The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

May 17, 2012

E-B-F board approves first contracts for district

EDDYVILLE — Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont school board members approved the first contracts for the new school district this week. Staff members from each district will see a slight pay increase from 3.45-3.68 percent.

However, this salary increase and a recently approved decrease in property taxes may not come without a cost. A crowd gathered at this board meeting as word got out that the district may attempt to save money by not replacing a retiring elementary school music teacher.

Junior/Senior High Choir instructor Andrew Wotherspoon was recently informed that he would be expected to take on K-6 general music duties in Eddyville and Blakesburg in addition to the 7-12 program he currently serves.

“I am currently responsible for leading my own high school choir program, my own junior high choir program and other duties. Compared to other programs in our school district, this essentially adds up to 1-1/2 positions. Adding a full-time job on top would be 2-1/2 positions-worth by one person for one paycheck,” he explained.

“I don’t know anything about teaching elementary. I have virtually no experience with that age group. The grade-school students deserve a highly qualified elementary music teacher. For both elementary and secondary, the quality of music education for all students will suffer if the proposed plan goes forward.”

Parent LeAnn Powers said,  “That concerns me as a resident of this district. “I don’t know how that is going to be a positive for the kids or positive for him.”

Senior student Michael Gates urged the board to reconsider noting that this plan would result in “elementary students taking a watered-down music program.”

Several other community members spoke out against cutting the music staff by attrition, including student Kai Ishida, who has only lived in the United States for three years. He told board members that choir has helped improve his English and that Wotherspoon has taught him to overcome his shyness.

Board member Kevin Lane told administrators that he would like to learn more about the issue before making any decisions. He requested Wotherspoon’s detailed schedule as well as what that might look like should his position be combined with the elementary position.

For now the music teacher position remains on the school vacancy list with three other teaching positions (Spanish, math and social science), a counseling position and a K-6 principal position. Also, the high school principal position is expected to be added shortly.

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