Music program to stay put in Laporte

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Laporte Public School's music program is officially back in place, and district leaders and the public at large are set to brainstorm ways to change it next year and beyond.

School board members voted unanimously on Tuesday to rescind their earlier decision to eliminate the district's music program and put Louise Bass, it's longtime — and only — music teacher on unrequested leave.

They also scheduled a committee meeting next week with the public at large to figure out how the program should be rebuilt. That meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. Monday, May 7, in the district's community room.

Board members quietly voted to eliminate Bass and the music program in early April, citing declining interest among Laporte high schoolers. But they quickly reconsidered that decision after alumni, parents and other community members pushed back.

"In a small community, we need to listen to the community," said Board Chair John Seegmiller. "And we had a vocal opposition, and now we're willing to sit down and listen and go from there."

Jessica Howg is one of many parents in the district who opposed the school board's initial decision. She said she'd like to see Laporte's music program teach fifth- and sixth-graders there how to play instruments, survey students to see what sort of changes might pique their interest in music, and maybe include a little musical theater.

Laporte leaders didn't publicize the vote to cut Bass and the program beforehand on the advice of the Minnesota School Board Association, Seegmiller told the Bemidji Pioneer last month.

"I can tell you that I think we got very poor advice, and we listened to poor advice," Joan Moorhead, a board member, told attendees at Tuesday's meeting. "And in retrospect, we should have gone with our hearts instead of listening to poor advice from legal counsel."

Bass said she was happy to be reinstated and optimistic about the committee's ideas. She said she'd like to see a second staff person teach band and take over some of Bass' elementary classes, which would free her up to teach choir and the remaining elementary lessons.

"This community has a lot of good ideas," Bass said.