Video and blog by Barbara Grady
There are 18,400 public high schools in the United States and chances are each one has a jazz band. Of them, 1,550 hoped to be invited to this month’s “Essentially Ellington” High School Jazz Competition & Festival held at Lincoln Center.
Only 15 school bands were selected. Albany High School’s Jazz Band was one of them.
To listen to what makes the Albany Jazz Band stand out, click on this video of the band practicing songs they later performed at “Essentially Ellington.”
Playing with Wynton Marsalis, the legendary trumpeter who is Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, and attending sessions taught by conductor David Berger, saxophonist Jimmy Heath and bassist Rodney Whitaker, the Albany students experienced what it’s like to play in the Big Apple with some of the world’s best under the glittering lights of Lincoln Center.
“For Jazz, New York is one of the biggest hubs, it pretty much is the biggest hub,” said AHS saxophonist Tad Nicol. “It’s really cool to go to the place where it all kind of evolved.”
AHS Instrumental Music Director Craig Bryant said being invited to the festival was the culmination of lots of dedicated work.
“We’ve been trying for a number of years to get in to the festival,” Bryant said. “We worked really hard,” not only practicing but then also preparing an audition CD which turned into a team effort for band members, he said.
The 19 students and their director headed off to the festival on May 7 for three days of jamming, competitions and good listening.
No doubt, some of these kids will be back – as professionals.
By Barbara Grady
Across California, local public school districts are picking up a job abandoned by the state by passing measures to adequately fund their schools. In ballot measures using words like “emergency” and “education preservation” 44 California school districts asked voters this year and last to approve parcel taxes rather than make students endure crowded classrooms or high school without sports, as the state would have them do.
In Albany on Tuesday night, the board of education voted unanimously to put an emergency parcel tax measure on the November ballot. It would be a five-year tax of $149 per household (or parcel) per year to plug the holes in school funding brought on by the state’s $11 billion cuts to education. One board member was absent but all others voted for the measure. Read the rest of this entry »
By Barbara Grady-Ayer
After describing grim financial news she received from state education leaders, Albany Unified School District Superintendent Marla Stephenson on Monday laid out the plan for how Albany schools will function next year with a drastically reduced budget.
Stephenson said the district will be receiving $1,100 less per student from the state in the new academic year than it did for the year just ending. That is almost a 20 percent loss, she said.
To view a video of her talk, please click here
Article and photos by Michael Mejia, Coach for the Mountain Bike Team at Albany High School.
Newspapers lowered at the barber shop the other day when Jerry paused during my crew-cut and asked about the Mountain Bike Team. The customers, many old Cougars themselves, understand football and wrestling – but racing mountain bikes as a high school sport? You’re kidding, right? Read the rest of this entry »
By Barbara Grady-Ayer
Albany schools are likely to take some very serious hits in September now that California voters defeated the May 19 budget initiatives and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has responded by putting forth another round of harsh cuts.
Gov. Schwarzenegger in recent days outlined a draconian budget plan that includes taking another $5 billion away from education. Combined with February’s cuts to education, that would mean a loss of at least $1,000 per student by next September.
Albany Board of Education members say that size cut will all but eliminate the chances of preserving the school programs that it voted in February to put on provisional list for cutting in a worse case scenario.
Superintendent Marla Stephenson of the Albany Unified School District will give a report to the community on the 2009-10 budget on Monday, June 8th, 6 pm – 7 pm at the Albany Community Center. It’s a good opportunity to find out how the latest state budget cut would impact Albany schools.
The Albany Unified School District decided to sell a $10 million bond to construct a new swimming pool at a meeting Tuesday.
The pool bond was approved by Albany voters in Feb. 2008. The district had postponed its issuance because of the volatility of the financial markets and budget uncertainties. David Glasser, President of Board of Education, said it is a good time to sell the bond right now. Read the rest of this entry »
By Barbara Grady-Ayer
Even as the days count down to the May 19 election that will decide whether California schools must endure yet further spending cuts, the Albany school district has set up a tentative plan for how it would restore programs should it be able to reallocate money to meet priorities in the wake of a drastic reduction to its budget Read the rest of this entry »
Oscar Rodriguez, a custodian at Albany Unified School District, went to attend a Board of Education meeting last Tuesday. It was the first time he ever attended a School Board meeting, after working for the District for 22 years. As the District is laying off dozens of employees and taking other drastic measures to deal with budget problems, people like Rodriguez are starting to feel that they need to pay close attention to what decisions district officials are making.
