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Parents, Students to Protest Firing of Trabuco Hills Music Director

They plan to make their voices heard at tonight's Saddleback Valley Unified school board meeting.

Howard Stephens was recently dismissed after a 22-year career in the Saddleback Valley Unified School District. He was musical director at Trabuco Hills High. Photo courtesy of Ingrid Culbert.
Howard Stephens was recently dismissed after a 22-year career in the Saddleback Valley Unified School District. He was musical director at Trabuco Hills High. Photo courtesy of Ingrid Culbert.

A group of angry parents and students plan to register their complaints with the Saddleback Valley Unified school board tonight after receiving news that the Trabuco Hills High music director has been dismissed.

Students are taking to social media to rally support for Howard Stephens. Some even made a YouTube video (above).

Parent Ingrid Culbert said about a month ago, Stephens was notified “he would be replaced because his vision does not match that of the high school administration.”

A spokeswoman for the school district, Tammy Blakely, said she could not publicly address a personnel matter.

Culbert said Principal Craig Collins explained to her and other parents that the dismissal was prompted by a “personality conflict and that their two visions for the music program are not the same.”

The students are devastated, Culbert said.

“I attended the very emotional booster meeting last month where Mr. Collins stated that he was going to replace Dr. Stephens as director and it became an intense, emotional 2 ½ hours of pleading and tears from person after person begging Mr. Collins to change his mind, from students to parents to alumni,” she said.

So tonight, they will take those pleas to the Board of Education, which starts its regular meeting at 6:30 p.m. Education Center Board Room, 25631 Peter A. Hartman Way in Mission Viejo.

In addition, an online petition has already collected more than 700 signatures.

Blakely did say the district continues to support the music program at Trabuco.

“The Trabuco Hills High School music program is, and will remain, an integral part of THHS tradition and celebration,” she wrote in emailed correspondence. “The music program will be fulfilling and challenging for students at all levels including marching band, instrumental music programs, and competitions.

“A band director will be in place at THHS and the expectations and celebrations will continue to be robust so students can focus on their passion for music,” she wrote.

Jj Blinn May 19, 2014 at 05:57 AM
What this school is doing to Dr howard Stephens is shame full. I loved all my 4 years at trabuco hills high school. and to see how SVUSD and Mr Collins the principal of THHS is treating this matter is so shameful . A once quality program is being turn into nothing, so sad and shame shame on SVUSD . Those people care only about their jobs not the students .
Mark Alan Wolfe May 29, 2014 at 07:32 PM
This great man taught me back in 1989 in Ohio when was a high school student he is a awesome teacher and mentor! Shame on you for treating this man this way! GO DR. STEPS!
Lisa Panyuscsik Caughhorn May 29, 2014 at 09:33 PM
So the flurry of activity on my Facebook newsfeed today is from a group of people that I have not spoken to in eons who like myself were students of Dr. Stephens 20-25 YEARS ago in Ohio. The comments revolved around the current situation regarding his termination and how we are stunned with the way he is being treated. To have this kind of response this long after he was our teacher speaks volumes of the impact he made on so many lives as a respected teacher and mentor. And I just wanted you to know.

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