By MIAWLING LAM
Officials at P.S. 24 continue to defend their controversial decision to downsize the school’s cherished music program.
Despite widespread outcry from local parents, elected officials and community members, P.S. 24 interim acting assistant principal Emanuele ‘Manny’ Verdi last week said he stood by a move to excess the school’s vocal music teacher.
Verdi acknowledged that music education was important, but said retaining classroom instructors and reducing class sizes were higher priorities.
“I stand by my guns,” he said, while addressing the matter at last week’s School Leadership Team meeting.
“From our standpoint, these are the cards we were dealt. We had five days to react to it and this is what we did.
“We were told the budget was the same…but when the budget came in, it wasn’t the same. It just wasn’t. So we had to hustle.”
As a result, school administrators said they were forced to excess the entire music department—one instrumental teacher and one vocal teacher—just days before the end of the last school year.
At the time, Verdi said officials were forced to let go of the teachers because three staffers—with seniority—were returning from leave.
However, after the community bandied together and protested the cuts, administrators last month confirmed that instrumental teacher, Maryellen Shepley, would be rehired.
Controversially though, the vocal teacher still remains excessed.
Despite the downsizing, P.S. 24 principal Donna Connelly reiterated her commitment to arts instruction and pointed to her introduction of a theater program as evidence of this.
“We were the ones that expanded the (music) program. When we came into the school, we made it bigger. We didn’t make it smaller. Everybody forgets that,” she said.
The comments come a week after around a dozen parents bemoaned the devastating cuts and called on the school to restore both positions.
In a series of random interviews conducted on the first day of the new school year, many parents and grandparents warned that the loss of a vocal teacher could negatively impact academic achievement and rob children of a well-rounded education.
Under the partial restoration, the school will be eligible to continue participating in the Music and the Brain program and the VH1 Save The Music Foundation.
The MATB program supplies students from Grades K-2 with dozens of keyboards, while VH1 supplies pupils in Grades 3-5 with a range of woodwind instruments.
Existing partnerships with the New York Philharmonic and Little Orchestra Society will also continue to supplement the school’s musical instruction.