Berkshire Hills school budget raises concerns about loss of music teacher position

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GREAT BARRINGTON — The elimination of a music teaching position is expected to be among the concerns expressed Thursday night on the Berkshire Hills Regional School District budget.

The district budget for fiscal 2017, released earlier this month, has a preliminary price tag of $27.3 million, which represents a 3 percent increase over this year's figure.

Individual assessments are 6.66 percent higher to the three member towns. The increase to taxpayers will be 6.94 percent in Great Barrington; 8.76 percent in Stockbridge; and 3.35 percent in West Stockbridge.

A public hearing on the proposal will be held at 7 p.m. in at Monument Valley Middle School.

The budget calls for eliminating two positions through attrition, including the position long held by music teacher Jeffrey Stevens, who will retire at the end of the school year.

Stevens, regarded as one of the most accomplished trumpet players in Berkshire County and beyond, was closely identified with the district's music program for decades. Word that he will not be replaced sent a ripple through the local music community.

The district plans to redistribute Stevens' duties to other educators, but many local parents were not happy.

The issue has roiled social media, sparking the launch of a Facebook event, "Save Berkshire Hills Music Department," encouraging those upset by the proposal to attend the school committee meeting.

Subscribers are invited to comment on the proposal and share their feelings.

'If it wasn't for Jeff Stevens and the music department, I would have given up on high school," posted one former student.

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.

On the Web ...

For information on next year's budget, go to http://www.bhrsd.org/budget/.


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