Alumni, parents speak out against chorus, drama teacher transfers

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By Laura Hayes, Senior Community Reporter

Kathleen McKenzie and Teddy Waszazak stand together at a Drama Society event at Hudson High School.
Kathleen
McKenzie and Teddy
Waszazak stand
together at a Drama
Society event at
Hudson High School.
Photo/Courtesy of Teddy Waszazak

HUDSON — Parents and alumni recently spoke out at a July 20 School Committee meeting against a move to relocate Hudson High School theater and chorus teachers, Kathleen McKenzie and Jeannette McLellan, to Quinn Middle School.

In an email to the Community Advocate, Superintendent Marco Rodrigues said Sarah Worrest, who currently teaches chorus at the middle school, has been reassigned to HHS to fill McKenzie and McLellan’s roles.

Parents praise McLellan, McKenzie

In addition to the chorus program, McLellan developed a guitar and keyboard course, the audition choir, Camerata, and HHS’ all-girls choir, the Hudson High Notes.

McKenzie, meanwhile, has taught a number of drama classes while leading the high school’s Drama Society after-school programing. Between the after-school drama society and theater classes, alumni say there is an average of one theater production a month.

Parent Julie Bolduc said theater was the reason why she didn’t send her son to another area school.

“If [McKenzie] isn’t teaching at Hudson High and making connections with the students in her classes and putting on amazing shows, we can count this as yet another reason why students are going to look elsewhere for their high school experience,” parent Julie Bolduc said.

Parent Sean Perham said McLellan and McKenzie were notified of the transfer a month after the contractual deadline.

“This is no way to treat any educator, especially after the challenging year-and-a-half they have endured,” Perham said.

Rodrigues: ‘Fewer students request courses’

During the July 20 meeting, Rodrigues said the number of students requesting performing arts courses has decreased.

“We have been analyzing this trend for the past three years and recognize that the number of full-time teachers at Hudson High is excessive in relation to the number of sections needed to accommodate student requests,” Rodrigues said in an email.

He said that the district takes “many factors” into consideration to avoid reducing staff and courses in every department, not just the performing arts.

According to Rodrigues, the district “recognized that the offering of performing arts courses at the elementary and middle school have not been strong.” Reassigning the teachers based on their certification will accommodate the high school’s need and increase the offerings at the lower grades, he said.

In an email, Rodrigues said McLellan and McKenzie will be teaching the same courses, geared toward middle school students.

He said that this will enhance the performing arts pathway. McLellan and McKenzie will also have access to the high school students for their theater and other extracurricular activities, according to Rodrigues

“By doing so, we are not reducing teaching staff, we are not eliminating courses, we are not eliminating theater productions, we are not eliminating extracurricular activities at Hudson High,” he said during the meeting. “That has to be very clear.”

However, attendees contended that scheduling made it challenging for students to be able to get into theater classes.

“They try semester after semester after semester, some only getting a class once or twice in a five-year period when the theater classes used to be full,” said Deb Martin-Hardy, who is the department’s costumer.

Teddy Waszazak, who graduated in 2015, said theater had been “smothered” by the pandemic.

“I think it’s really naive and short-sighted to think that the numbers won’t bounce back to pre-COVID levels,” he said.

In an interview, Waszazak, who was speaking for himself and not McKenzie or McLellan, contended that the relocation violated the union contract. He said the contract said all involuntary transfers had to take place by May 15, unless the move is beneficial to the teacher or the school.

“I don’t see how this is not in violation of the union contract because it’s not voluntary, it’s not beneficial to the teacher,” Waszazak said.

He added that he didn’t think it was beneficial to the school, either.

“You cannot tell me that it is beneficial to take the woman that is running everything now, split her between three or four other schools and have her hand kind of in the after-school program,” Waszazak said.

Rodrigues told the Community Advocate that the district will continue to monitor students’ interest in performing arts.

“We hope that student exposure to performing arts, beginning in grade four, will result in a more robust performing arts program at Hudson High in the future,” he said.

 

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