Thank you, Mr. Vertoske

Last night, the annual music Spectrum concert was held in the High School gymnasium. Bands and orchestras from an amazing grade 4 to 12 performed one song for the huge and enthusiastic crowd. It was like all Clarence music concerts – joyful and skillful.

There was, alas, a dark cloud hanging over the proceedings. Michael Vertoske, the 6th grade band conductor, will be leaving the district next year against his will. His position has been cut as a result of the defeat of the original May 21st budget.

The transition from elementary school to a unified Middle School in 6th grade isn’t easy. It’s fraught with nervousness and anxiety for kids and parents alike.  When my oldest daughter made the transition in 2011, Mr. Vertoske was not only her band teacher, but her homeroom teacher and advisor. We always found him to be engaging and bright, encouraging and comforting.  He helped ease that transition for our child and family.

But he’s also incredibly talented. A published composer and talented arranger, his students give him 5 stars across the board on ratemyteacher.com. “Awesome”, “the best”, “helpful and nice”, “my favorite teacher” are some of the comments. Hired in 1995, Mr. Vertoske earned just over $64,000, according to state records. Considering his work with the 6th graders and the jazz band, along with the quality of teaching and care he gave,  he’s a bargain at any price.

Last night would be Mr. Vertoske’s last Spectrum concert. His 6th grade band’s performance was a triumph. But above all, the audience was cognizant of how bittersweet the moment was, and as his former students presented him with a gift and some lovely, heartfelt speeches, the crowd gave him no fewer than 4 standing ovations.

Mr. Vertoske’s 4th standing ovation last night

Losing a talented teacher like Mr. Vertoske is a tragedy for the district and its students. I am forever grateful that my older daughter was fortunate enough to be inspired and taught by him.

Mr. Vertoske will be ok – he is so talented that he’ll doubtlessly be snapped up by another, smarter district. He is going to lead children into amazing musical adventures. Sadly, my youngest child will not be among them.

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