Winter Springs middle school changes tune after cutting chorus

Chorus teacher fired, then rehired

WINTER SPRINGS, Fla. – When Carol Waters' 11-year-old daughter, entrenched in the arts at Indian Trails Middle School in Winter Springs, came home sobbing last week, she was heartbroken.

"She said Mr. Boardman's leaving," Waters said. "I said, 'No he's not. He's done fantastic this year.' No he's leaving, the dance teacher is leaving, and the assistant band director is leaving, and there's a good chance they won't be doing Broadway Blazers, which is their drama program here."

Brady Boardman is the first-year chorus teacher at Indian Trails.

"That was very upsetting to me as a parent to see that reaction from my daughter about something she loves so much," Waters said.

So Waters took to Facebook. 

She warned parents of the 300-400 students in the choral program that she'd confirmed what her daughter told her: That the school had eliminated Boardman and his full-time position and was now looking for a part-time chorus teacher.

Almost immediately, 152 parents commented, many expressing anger and frustration.

"Part time???" read one post. "Are you kidding me?!!!!!!" 

"I don't understand why they are doing this!!" read another. "There have been countless studies that show kids who participate in the arts do better in all aspects of school!!"

"A school the size of ITMS should have a full-time Chorus program PERIOD," read another. "Cutting it to half time AND cutting Mr. Boardman was WRONG."

The principal of Indian Trails, Dr. Lesley Sileo, explained in a post on Facebook that there wasn't enough interest in chorus but heard the concerns of parents.

"ITMS Families, As we continue to offer a variety of elective choices for our ITMS students, our focus is on your child's interests and preferences," Sileo wrote. "I want to make it clear that I am continuing to support our choral program. The number of students who requested chorus has decreased significantly, which only required a half time position. After sharing our ITMS community concerns with the district staff, they have increased our staffing for one year to allow for a full time position for us to grow our choral and band program. This is great news for ITMS!"

Water was relieved but not happy.

"After next year who knows," Waters said. "So I'm hoping we can get some change for all of the kids who want to take chorus and band and the arts in general."

Parents expressed concern over the future of the arts program at Indian Trails. 

"The wording 'increased our staffing for ONE YEAR' is disconcerting and only illustrates a short-time commitment to the program; a band-aid so to speak," one person wrote on Facebook. "I would love to hear what other steps the school is taking to ensure the long-term success of the arts programs at ITMS."

Seminole County Schools spokesman Michael Lawrence called the decision to fire and then rehire Mr. Boardman "a balancing act."

"There will be a full-time chorus teacher returning," Lawrence said. "I believe Mr. Boardman has been reappointed for next school year. Reappointments are done each year based upon enrollment and point allocations that principals can use for certain amount of teachers, etc...

"If interest drops in an area and increases in others, that's where the point balance typically comes into play. Sometimes a school may need to increase English teachers, math teachers, or add an art teacher as interest or enrollment increases. Each position comes attached to a certain point allocation and schools are only given a certain amount each year. It's a balancing act all schools face each year as those point allocations change based upon enrollment numbers. In this situation, however, they've worked to find a solution to resolve this for next school year to give the program an opportunity to increase enrollment and interest."

Lawrence said Indian Trails has several electives that are currently more popular than chorus.

"Indian Trails uses their staffing allocations to support many elective choices for their students such as culinary, art, band, chorus, renewable energy, dance, I journeys, I connect, I challenge, robotics, Life Skills and PE," Lawrence said. "Again, the biggest thing for parents to understand is that every school gets so many point allocations based upon enrollment.  Each school staffing position equals a certain amount of allocation points.

"Therefore, principals must manage their allocations by adding or removing positions based upon necessity and interest, while also meeting class-size statute. If enrollment necessitates an increase in needing to add a math teacher to meet class-size, they must do so. If an elective class doesn't have enough interest or decreasing numbers, then adjustments also must be made.  A decrease in one area may also mean an increase in another based upon student interest."

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