Letter from Band Parent Questions Due Process and Simple Fairness toward John Yoon

Letter received Dec. 8, 2015 from Joan Margenot

Dear Members of the Board of Education:

I am troubled to learn that after the long wait John Yoon has had to receive a recommendation concerning his termination from the hearing officer, Mr. Webber has decided to follow the course set by the latest Superintendent of Schools and the Headmaster at Greenwich High School to remove him. I urge the Board of Education to take a very close look at the ramifications of moving forward with this ill-advised recommendation to remove a devoted teacher who has put down stakes in this community, and has inspired countless students in his over 20 years leading the band program.

Unfortunately, Mr. Webber has elevated what appears to be an overreaching agreement signed by a dedicated teacher under duress to a far greater force than due process and simple fairness would dictate. Mr. Webber has allowed the problems of two students to compromise the experience of the almost 200 students regularly led and, at times, disciplined, by Mr. Yoon. Mr. Webber recites the numerous failures on the part of the administration to follow-up on the dysfunction in the music department, or to even advise Mr. Yoon of the students’ complaints, and the complaints of at least one of the parents, yet with the illusory benefit of hindsight would micromanage how Mr. Yoon handled the disrespect of two students to their fellow students and their band director.

Mr. Webber’s assessment in his written recommendation, that John Yoon makes “music production…important” while giving “a lesser value…to the student” in my experience is simply inaccurate, and misunderstands what students want out of a band program and what it means to lead one.

Mr. Webber also appears to misunderstand the interrelatedness of all the bands, and would fault Mr. Yoon for one student’s removal from a leadership position when the student has demonstrably failed to accept the responsibilities of the position. A coach in any sport does not take his athlete aside in the middle of a game, to quietly inform him that he is being pulled off the field. A theater teacher gives instructive notes about the performance of one student in front of all the others for pedagogical purposes, and may remove an actor from a part when he or she is not giving his all.

While I appreciate that a parent wants only to protect his or her child, and I understand the impulse to intercede, the descriptions of the interchanges between Mr. Yoon, the students, the administration, and the respective parents show a disturbing tilt in the wrong direction.

My son started playing saxophone in the summer camp band program led by Mr. Yoon as an elementary school student and continued playing through middle school. He had a horrific schedule during high school, including extensive involvement in the theater program, and challenging academics, yet pursued advancement from Concert Band to Symphony Band to Wind Ensemble, and from the Jazz Lab Band to the Jazz Ensemble. He reports an occasional chastisement for lateness here and there from Mr. Yoon but clearly understood what was required of him. I never heard about any discipline at the time, because my son knew the boundaries, and knew them to be fair. Unlike many a group leader, there are no hidden agendas with Mr. Yoon. As a result of Mr. Yoon’s expectations of best effort and excellence, my son learned self-discipline, self-reliance and to respect himself, the task and others.

My son, who graduated from Greenwich High School in 2009, wrote the following on the Bring Back Mr. Yoon Facebook page, which he has asked me to repeat here: “Mr. John Yoon single-handedly shaped my passion for music. The man is an absolute gift of a teacher and expects nothing but the best. And he gets it.

Without Mr. Yoon, the band program will be at a severe loss. For those who are interested in music and in becoming better, they could not possibly have a better ally than Mr. Yoon. He never accepts half attempts and constantly pushes people to become the best musicians they can be.”

Please reinstate this fine, dedicated, teacher.


Joan Margenot