Citing an overload in work and increased administrative duties brought on by budget cuts, music program teacher Jessica Maffia tendered her resignation May 16.
Maffia, who has worked in the district for nine years, sent an email to district parents, explaining her decision.
“It is no secret that this has been an especially challenging year for the music department..." the email read. "In the past few years I have seen my responsibilities rapidly increase while my time teaching kids about making music has diminished. This increased responsibility has forced me to make compromises in my teaching, compromises that make me very uncomfortable.”
Maffia explained that due to budget cuts within the district, the music department was reduced from three full-time teachers, to two: Maffia and Jennifer Thomas.
“I still feel like I'm not giving the students what they deserve,” Maffia said. “That I don't have enough time in the day to prepare well enough for them, to give them quality rehearsal time. … I feel like, because of my limited time, I'm just barely teaching them how to kind of 'parrot' the music back to me, instead of actually learning about the music and the reasons it's written the way it is and how that applies to the next piece of music. I feel like I'm only teaching them how to do this one thing, instead of how it applies to everything.”
She added that in the last year, her class assignments increased from two ensembles to five, in addition to three other regular music classes.
“By giving me five ensembles, when I had been teaching two, you can't create more time,” she said. “It meant that there was less time devoted to each group.”
By losing time to dedicate to each group, Maffia said that she felt she wasn't able to teach the music properly and was unable to fulfill her goals as a teacher.
It is her opinion, she said, that the district was not trying to find a solution to the problem and that was the main reason she decided to leave—a decision she reached much earlier in the year, she said.
Maffia brought her concerns to Superintendent Steve Stein and administration. She said she did not receive a response from the district.
“We've really made no progress in trying to remedy the situation,” she said. “It has come to a point where I realized, that even if they chose to change something, here, now, I don't have enough time in my life to prepare for next year. It's too late.”
Superintendent Stein said that the loss of Maffia is a sad one for the district, calling her a mentor, role model and valued teacher. He added that losing a teacher such as Maffia is tough for any district.
However, he said he was surprised by Maffia's sentiment about there being too much work, even with the elimination of a position from last year.
“Any time you go from three staff members to two staff members, there has to be some kind of give,” Stein said. “That's something we've seen across the board, in areas beyond the music and band departments. … That was certainly something she wrote about in her resignation letter. I guess my reaction is, that I certainly wish her the best.”
Stein went on reiterate that he, and the rest of the district, are sad to see Maffia leave, but that the entire district wishes her the best on her new endeavors.
Maffia added that leaving Mokena will be difficult, as she has become very fond of her students, the parents and the community. However, she said it was what was best for her and her family, and said she will remember her time in Mokena fondly.
Her resignation is effective at the end of the school year.
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