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Parents revolt over teacher’s loss

Saltus Grammar School parents have drawn up an online petition to keep a music teacher after the school decided against renewing his contract.

As of yesterday afternoon, more than 100 people had signed the petition, which urges the school to reconsider cutting back on the school's music programme and renew music teacher Dan Guerrard's contract.

Mr Guerrard will remain at the school until the end of the 2013/14 school year but according to a letter sent to parents yesterday the school said they could not sign the British teacher to another three-year contract due to the shrinking size of the primary department.

The change.org petition, started by “Caring Parents of Saltus” states: “Some of you may have heard that Saltus has made the decision not to renew the contract of lower primary music teacher, Dan Guerrard, for the upcoming school year. Instead, the school intends to share a music teacher between the upper primary and lower primary campuses.

“High-quality musical education must be nurtured by a talented, dedicated and caring teacher. Since Mr Guerrard joined lower primary three years ago, in addition to the regular music classes, he has pioneered the choir and handbell clubs, provided piano lessons to interested young children and diligently orchestrated the fabulous Christmas concerts each year.

“It is literally impossible for a part-time teacher to accommodate such a busy programme and your child's musical education needs in lower primary. If Mr Guerrard is truly underutilised, as the school has cited as the reason for the non-renewal of his contract, we would encourage the administration of Saltus to use him more, and expand the music programmes.”

In the petition, Maxine Kane wrote: “I can fully understand Saltus having to make cuts as the number of students enrolled is declining. However management of the school should be asking themselves whether cutting such a valuable member of staff is detrimental to the well being of the school.”

And Dana Spurling added: “I realise and appreciate both the school's response and the explanation that budget cuts due to low enrolment are necessary.

“My concern is that Dan is a true asset to what is, without a doubt, a stellar music programme throughout the entire school, and that were he to leave, it would be a great loss to Saltus.”

In a letter sent to parents yesterday Saltus head Claire Charlemange is quoted as saying Mr Guerrard is a popular member of the faculty, but moving forward the school is not in a position to employ him for another three-year contract.

“The primary department has become smaller through the years, and while we once had 28 classes, we now have 23,” she wrote. “Prior to Mr Guerrard's appointment, we only ever hired a part-time teacher for music at Lower Primary, and with the reduction in the number of overall classes over the past three years we have had to fill both Mr Guerrard's and Mrs Fox's schedules with piano instrumental and life skills/citizenship classes.”

She said that music remained an integral part of the school's lower primary programme, calling the performing arts programme one of the school's “crown jewels”.

“Here at Saltus we place a tremendous emphasis on the performing arts programme as a whole, and we are seeking to develop our provision within primary music and piano instrumental teaching so that the music programme becomes even stronger than it currently is,” Mrs Charlemange wrote.

“We will certainly not be compromising on the musical offerings that we currently have at either lower or upper primary, although we do expect our music programme to continue to develop and evolve over time.”

Saltus Grammar School head Claire Charlemange

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Published November 29, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated November 28, 2013 at 10:12 pm)

Parents revolt over teacher’s loss

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