“We want to know about what’s happening, ” Rodriguez said. “It’s getting tough.” Read the rest of this entry »
The controversy in the Albany Unified School District over school time took another turn last week. The District decided to freeze a recent Board resolution on the issue after negotiations with the Albany Teachers’ Association.
“It’s a compromise,” said Board President David Glasser. “We decided that it’s in the best interest of the district after we weighed alternatives. ” Read the rest of this entry »
By Barbara Grady
With 42 school programs on the chopping block – everything from music in the elementary schools to athletics at the high school – the Albany Board of Education will meet Tuesday night to discuss how to salvage some of these programs with parcel tax revenues and community fundraising.
The board of education will meet at 7:30 at the Community Center on Marin Avenue and take stock of its list of earmarked cuts and a small pool of money that comes each year from parcel taxes that Albany voters passed in 1999 and 2005.
By Barbara Grady-Ayer
All 29 of the regular Albany public school teachers who received pink slips on March 15 learned Wednesday that their layoffs are rescinded and they’ll have jobs next year, thanks to retirements and leave requests among their colleagues.
However, another 28 temporary teachers have not been so lucky and their layoff notices are likely to stay in force, according to district and union officials. Read the rest of this entry »
The Board of Education at Albany Unified School District unanimously elected a new member Tuesday. Paul Black, a resident in Albany for almost three decades and a parent who is active in school services, will take his seat on the Board later this month.
62-year-old Black was selected among six candidates at a public meeting Tuesday night. After a round of interviews, all of the four current Board members said Black was one of their favorite candidates. They spoke highly of Black’s rich experience in community services and his capability as a thoughtful and collaborative decision-maker. Read the rest of this entry »
The Board of Education of the Albany Unified School District will interview seven applicants Tuesday and select one to fill a vacancy left by Jamie Calloway, former Board President who resigned for personal reasons last month.
Seven people from the community have submitted their applications for the board position. All of them are longterm residents of Albany and most of them have actively been involved in school affairs. Read the rest of this entry »
Jamie Calloway, President of the Albany school board, says goodbye to the community as she moves out of town and resigns from the board this week. Photo and article by Linjun Fan.
Jamie Calloway seldom expressed her feelings at board meetings in the past two years. But she was getting emotional when she made an announcement last Tuesday. She said she was going to get married and move out of Albany with her new family, thus she could not continue her service on the board.
“It brings me a lot of sadness to say that, ” she said. Read the rest of this entry »
Dozens of teachers and staff of the Albany Unified School District will receive pink slips in the following week, another reminder of the toll the nation’s financial crisis is taking.
Struggling to stave off the impact of the recession and California’s budget crisis, the Board of Education approved the layoffs Tuesday night. Thirty-four teaching positions will be cut, effective with the new school year in September. Among them are six positions at the elementary schools, nine at the middle school, and 19 at the high school.
This is on top of the 34 temporary teaching positions and three staff positions they agreed to cut last week. And more non-teaching staff positions are expected to be trimmed in the weeks ahead.
Amid all of the talk across the nation of stimulus money lifting communities out of recession and into recovery, small towns like Albany are grappling daily with the continuing effects of the U.S. economic downturn and California’s financial troubles. While Albany has high hopes that it will get a share of the stimulus money, in the short term the city and its residents are feeling more pinch and pain.
“We worked very hard not to get here, ” said Superintendent Marla Stephenson at the Tuesday board meeting. But “due to unforseen dire economic circumstances”, the district had to lay off teachers right now. Read the rest of this entry »
SchoolCARE, a non-profit organization in Albany, is calling on members of the community to participate in an action plan to deal with the imminent budget cut on local schools. Below is an open letter from the organization:
As our school district — along with the rest of the community and nation and beyond — feels the impact of the economic downturn and struggles to provide quality education with fewer state dollars, it is important that we as a community work TOGETHER and harness parent energy in the most productive way possible for the benefit of all. Read the rest of this entry »
The Albany schools superintendent and board decided to delay an attempt to put a parcel tax measure before Albany voters until at least November. They reasoned that a June ballot measure would be too rushed. However, by November, the district as well as voters will have a precise picture of what education programs are being lost to budget woes and what can be saved with new revenues.
A new idea surfaced on how to save Albany schools from the severest cuts that would result after California slashes education spending: ask Albany voters for an emergency, short-term parcel tax.
When parents and school board members met last week at budget forums to tackle the grim task of choosing what teaching positions and programs to cut, talk kept turning instead to how to raise revenues. The idea of a parcel tax came up in the form of a question scribbled on a piece of paper and slipped in front of Superintendent of Schools Marla Stephenson.