At GHS, Longtime Band Teacher is Out on Paid Leave

John Yoon

Mr. Yoon at Central Middle School, summer 2014, at the popular Parks & Rec summer music and art camp. Credit: Leslie Yager

John Yoon

Mr. John Yoon leads the band at graduation in June 2014. Credit: Leslie Yager

GHS band teacher John Yoon has been placed on paid administrative leave, according to the Greenwich Board of Education in response to a query on Wednesday.

Kim Eves, Director of Communication for the Board of Ed said Mr. Yoon’s return date is unknown at this point.  “As this a personnel matter, we respect Mr. Yoon’s right to privacy and are not permitted to discuss the matter publicly,” Eves said.

In an email to Mr. Yoon, he replied that he was not permitted to comment.

A closed Facebook group, created on Tuesday, called “Bring Back Mr. Yoon 2015,” has already grown to 165 members.

The group is serving as a forum for discussion among students, though there are some parents in the group, and there is some speculation about why Mr. Yoon is on leave. The organizers have also created a shared Google doc where it is possible to post comments.

One student posted a copy of a letter he sent to GHS headmaster Dr. Winters, which reads in part, “I am emailing you in regards to the absence of Mr. Yoon from school for the past 3 weeks. To be straight-forward: The members of the GHS band have come together to advocate for his return. I realize this may be a sensitive situation, but the GHS band community wants to find a solution to the problem we suspect is present….I would like to have a conference/ meeting scheduled with you, myself, 2 other members of the Wind Ensemble and 3 members of the Symphony Band (assuming all can attend).”

John Yoon

Mr. Yoon in the GHS student center during the annual jazz festival, 2014. Credit: Leslie Yager

Using the hashtag #bringbackyoon2015 one, of the first Facebook group posts reads, “Though unconfirmed, rumors have it that Mr. Yoon may not be returning to GHS in the near future. In order to prevent this, it is up to us to communicate our reasons why we want Mr. Yoon back up on the podium. Please add other members to help support our efforts in bringing Mr. Yoon back. More importantly, please share one or more reasons why you want Mr. Yoon back and what impact Mr. Yoon has made on you or your high school career.”

On Rate My Teacher.com, 44 anonymous reviews of Mr. Yoon dating back to 2003 are mostly very complimentary, including one commenter, who posted in 2012, “Yoon is freaking awesome. He’s so funny, and as long as you don’t talk and you put some effort in, he’ll love you.”

Another comment in 2012, read, “Yoon was my favorite teacher of all at Greenwich High School. He gave me an A+ because I showed up to class and gave him everything I could. At the end of the day he would tell me how he sees success in me in the future and that I could be a superstar. Most people don’t do that kind of stuff. You gotta love this guy. However, misbehave the first day and you are screwed.”

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.


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  • cato renasci

    This has been coming for a very long time. There have been serious complaints about Mr. Yoon going back to at least 1999, some of which have been very close to lawsuits, and several of which have resulted in changed policies. He is talented, but plays favorites egregiously and goes after students he does not like. He has had protection over the years from BoE members whose children he favored. There are probably more serious complaints about John Yoon than any other faculty member at the high school.

    • Daisy

      Just because there have been complaints about Mr. Yoon since the late 90s does not mean they are founded on any substantial grounds. I was in all of the bands I could possibly be in with Mr. Yoon when I attended GHS from ’96 to ’00. I have learned more from him than any other non-family member and he is a true inspiration to his students and to the community at large. He is strict but he is fair. He works his students hard and they are better for it – ask any student in his class. He taught me how to have a work ethic. I am a better worker and a better human being for having had him as a teacher for four years. He provides discipline and accountability in a world that does not hold people responsible for their actions. Mr. Yoon teaches the youth of Greenwich to hold up their end of the bargain – to show up on time (which means at least 5 minutes early), to work hard, to be humble, and to be grateful for the opportunities they have been given. He has given his heart and soul to the community and he has been ridiculed for it from Day 1. Mr. Yoon is a dedicated, hard-working, honest, and humble individual. He demands much from his students. He does not idly give praise or participation medals or treat the students like they need to have their hands held and they need to be told how wonderful they are – he treats them like adults. As a former high school teacher, I can tell you that when you treat your high school students like adults and hold them responsible for their behavior, their actions, and their study/practice habits, they will rise to the occasion. They will surprise you, they will work for you, they will respect you and, even more importantly, they will respect themselves. That is the best gift he has given his students – the ability to have respect for themselves and what they have truly accomplished and worked hard to attain. Anyone who has stuck with Mr. Yoon for any extended period of time has come out the better for it.

      • Adriana Phillips

        Well said! I totally endorse your comments. I am a former parent and co chair of the GHS PTA with a daughter in Mr Yoon’s honors band classes who went on to be the Valedictorian in 1997. Yes Mr Yoon was at times perhaps too strict and rigid in his disciplinary protocol but always consistent and believe me the kids ” lived with it” . There is a lesson to be learned from being punished unfairly.

  • catorenasci

    You were obviously not one (or the parent of one) singled out for unfair and abusive treatment.

    His rigidity increased after your (early) days in his tenure, and the verbal abuse only increased. Especially with serious musicians who were involved in outside high-level music programs outside of the Greenwich system.

    For every supporter of John Yoon, there is a quiet detractor who smiles and says nothing when his praises are sung.

  • Kevin

    I’ll reserve ultimate judgement until the facts are clear, but being an alumni of the band program for four years as well as the middle school summer program, I’ve had about as much time with Mr. Yoon as anyone as a student.

    Is he tough? Yes. Can he be unfair and lack perspective? Absolutely. We butted heads many times. But he is, in my estimation, absolutely one of the best music directors in the country. And he is motivated by his dedication to his students and his craft.

    I know he’s rubbed many people, including myself, the wrong way over his tenure, but the band program is a jewel of the high school and let’s be clear — his replacement couldn’t fill the shoes. I actually moved to Greenwich to play in the band program.

    Again, without the facts, who knows? But if this falls within the spectrum of Yoon being tough and abrasive — bring him back ASAP.