Cherry Hill school district to make announcement on elementary school concert schedule soon

Superintendent Joe Meloche said the district plans to make an announcement on elementary school concerts by the next board of education meeting on March 28.

Concerned parents may soon have an answer as to when spring concerts in Cherry Hill elementary schools will be taking place.

At Monday night’s Cherry Hill Board of Education work session meeting, Superintendent Joe Meloche said discussions about when to hold elementary school concerts are ongoing, and the district plans to make an announcement on what will happen with the concerts within the next week.

“I expect, hopefully by the board meeting next week, that we’ll have an announcement made about elementary concerts,” Meloche said.

Meloche gave the news to about 20 elementary school parents and students who came to the board’s meeting to talk about a change in the elementary school concert schedule.

About one month ago, elementary school parents received a letter saying all of the district’s 12 elementary schools would begin holding instrumental and vocal concerts during the academic day instead of at night. The letter said the change was being made to increase student participation and retention in the music programs. District officials say the decision was made with the input of the elementary school principals.

A number of elementary school parents protested the change, saying it was made without warning and will prevent many family members from attending the concerts.

The parents in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting represented multiple schools in the district. Some, such as Sharp Elementary School parent Madhuri Rodriguez, had spoken about the issue at the last board meeting on Feb. 28. Monday’s meeting also attracted parents such as Stockton Elementary School parent Beth Taubman, who had not spoken about the topic before.

Taubman has three kids who are involved in the district’s music program, including two enrolled at Stockton Elementary. A high school teacher in a nearby district, Taubman talked of how important music is to many kids in developing their self-esteem.

“I see the confidence of my students in music bands who have been supported by performance opportunities since the elementary school levels,” she said.

Since the last board of education meeting, numerous discussions have taken place on social media about why the schedule was changed. Some Facebook users posted concerts were being moved due to an issue involving teachers not receiving stipends for working evening concerts.

Cherry Hill Education Association President Steve Redfearn wrote a letter to the Cherry Hill Zone PTA in early March responding to the social media rumors. In the letter, Redfearn talked about why the decision was made to move the concerts.

“The music teachers in the elementary schools felt that the evening musical performances were not getting the attention the program deserved, and as a result, issues had arisen concerning student safety and dedicated time for the music education program’s success,” Redfearn wrote. “The discussion of these concerns occurred as the 2015–2016 school year drew to a close.”

“We want to make it clear that this was and is not about salaries,” Redfearn said at the end of his letter, “it was about student safety and maintaining the integrity and development of the elementary music education program.”

Some parents at the meeting said discussion on social media combined with the district and CHEA’s stances on the issue confused them even more.

“I’m just really at a loss to understand as a parent why that decision was made,” Rodriguez said.

Some parents remained upset the district did not include parents in the original decision. Andrea Weigle said she hopes the district gets more parents involved in decisions similar to this in the future.

“All we need to know, is before the decision is made, so we can do this before,” Weigle said. “Not coming to you after, begging you to change it.”