More than a dozen children and adults made an emotional plea to the Haines School Board Wednesday night: don’t let music teacher Jason Muccino go. School administrators want to cut Muccino’s position to save money amid declining enrollment and shrinking budgets. The school board ultimately voted 5-2 to accept Muccino’s resignation.
Muccino resigned after being told his position would get eliminated in the upcoming school year. The 5-12 grade music teacher has been at the school for two years. The impression he’s made in that time showed at Wednesday’s meeting.
“Taking away Mr. Muccino, that would be like kind of heartbreaking to all of us,” said seventh grader Trygve Bakke.
Another music student, Haley Boron, said Muccino has pushed the music program to a higher level. She said some of her friends have told her without Muccino, they might quit band.
“It terrifies me and other people to think that some very talented musicians are willing to let go what they love and what the school loves and what the town loves,” Boron said. “People tear up at our concerts. We have such a great reputation.”
Parent Penny Fossman urged the board to look at other options for cutting the budget.
“The music program is something I value very highly,” Fossman said. “And I think I speak for everybody here when I say that we as a community value music and we don’t want to see cuts made to our program.”
The question on the table for the school board was whether to accept Muccino’s resignation. In his resignation letter, Muccino makes it clear that he did not want to give up his position. He writes that he decided to resign after learning his job would be cut due to the budget situation.
“This is one of the most difficult things administrators have to do,” said superintendent Tony Habra, who is in first budget cycle at Haines School.
“I know that you care about Jason, I care about Jason,” Habra said. “That’s not what this is about. This is about making the best choices for all the students here and making fiscally responsible choices.”
The school district is facing a $360,000 budget deficit and needs to save money somehow. Habra says eliminating Muccino’s position will save close to $90,000.
“This is the stuff we’ve been talking about for the last several years,” said board member Sara Chapell. “Eventually we’re gonna have to make tough decisions, and apparently we’re there.”
Habra promised that the music program will not be diminished, despite the cut. Administrators plan to have an existing teacher take on music classes. Habra says that means some less-popular classes will have to go to make room in that teacher’s schedule.
School board president Anne Marie Palmieri reiterated that the music program is not going away.
“One of the things that the board has always said is we want to retain a high-quality music program,” Palmieri said. “And that’s the direction that we’ve given the administration. And we’ve come to a point where we’re talking about a position, not a person.”
The board voted 5-2 to accept Muccino’s resignation. Brian Clay and Lisa Schwartz were opposed.
Later in the meeting, the board talked about how the process to get to this point could have been more ‘transparent.’ Habra did hold meetings earlier this year to hear from the public about what budget cuts they would be OK with. Hardly anyone showed up. But Habra did not indicate at the time that the music teacher was on the chopping block.
Pam Long regularly attends school board meetings, including Habra’s budget meetings.
“To me personally it did feel like I was trying to be involved and informed and then, oh this thing happened while I turned away,” Long said.
What the music program will look like without Muccino may be more clear early next week. Habra says the administration will be ready to announce who will take over next year’s music classes at that time. But many parents and students say Muccino will be hard to replace.