A crowd of nearly 200 parents and students attended the Ramapo-Indian Hills Board of Education meeting Monday night to petition trustees to spare beloved music teacher, Ed Haddad.
The first rumors began to circulate among staff and students last week that Haddad’s contract would not be renewed for the 2012-2013 school year. Haddad, a music teacher at Ramapo and Indian Hills, had replaced Kevin DeFreest two years ago when DeFreest retired.
Speaking to a number of students and parents over the past several days, it was generally held that in Haddad’s short time at Ramapo, the quality of music — both in vocal and orchestral performances — had improved dramatically.
Students, parents and educators agreed that his influence was only the beginning of an upward trend in the music department and questioned the unforeseen change in staffing.
RIH Superintendent Lauren Schoen said that action to remove Haddad was initiated in response to lagging enrollment numbers in the music program.
Haddad's performance was never at issue, nor were there any personal issues with the music teacher, Schoen said.
“We review every class offered in every subject in the same way,” she added.
Haddad has 131 students in his orchestra, chamber choir, and chorus classes, and teaches jazz band at Indian Hills. In addition to his regular classes, Haddad coached 30 students in an after school program he initiated called "Achoired Taste."
Administrators across the state have had to make hard choices following Governor Chris Christie's 2 percent property tax cap, and boards across New Jersey were forced to look for ways to save pennies while preserving academic rigor.
“It is always a balancing act,” said Schoen.
At the beginning of the board meeting Monday at , the audience sat rapt, clutching prepared speeches or adjusting ties as Schoen stood before them and read a prepared statement:
“In light of the input that the board has received in regard to the staffing in the Ramapo High School Music Department, the board has reconsidered and has decided to retain the current level of staffing at Ramapo.”
The audience erupted, nearly everyone rising to their feet in a roar of cheers and thunderous applause — suddenly the tension lifted.
Victoria Palin, who starred as Mrs. Lovett in Ramapo’s recent production of Sweeney Todd, was the first to praise the board's decision.
“I would just like to thank you for your decision and I am happy that other underclassmen will get the chance to have the same wonderful instruction as we have had.”
In an email, Haddad, who was not at the meeting Monday night thanked parents and students for their support.
"I am deeply moved and it is truly humbling," he wrote. "I feel confident that with this kind of support for our arts programs we can boost the enrollment and keep programs going."
Board President Ira Belsky said he was surprised at the number of passionate pleas and the quality of “reasoning and reasonableness” presented in the communications the board had received.
Schoen warned those in attendance that although the position was saved for now, the enrollment numbers, though not available at this printing, would again be a real factor to be reckoned with the following year.
Music Parents President Ruta Ayres said it was a happy ending and was very pleased with the board’s decision.