MARQUETTE - For two and a half hours, the Marquette Area Public Schools Board of Education listened to the concerns of students, parents and community members over the possible reduction of one music teacher during a meeting Monday night.
The students were upset over rumors surrounding Janet Broderson, the district's choral instructor, and the possible loss of some of her chorus classes. The board must cut $2.4 million out of next year's budget.
"They're all on a sheet of paper, names. But Mrs. Broderson is not just a name, and she's more than just a teacher. She is the music department," said Alexander Shahbazi, a junior at Marquette Senior High School. "Without her, so many things would be gone. To lose someone like Mrs. Broderson would be a travesty."
Shahbazi was one of several students who spoke out against cutting parts of the high school's music department. Many were choked up as they talked about how important music was in their lives.
It was standing-room only in room 210 of the Graveraet School, as people sat on windowsills and leaned on walls. People who couldn't fit in the room hovered near the doorway and out in the hall.
"There were a lot of tears this afternoon in the music department," said MAPS music teacher Janis Peterson. "I have to tell you, I didn't cry when I was diagnosed with breast cancer but I have had a hard time keeping it together all night."
Peterson's comments were met with a resounding round of applause and she immediately left the room in tears when she was finished speaking.
After the first few comments were made, board President Scott Brogan asked Superintendent Deb Veiht to explain what was going on.
Brogan said he was surprised to hear that cuts were being made to the music department, since the board had yet to vote on the district's budget, and the preliminary list of displaced teachers was supposed to be confidential.
Though the board looked at cutting at least 8.8 full time equivalent teachers in their last board meeting, the names of what teachers would be pink-slipped were never discussed.
Veiht said after an arduous process of examining teacher qualifications, seniority and other factors, a list of possibly displaced teachers was made and notifications were sent to some instructors Monday morning.
More will be notified today. Veiht said five teachers will have to be cut from the high school.
"(The notification) has their name as a displaced person, then it has a list of all the options they may choose to go into for a position next year," Veiht said. "As I said, I'm not going to comment on one person because I'm not going to talk about any other one person."
Veiht said the decision to notify possibly displaced teachers this week was made to allow the teachers time to decide what they'd like to do next year.
"I would hate to call them up in mid-summer and say, 'Guess what, we're going to displace you for next year,'" she said.
Though Brogan welcomed the crowd to stay for the budget discussion that was to come later in the meeting, only a handful of people stayed through the end of the meeting.
During the board member comments, both student board members Tristan Luoma and Katey Carey - who also cried as she spoke - talked about the need to keep the music department whole.
Several board members expressed gratitude at the number of people who came to the meeting, saying it isn't often they hear from the public.
"This was the kind of meeting we need to have more often," said board member Brian Cherry.
Board Secretary/Treasurer Laura Songer urged the public to take their concerns to their state representatives.
"Even the soft brushing of the music department that you saw here tonight, it's just something that's going to happen in the school system. We're not done making cuts. Next year we're going to be making cuts also, and what can we do about it? This is your school. This is your public school," Songer said. "The state Legislature feels they can take the heart and soul out of the schools. What they need to do is to hear from you and also the students and the passion that you showed us tonight. You need to write emails, whatever, to your Legislature and let them know how you feel about what they're doing to the public schools."
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.