How is Weston Managing Staffing Transitions in the Arts?

Weston Public Schools has had a rich history of supporting the performing arts through its curricular and co-curricular programs.  We are fortunate to have many gifted educators on our faculty cultivating the interests, passion, and abilities of our students in music and theatre.   Many of our students move on to pursue careers in the performing arts and their experiences in our schools provide a foundation for their future success.  Performing and visual arts are valued as part of our educational program, and the district is steadfast in its commitment to the continuity of a high quality arts program as we move forward in 2014-15.

During this time of transition, as several outstanding educators have opted to move on from their current roles, it is natural to wonder who will replace these individuals and will these “new” educators be able to fill the big shoes that are being left behind.  With much advance notice of these key hires, we have been planning diligently for an effective transition, including a new high school band director and a director/​advisor to Company, the high school theatre organization.

With respect to the high school band director, this position has been posted for some time now, and we have a pool of experienced candidates.  Additionally, there will be an advertisement in the New York Times in the next few days and an outreach to established music associations.  The district has also been in touch with colleges and universities noted for exemplary music programs regarding outstanding alumni they might wish to recommend to us as well.  The interview process will begin shortly and will continue until the right person has been hired.  We will not settle.  Just as we are not bound to hire at the first step of the teacher contract for any teaching position, the salary level of the most qualified candidate will not hinder the appropriate hire.

In terms of the advisor and director for Company, these roles are independent.  While it could be that one person emerges to assume both roles, another scenario is that the district may find one individual for the advisor role and one or more individuals who seek to direct individual performances.  We have also been working on recruitment efforts for these positions, but have deliberately kept them less formal until after we can all enjoy the upcoming outstanding performances of Carousel, as not to create a distraction to our current actors and director.

Although change is sometimes difficult, it brings with it the opportunity to review and enhance our current programs with input from the community.  The district is examining its performing arts curricular offerings.  We have had recent discussions at Board of Education Curriculum Committee meetings to discuss the needs of the program as we continue our commitment to excellence in the arts.  The district has also made a commitment to review its formal oversight of the performing arts program and to devote additional dedicated resources for this oversight in the 2014-15 budget request.  At the recent meeting with Board of Finance (BoF) in which the BoF reviewed the education budget for next year, it was communicated that an exact budgetary request for this oversight need would be provided in the next week or so, as it was not included in the budget work that began last fall. 

Additionally, we will be exploring the establishment of a K-12 Advisory Council of the Arts for the district, seeking to invite members of our Weston community who have direct experience in the arts to serve as critical friends to the work of the district as we continue to work to enhance the quality of all our arts programs.  Those who work in the field or possess unique experience in the arts have so much to offer our students and educators.

I am also pleased to report that the district is planning to expand its performing arts opportunities for the fall.  In next year’s budget proposal, the Board of Education has approved a concept to begin our orchestra program a year earlier, in grade four, to align Weston with other districts in the area.  Additionally, we have started a summer performing arts camp for students in grades 5-8, in coordination with Weston Youth Services.  It includes opportunities for students to take part in a summer theatre production or take instrumental lessons.  These two new features of our district further educational opportunities in the performing arts for many of our students.

I am confident that we will continue to maintain Weston’s proud tradition of excellence in performing arts.  We are committed to ensuring that our students have access to outstanding programs and educators during their K-12 career.