The high school band in Gold Beach, Oregon, isn't bad. The group is only 15 kids, but they did well in last year's District Festival and were hoping to return this year to take the crown.
Just one problem: The band's director is a volunteer and the local teachers union didn't like that at all.
Lenie Duffy taught in California for nine years with full credentials and continued to volunteer in local schools for 15 years after she formally left teaching, as pianist for a school choir and then as band director after the previous director had a heart attack.
Despite the fact that parents and students were pleased with Duffy's work—she was recently nominated as the town's "volunteer of the year"—the teachers union filed a complaint about Duffy with the state Teacher Standards and Practices Commission. The commission ruled against Duffy and she was forced out.
The kids took to their social media of choice, Facebook, condemning the teacher's union with harsh, sometimes obscene, language. On the afternoon they were supposed to report to the school library instead of the band room, they staged a mass sit-in on the concrete steps that led to the band room. The local newspaper went wild with letters of complaint from parents and community members.
The union reps went on damage control. Their goal, they insisted, was not to hurt the kids. They told the local volunteer choir director, whose class they had also forced into cancellation, that they did it "for the good of the kids," arguing that only credentialed teachers should be allowed to teach children
This story comes courtesy of Backwoods Home Magazine, where Duffy has worked a day job as a business manager for many years. The magazine stepped up to save the day:
Backwoods Home Magazine decided to help the kids fight back against the teacher's union. I and BHM's Senior Editor John Silveira, Ad Manager Jeff Ferguson, and Technology Manager Al Boulley moved out of our offices and made room for a "band room." The band reformed itself into an off-campus club, just like the high school golf club BHM sponsors. In fact, the golf club subsequently held an emergency meeting and agreed to donate $1,000 (nearly half of its funds) to the band to show its support. The band relocated to the BHM building and now practices there as a club, free from any further threat from the teacher's union. They will lose the half credit they should have earned for the semester, but they will still get to put on their scheduled concerts and compete at the District Festival.
And (I'm so sorry for this) the band played on.