RHS tackles band transition


Toffelmier’s removal causes uncertainty

Roseville High School administration dismissed 26-year band director Mark Toffelmier from his current post. Toffelmier will not return as band director next school year.

According to principal David Byrd, the change came about due to Roseville Joint Union High School District’s desire to expand the band program, coinciding with a wider push for growth in elementary and middle school music programs.

“One thing happening in the Roseville City School District is they are now recommitting to music programs and band programs at those schools, so there is going to be a rejuvenation at that point,” Byrd said. “Part of our rejuvenation has to do with what happens there at those schools, we gotta build relations with them.”

Byrd wants a new band director to inspire enrollment growth.

“It’s important to get students in there and we have to start by going out to little kids who are just learning how to play a flute and start getting those kids excited about [band],” Byrd said. “We will see that payoff in five, six years when they get through middle school.”

Toffelmier says he is disappointed because he wanted to retire in his own time, on his own terms and give his classes plenty of warning before he left his position. He also wanted to have a transition plan in place for when the time came for him to retire.

“I was hoping that I got to pick my time but they decided within the last two weeks that it was my time,” Toffelmier said. “My goal was to leave in place
a full-time music job and so we were taking steps down the road, but administration decided that it was time to make a move.”

According to Toffelmier, there was talk about having two band directors so Toffelmier could ease the students into the change and help the new director become accustomed to the program.

VAPA department coordinator, Patricia Leong thinks the change came so sudden because the district has felt a push from RCSD and RJUHSD to revitalize the band program.

“The last phase came more about from the district office because Placer County schools are going to be hiring new band directors and there is going to be a new push for music in elementary schools so they rushed to hire a new band director,” Leong said.

Leong wishes that more factors had been taken into consideration when the district was deciding to make this change.

Above, Mark Toffelmier instructs his symphonic band class. As band director of 26 years, Mark Toffelmier crafted bonds with the students and parents who now voice their concerns in support of him. (ZACHARY SEMINER/EYE OF THE TIGER)

“I think the decision was being made for what they believed was the good of the whole and sometimes people forget the time and energy that’s put into a VAPA program,” Leong said.

Junior band student Sarah Melchner appreciates administration’s attempts to help the band program but thinks that getting rid of Toffelmier was an unnecessary step in the process, especially when there are many other means to help the program.

“I don’t think a new instructor is going to completely rejuvenate the program,” Melchner said. “First help the program flourish, there are other factors to help the program. Buy new music and make bigger shelves and new uniforms to help the program.”

Band booster club president Debby Lopes expressed her concerns through an email to Byrd, not only about Toffelmier’s replacement, but about how poorly she felt administration communicated the reason for the change poorly.

“There was a multitude of emotions and confusion because there was no clear communication from the admin to the students to the parents of what really truly was going on,” Debby said.

Debby, who has a long history with Toffelmier, was shocked to hear the news and was mostly upset that Toffelmier’s legacy will be ending earlier than he had wanted. According to Lopes, she would have wanted her other daughter, Nicole, to also enroll in band under Toffelmier’s direction but is excited to see where the band program may be taken in the coming years.

“I’m hoping that the school and district will put the resources behind [growing] the program,” Debby said. “It will have an impact years down the road and that when [Amanda’s sister] Nicole is a senior she will see the fruits of our labor.”

Assistant principal overseeing VAPA, Stephanie Malia, is also excited to see where the VAPA program will go with a new band director who wants to take on the task of rejuvenating band programs.

“You’re always looking for someone who is ready to come in and build a program,” Malia said. “I’m excited to see who’s out there and see where we can take [the band program]. I think Roseville and the community is ready for it.”

In his last district, Byrd went through a similar process with their band program and found that the reactions were similar in both cases but the outcome was a rejuvenated program.

“We want the transition to be as smooth as possible, but any transition is always going to be tough and you have to work through the initial rough patch,” Byrd said.

He hopes that the situation calms down and he has the opportunity to speak with parents and students in a series of meetings he hopes to hold to better serve the needs of the band community.

“[We need] to keep talking about where we want this to go,” Byrd said. “I’m setting up some meetings and getting parents pretty actively involved.”
Debby believes the meetings will be helpful to steer the band in the correct direction and increase communication between parents and administration.

“I had a talk with Mr. Byrd and they are 100 percent behind the program and growing the program but that hasn’t been communicated, outright, to the kids and to the parents,” Debby said.

There will a boosters club meeting this week in which all parents are welcome to get more specific details about the situation.

According to VAPA department coordinator Patricia Leong, the department was not consulted in the decision to replace Toffelmier. Leong believes this was because it was made so quickly and over spring break that there was never much of a chance for communication

“It came more from the district more than the principal, so I wasn’t in the loop,” Leong said. “Typically there is a conversation, but because things were moving so quickly and because it was over spring break that conversation didn’t happen.”

Byrd wants to reassure students that there will not be any loss of music programs. There will still be a marching band, symphonic band, two sections of beginning piano and an intermediate piano class.

Band classes have shown a growth in student requests from this school year to next. Marching band requests increased from 37 to 43 students and in Symphonic Band requests increased from 24 to 42 students. Along with these increases, Beginning Piano Lab saw 64 requests heading into this school year.

Malia hopes to expand their offerings, which include having separate blocks of beginning, intermediate and advanced piano, a choir class and other VAPA classes. The piano class is in the process of creating the three levels, and the drama program has increased to three sections.

“When you are looking at looking at building any program you really want the spectrum because that appeals to more students, and the bigger draw that becomes,” Malia said.

Leong will miss Toffelmier after getting to know him over the years.

“He is passionate about what he does and [students] knew he really loved what he was doing,” Leong said. “He had this quiet but witty personality that people didn’t always get to see and I think his students will miss that and his prolific understanding of music. It’s just sad.”

He believes that he will be offered a job at some other location in the district but does not plan on accepting unless the offer is “really good.”

“I will have a full-time job in somewhere in the district, just not a full-time job doing this,” Toffelmier said.

Toffelmier appreciates all of the support that he received from current and past students, parents and fellow staff members.

“I will miss those kids coming in and they might say ‘where’s that guy with the beard.’” Toffelmier said.” I will miss the relationships with those kids and the long term association with band.”