Dear Teachers,

This is a substantial update and informational missive, so please read it carefully and let us know if there are any questions. There are a lot of details included, and we want you to be well informed.

General Meeting Follow-up

Some of you were not available for the meeting, and you do need to arrange to sit with Barn to catch up on the content of the meeting.  It is very important.  Please get in touch about this right away.

We received a letter from some of you outlining concerns regarding a couple of key procedures, and we want to take some time to acknowledge the importance and value of your feedback.  As you know, we are always saying that we can’t fix what we don’t know about, and this is an excellent opportunity for the admin team to put that into practice, so thank you for the chance to do just that.

If we understood correctly, there are the following issues that need review:

  1. Time acknowledgement and remuneration for homework emails.
  2. Privacy concerns for homework emails.
  3. Reporting format and time concerns
  4. Autumn ‘Grey-out’

Time and Remuneration for Homework emails

This was a well made point – and while we considered it in the context of regular, annual rate reviews – the point made by teachers for a more immediate acknowledgement of the additional time is absolutely correct.

Beginning November, there will be a half-hour (as opposed to the suggested 15 minutes) of planning time to be checked-out in your schedules; one half-hour per teaching day.  This will last either through April, or up to the time we have our reviews in 2016.  At that point the extra time will be folded into your regular rates based on an analysis of your average teaching hours over time (we’ll sort out how long a time-frame we’ll be using for that shortly).  This means that we’ll work about an increase for your regular rate that is equivalent to the planning unit, so there aren’t separate units to track.

Adding this time, this way, is just one other way in which we differentiate and sell our school against other schools, and we appreciate your instigation of this effort to make it time well acknowledged, and well spent.

In the interim and going forward, the homework system awaits your posts.

Privacy in homework emails

The letter expressed concern about the privacy and access to information between families/students. This is a good concern to have, and we will address it.

Addressing privacy – a major issue of our time – is something that is important to us all. As a result we will update our registration policies to reflect the execution of homework emails in the format we are currently using. To assure everyone is properly informed The policy update for parents and students will be made directly to the parents in 3 different ways.  They will be called, emailed, and mailed to assure that all of them receive the information, and to give them the option to opt-out of the service.

This remains a very important effort for us – creating a more direct line to parents, helping to enforce and create desired musical behaviours at home, and building higher levels of accountability into student growth. It is an investment in retention and customer experience (more on that below). You will still need to be aware of your personal approach to writing, in consideration of the possible interpretations that text writing can have.  Discretion and care will be needed.

Reporting Format and Time Concerns

We were delighted to have the idea that we should have fixed days for parents to be invited into the lesson to review progress and goal setting.  We will implement this immediately, and this will always occur in the week before the make-up week, twice a year.  One of the great advantages of this suggestion is that it will truly help you to make meaningful connections with parents and to help them set and enforce their own goals for building a musical home and environment for their children.  We are delighted by this suggestion.

It will compliment our existing reporting processes excellently.  Thank you!

We’ll address the time involved in reporting and processes below.

Grey-out Period

There was also an active concern that the Grey-out would adversely affect teachers.

As with everything, we apply all policies in a flexible and sensitive manner, adhering to the bold text in the front of the ops manual, that clearly says we go with common sense, above all. New students are everyone’s priority so we would ask that you be mindful and considerate when requesting an exemption from our new rule.

Please remember that acquiring new students is expensive, while retaining them is much easier.

Customer experience (CX) is everyone’s job, and this Grey out doesn’t just affect you individually, it is something that affects you as colleagues, because the more we express our commitment to CX universally and consistently, the better our reputation and retention becomes, which benefits everyone.  Remember, we are trying to build life-long relationships with students, so kids today bring their kids tomorrow!

We hope that this clarifies why we’ve put this in place.

We’d also like to address some areas that fit into these concerns you have expressed.

Dialogue is always open

We’re grateful to you for communicating your concerns, and hope that this remains something you feel comfortable doing personally.

That being said, there are a few areas in which we need to clarify the admin team’s position.

Subbing out is encouraged, and there is no question you should pursue gigs, but this will only work when considered in context with the way in which it presents you to students.  You are the face of the school.  Reserving the right to say no during the most important time of the year is to protect and grow your teaching time, as well as the school’s health overall.

Compensation is an area that we are aware of as being a concern.  Balancing growth, increased rent/expenses (a $1000/mo increase this year), and acknowledging teachers properly is a challenge for us.  You can help by increasing your focus on CX and retention, which will free up some of the ~$18,000 that we spend annually on advertising for more teacher increases.  If you feel at anytime that we are simply being unfair, we can have a private discussion, and we can also part company with no hard feelings.  We want the teacher experience to be as positive as possible, even when it comes to goodbyes.

Teachers’ opinions are always valued.  When your input was solicited in the spring about the homework emails, we discussed and weighed the options with consideration for your opinion.  We decided to go ahead with the test because it was what parents wanted, and therefore good for CX, retention, and your bottom lines.  If we do it well, we will build a good studio, good students, and good support from parents at home.  Please understand that not every decision can be a collective one, however we never want anyone feeling like they are ignored, most especially in situations where we disagree on a point.

We emphasize the importance of our team, because our different functions are essential to making the the change – To Save Music – a living, daily action.  If we don’t view our group of educators as a team, and fend for the individual needs we may have, then it makes it harder, and slower to achieve our goal of becoming a big player as a music and arts educational institution in this city.  Once we achieve some scale, say 500+ students, that is when we can begin to adjust teachers’ rates to a more promising level.  CX and retention are easy ways for you to focus on that.

In no way is ABC typical, and is therefore incomparable to other schools.  We ask for more, because we do more, because we are better, and strive to be better than any other arts educational institution – period.  We, as an admin team, have no desire to be held to the standards of other music schools you may work at, because we have no desire to be the same.  All around us the Music we have chosen as a life is crumbling, and in order To Save Music we need to do everything differently, creatively, better, with an eye on our mission, and the determination to avoid compromise – particularly on the basis of comparison.

It is why we have reporting, and extra commitments of time, and all the other differences.

It is you that makes the difference and we know that.  We love ideas, feedback and solutions-oriented discussion, and we want to have that with you!

Yours with thanks,

Mike and Barn.