Collaboration, talent and amazing instructors have made the Instrumental Music programs at Point Loma public schools (called the Point Loma Cluster) a model to emulate across the San Diego Unified School District. A generation of young musicians has been encouraged to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Not that this matters to the people who make hiring decisions. Mid-March, all three instrumental music teachers at the cluster’s middle schools and high school — Dana Middle School’s Ruben Flores, Correia Middle School’s Marc Dwyer and Point Loma High School’s James Sepulvado — received pink slips from school district.

Mr. Flores protested his pink slip at hearings last month due to his 13 years of service, and the pink slip was rescinded. Mr. Sepulvado and Mr. Dwyer, like too many teachers in our district, remain in limbo while going above and beyond their expected duties at their respective schools. Proving the point: Mr. Dwyer recently earned the Outstanding Jazz Educator Award at the California Music Educator’s Association Fortissimo Award Banquet. And Correia’s jazz band won the Best Jazz Band award at the San Elijo Jazz festival on April 25. When he’s not receiving awards, Mr. Dwyer conducts orchestra, beginning, intermediate and advanced bands; two before-school jazz bands; and guitar classes in a growing program.

Dana Middle School Director Flores holds after-school rehearsals and summer camps for incoming fourth graders who will be attending Dana: his work has paid off, as nearly one third of the Dana population is enrolled in the Instrumental Music program. Mr. Flores is also leading the jazz band at Point Loma High School in addition to the numerous ensembles he directs at Dana.

At Point Loma High School, the Instrumental Music program is growing under the direction of Mr. Sepulvado, who has been with the program for three years after a succession of directors. That program features orchestra, two wind ensembles, marching band, and color guard. Point Loma is opening a new Music Center this summer — with classrooms, practice rooms, a choir room, offices and a music production and recording studio. Mr. Sepulvado has spent countless hours ensuring that the space will be filled with the proper equipment and features to provide the most benefit to the students.

The PLHS Cluster music program has been built on the backs of these hard-working men who unquestionably give of their own personal time to support the needs of the students and the programs. Time that includes before- and after-school rehearsals, weekend festivals and tournaments, band camps, endless fundraisers, booster meetings and year- round community performances. Taking one or two of these teachers out of the equation will inevitably add a discordant tone to the harmony, slowing the momentum of a world- class program.

Mr. Dwyer and Mr. Sepulvado have pink slips not because they aren’t performing — but because their ability to keep their jobs is based on time served. Will their replacements be able to write and choreograph musical scores for marching band? Compose musical arrangements? Teach advanced guitar? Direct before- and after-school jazz bands? Provide opportunities for our students to meet and work with high-caliber, professional musicians? Attend all-day tournaments and competitions on the weekends? Run band camps? Write grants? Fundraise? Interface with parent booster groups? Handle a huge inventory of equipment? Manage a budget? Rebuild the relationships that have fostered this successful cluster-wide program?

What we have is working: we don’t want a clean slate. We call on the school board and the teachers union to look at the impact of their decisions on successful programs like the Point Loma Music Cluster and the students who benefit in so many ways.

Let the trumpets sound! Write to Scott Barnett, our area school board representative, at

Kerri E. De Rosier is band booster president at Point Loma High School and Lynne M. Shinohara is the band booster vice president at Correia Middle School.

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Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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