them raise ticket prices! Make them do more fundraisers! If they can’t pay their own way, then cut that sport so we can keep music, band, math, etc.

    • wut?

      Or they could drop sports,music, and band, since those are hobbies and not educational activities.

      scream “think of the children!” some more, loser.

      • Stop hurting education

        Since you resorted to name calling, I’ll definitely take your comment with a grain of salt. Music and band are classes and are educational. You receive a grade for them and they count toward graduation requirements. Sports are not classes, you don’t receive a grade for them, and it doesn’t count towards graduation requirements. Sports are done after school and are considered ‘extra’curricular. Having sports self funded instead of free for participants and using tax dollars is a very popular idea from the people I’ve talked to and messages on this post. Hopefully the board will seriously consider it.

  • Mary Walker

    My kids go to Seaman High in Topeka (we used to live in Hays, though). The marching band program at Seaman High has more than 220 students enrolled, while the middle school program at Seaman Middle School has close to 150 members. The elementary band program has more than 200 5th and 6th grade students enrolled. The students who are enrolled in the music programs in USD 345, not only in band, but also orchestra and choir, are the leaders in the district. They outperform their peers in every way, not only academically, but also socially. They are chosen for scholarships, internships, honors, awards, recognitions, in large part because the music educators in our district have the resources they need to teach our kids how to be productive, passionate, and forward-thinking young musicians and citizens. It’s not just about music; it is about giving our kids a well-rounded education that will pay off in so many other ways. Our district funnels a significant amount of resources into the music programs, in large part because they know that our band, choir, and orchestra students will pay them back in multitudes with high test scores and other academic behavior that makes other students in other schools envious. We also have a great booster club that raises a lot of money for our kids in music. The point being, if Hays were to show the same devotion and passion for these programs as we parents do in my district, you would be amazed at how far your kids would go. You would be amazed at how far your efforts to foster the music programs would be paid off in so many ways, now and when your kids graduate from high school and go onto adulthood.

    • youanexpertforsure

      Do you even cite?

    • Whoa Nelly

      While I fully support music education, the graduation rate in Topeka is absolutely atrocious.

      • Mary Walker

        In the main district, 501, yes. But Seaman USD 345 has over 90% of its students graduate. Topeka has 4 school districts, 501 being the biggest district. But there is also 437 Auburn-Washburn, 345 Seaman, and 450 Shawnee Heights all located in Topeka.

    • Job seeker

      Great post and I appreciate your taking the time to let us know music and band are important in your town too. Unfortunately, our board of education thinks sports are what matters here and have made numerous cuts to teachers, pay, and classes. Try to convince them education is what gets a graduate a job and career later in life, not tossing a football back and forth after school.

  • Big Girl

    Are teachers really paid 10 years of health benefits after they retire?
    Why did the allegedly progressive oloughlin cut music and art?
    Didn’t the principals arrive at the decisions of where to cut?

  • Mike Schlabach

    Cutting music teachers will end up costing more money than saving (Dr. Benham calls it “reverse economics.”) Music teachers carry a workload equal to 1.5 -2.0 teachers. When the music department is cut in grade school and middle school, the high school numbers will drop. Then the administrators will need to hire more teachers and add more “elective” classes, which cost more than a choir teaching a class of 80 students. So music needs to be supported in times of economic need, not taken away.
    Also, if 5th grade band is eliminated, the band department enrollment will drop approximately 60%.

    • Maybe someday

      Try telling the board anything that makes sense. Cut this, cut that. Keep football and basketball though!!!

  • Reality Check

    If corporations were paying their fair share of taxes, we would be a lot better off. Check this out:

  • suggestion

    In the town I grew up in things like art, choir, and band were offered as after school extracurricular activities, perhaps that would be an option here?