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Holdrege Public Schools | March 21, 2023

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Holdrege High School Music Department Update

Jeremy Ham

It is likely well known at this point that there will be a staffing change in the HHS music department for the 2023-24 school year. We did not intend to make a public announcement about this change in an effort to be respectful of the outgoing staff member. However, due to individuals sharing misinformation on social media, we feel it is necessary to provide some facts about the future of the music department.  

Due to the non-renewal status of a teaching contract, the music department was left with an open vacancy for the 2023-24 school year. This provided us with the opportunity to research the present teacher workload and student enrollment in all of our music courses. Currently, we do not have enough student participation in supplemental music courses, such as Music Theory and Songwriting, to justify the need for two full-time music educators at the High School in addition to the one full-time music instructor at the Middle School. Next year, we will have two full-time music educators for grades 5 through 12 as we have had in the past. Rather than those teachers splitting their time between buildings and age levels, as was in place from the 2011-12 through the 2020-21 school years, our Middle School and High School music departments will now be congruent in structure, with one dedicated teacher providing vocal and instrumental instruction at each building. This allows us to better serve our students since there will not need to be travel time built in for the staff members to go between buildings or have two different bell schedules for staff to navigate. Mrs. Brock has offered to be part of this solution by taking on the duties of instrumental music instruction at HHS, along with her current duties for vocal music instruction. Mrs. Brock is highly qualified with a PK-12 comprehensive music endorsement that includes vocal and instrumental certifications. In addition, she has significant performance and teaching experience in both vocal and instrumental ensembles.

At HHS this school year, we have 114 students enrolled in music courses. Many of our student musicians are enrolled in multiple music classes, representing a total music course enrollment of 155. We discovered that by reconfiguring a few low enrollment courses into a new 2023-24 schedule, we will be able to provide all of our current music content offerings to students with one full-time educator, including an allowance for growth. Students will have the opportunity to choose from multiple music electives, as well as performance ensembles. The 2023-24 schedule has been further modified to provide “flex time” for all students, which can include music lessons, independent study, assistance from a specific teacher, or taking a college class. In future years, if the student enrollment in elective music courses grows sufficiently to require additional section offerings, we would certainly evaluate the need for additional staffing.  

While some individuals speculate that our athletic department receives preferential treatment and monetary assistance, that is a misunderstanding. All of our student activities are exceedingly valued. The school district has, in fact, invested quite heavily in the music department over the past 10 years. School funds have assisted the music department with the purchase of new choir robes, a new baby grand piano for concerts, new show choir risers, three new Clavinova pianos, new instruments, new classroom equipment, and thousands of dollars in instrument repairs. Additionally, the school district is currently assisting with a $30,000 project to purchase new choral risers for use by students of all ages at the Tassel. Most significantly, the music wing at the High School recently received a $600,000 renovation that included new rehearsal rooms, a music library, two new practice rooms, a new sound system, and numerous additional updates. The extensive renovation of the music wing was concurrent with improvements to Keifer Field. 

While some may have assumed the department is experiencing cuts, the truth is that the music department has been, and will continue to be, fully supported, fully funded, and fully capable of providing a high level of music education for our young musicians. The district has a long standing dedication to provide music opportunities for students at all levels. We are very fortunate to have the early music learning expertise of Mrs. Butler to inspire our K-4 students. We are also blessed to have an amazing young educator in Ms. Sines working full time with our music students in grades 5-8. She has elevated the instruction and enthusiasm at that level more than we’ve seen it in many years.  We look forward to what the future holds for the music students of Holdrege High School under Mrs. Brock’s excellent leadership. She is a proven educator with 15 years of experience and is highly respected by her peers statewide. The future looks bright for music education at Holdrege Public Schools!