Huntington Beach Students Protest Cancellation Of Instructor's Contract in Song

Several parents plan to keep their children out of school briefly to participate in the protest at the Huntington Beach City School District headquarters, said PTA member Amber Norquist, who is helping to coordinate this morning's demonstration. She said parents are upset that instructor Nelda Alvarez's contract with the school district was canceled Friday.

"We're going to the district office to sing and let them know how passionate we are about keeping our current music teacher in place," Norquist told City News Service, adding that the PTA has paid for Alvarez's salary in the 15 years she has taught in the district, Norquist said.

"The district has now decided to use (state money) to get rid of independent contractors regardless of how great they are and replace them with certified teachers," Norquist said.

Superintendent Gregg Haulk said the law requires the district to interview applicants for the jobs in the music programs, which is set to be expanded thanks to new money in the state budget. Alvarez, like other independent contractors, will be given a chance to apply for the job she's had, Haulk said.

"Those independent contractors who have put in the time and effort and have incredible knowledge of our schools would be incredibly strong candidates when they apply for the position," Haulk said. "Somebody with 15 years of experience who has built the program from the ground up? We'd be foolish to get rid of someone like that."

But district officials cannot guarantee a job for Alvarez, Haulk said.

The expanded music program will include teaching the students how to read music, play keyboards, study music theory and music history, Haulk said.

The plan is to spread the state money out to make the program last five years, he added.

"For us, this is a little bit of a surprise," Haulk said of the new state money for the music program. "We're excited for the opportunity for our students. We have incredible music programs at our schools and we believe they will become stronger."

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