Dozens of Wellesley music students (some in tuxes) and their parents packed the School Committee meeting at Town Hall Tuesday night and spilled into the hallways in a huge show of support for Mary Alice McCann as head of the Wellesley Middle School and High School orchestra.
While McCann will no longer direct the high school orchestra, she will remain in charge of the Middle School orchestra and will have teaching responsibilities at the elementary school level as part of what the school administration described as “programmatic changes which are resulting in the reassignment of K-12 music educators.” Assistant Superintendent Salvatore Petralia says: “Ms. McCann will continue to be an important part of the district program next year.”
While the School Committee says it doesn’t discuss or involve itself in personnel issues, those residents who attended had no issue with doing so (supporters spread the word in advance to rally McCann backers to show up at the meeting).
For 40+ minutes near the start of the meeting, one after another McCann supporter took the mic to share their stories. Their words were met with enthusiastic applause. More hung around to have their say at the end of the meeting, too.
Students told of McCann’s extra effort in helping them achieve music goals and fitting music programs to cater to their strengths; parents expressed frustration over strings players getting short shrift, of major accomplishments not being acknowledged until months later at WMS and of unfair fees being charged. Speakers used emotional terms, like “disrespect,” and referred to the “shame” the administration and School Committee should feel if McCann isn’t kept on as orchestra leader. McCann backers also cited an administration effort 4 years back to remove her as orchestra director, an effort that was rebuffed after parents and students spoke up.
The zinger of the night came from one speaker who referred to receiving “the nicest possible stonewall” from the administration on the McCann matter during a meeting on Monday. He added that the administration referred to trying to maintain the same level of success, which raised the question of why it wouldn’t then keep the same orchestra director if its goal was the status quo. One speaker lamented the loss of continuity for a program on the upswing. One past form of continuity for the program was having 4 directors in 4 years, one speaker said.
At least a couple of times during the speaker parade, a School Committee member asked if anyone wanted to come forward with any different point of view, practically begging for a detractor to come forward. But at least while I was there, none did (I was only there for about 10-15 minutes because I’m on a committee that was meeting at the same time in the building).
More from the Townsman here.
Wellesley High School Orchestra in action at Symphony Hall a few years back: