SM East orchestra teacher says 30-year career coming to an end as a result of conflict over district support for the arts

Jonathan Lane conducting the SM East Orchestra. Photo via SM East Orchestra Boosters website.
Jonathan Lane conducting the SM East Orchestra. Photo via SM East Orchestra Boosters website.

In a letter sent to orchestra parents last week, SM East Orchestra Director Jonathan Lane announced his intent to retire from the district instead of signing a new contract that includes provisions he finds “onerous and horribly controlling.”

“What would be best for the students at this time would be for me to take my retirement from the district so that a full time position can be offered up for a new orchestra teacher,” Lane said. “This is most likely what I will do as I seek other employment.”

Lane said the new contract presented to him by district administrators would require him to take on new duties as a department facilitator with no extra pay. He also cites the continued erosion of support staff for the district’s fine arts programs.

“It is support for the fine arts in Shawnee Mission Schools that is the heart of the issue,” Lane wrote. “It is not just a state funding issue either. As taxpayers you have to look at the district funding for athletics and building security as compared to music and other area districts.”

During his tenure, SM East’s program grew from a single class with just over 20 students to more than 100 students performing in three orchestras. Lane has taken students to perform at festivals across the United States and in Canada. Outside of SM East, Lane teaches studio bass and performs as a substitute member of the Kansas City Symphony.

Lane’s letter to parents is embedded below:

https://dfv6pkw99pxmo.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/28080815/Letter-to-SME-Orchestra-Families.pdf

The district submitted the following comment on the situation:

The Shawnee Mission School District remains committed to fine and performing arts districtwide and supports enhanced opportunities for students in these areas. In the interest of ensuring excellence within these programs, instructors and staff members must be willing to embrace and fulfill all of the professional responsibilities associated with their position. Unfortunately, this situation pertains to a personnel issue, so the district is unable to comment specifically. Mr. Lane has made a decision, and we respect his decision.