The school year ended on a low note this year for Seeley-Swan High School and Swan Valley Elementary School. Due to budget cuts, Friday was the last day of Bob Green's long career as the schools' music director, amplifying community concern that music education may end with the departure of Seeley's music man.
That is, if the school district can't find someone to fill Green's position.
Starting this fall, the position will be cut to 33 percent of full time without benefits, a salary Green couldn't accept and one that many in Seeley believe is too low to attract a qualified replacement.
Locals collected over 200 signatures in support of Green and in opposition to the budget cuts to the arts. The petition was mailed Friday to the Missoula County School Board, which will adopt the final budget for the 2012-13 school year Aug. 14.
Bill Peabody came to know Green when his children were in school and through the 2 Valleys Stage performing arts group, which Green co-founded in 2001. 2 Valleys Stage brings music, drama and dance professionals from around the country to put on productions in the Swan Valley. Green, says Peabody, "doesn't want to go, he doesn't want to leave the community, but he would be forced to, unless they reconsider."
Missoula County Public Schools Fine Arts Director John Combs says that the cut in personnel is so far only happening within the Seeley-Swan High School program. "It's already difficult to find someone to go into smaller schools," Combs says, "and if you don't have a teacher, you don't have a program."
Combs adds that the loss of the arts program in the schools means the loss of a fundamental part of students' education. "It stimulates the part of their brains that is not necessarily all facts and figures."
Peabody echoes Combs's concerns. "This is the only exposure some of them will ever have to the arts unless they leave," he says. "If we remove the music from the curriculum, what would be their exposure?"
Peabody hopes the petition will make the school board reconsider a potentially fatal blow to the arts program in Seeley. "Like every community, we have some talented kids and this would deprive them of an education," he says. "Even though we are small in number, our students deserve the same education as city kids."