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Mokena music program silent for now

Updated: July 11, 2012 10:26AM



The resignation of another Mokena School District 159 music teacher has left the district’s music program void of staff.

Jennifer Thomas, an eight-year veteran of District 159, resigned less than a month after Jessica Maffia’s resignation.

Supt. Steve Stein said the district was “very, very sad” to lose Thomas.

He said, “I can very easily say that Mrs. Thomas is … without a doubt, the best music teacher I have ever come in contact with during my time in education. She is simply one of the best teachers … a true and absolute professional at all times.”

Jennifer Daley, Mokena Music Booster president, said although the resignations were unexpected, they were understandable.

“Honestly, I don’t know how they did it. They were teaching three or four different subjects a day and almost 1,000 students a week,” Daley said.

Daley said “overscheduling” of the music teachers was one of the reasons a group of music boosters attended the May 16 school board meeting.

The parent-sponsored organization offered a $4,000 grant to the district to help fund a third music teacher on a part-time basis to lighten the load of the teachers.

The board instead voted to remove band and choir from the curriculum and return it to extracurricular status, making each a part of the pay-to-participate program.

The board also approved a third part-time music teacher.

“We don’t see how they’ve taken action to improve the situation,” Daley said. She said there have been no postings of the music positions of which the boosters are aware.

“We’re concerned about what kind of teachers we’re going to get under these circumstances,” Daley said.

Thomas and Maffia were responsible for all band, music and choir classes for first through eighth grade students.

Thomas taught band and sixth grade music at Mokena Junior High in the morning and four periods of music and four periods of physical education at Mokena Elementary School in the afternoon.

Thomas said although her challenging schedule was not the reason for her resignation, her ability to be at her best was sometimes “compromised” by the “stresses at work and demands of the job that made it difficult at times.”

“When you feel you can’t give kids what they deserve, that’s really hard,” Thomas said. “It’s really all about the kids. That’s always been my bottom line.”

Thomas said she plans to work on a doctorate in music education, “a professional goal I’ve had for a while.”

“I really want to focus on what I need to do for my future,” she said. “A door opened, and it’s time to move on.”

Thomas said she will always remember the Mokena students as “amazing.”

“I loved what I did,” Thomas said. “They made it incredibly worthwhile. That’s why I did what I did.”



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