Half of music faculty staff split from Maritime Conservatory in Halifax

Click to play video: 'Half of the staff at Maritime Conservatory of Performing Art joined hands to start their own school'
Half of the staff at Maritime Conservatory of Performing Art joined hands to start their own school
The Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts has seen half its music faculty leave during internal dispute – Sep 3, 2019

The relationship between the faculty association and the board of governors at the Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts has struck another sour note.

Roughly half of the music faculty — 24 of its 44 teachers on staff — have recently left their positions and decided to open their own school following an eight-month internal power struggle, according to the now-former MCPA faculty association dean of music.

“We’ve essentially stepped outside of the building, we’ve taken control of our own registration and taken control of our students,” said Jason Davis.

The majority of teachers leaving come from the distinguished performing arts school’s voice, piano and ensemble departments and will now teach out of the Beth Israel Synagogue or from home studios. They argue the split is intended to send a message to the board, insisting they want to see some changes to its governance structure and bylaws.

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“It’s going to be a hardship financially for the institution and also morally for the institution,” said Davis.

“But our intent is not to do harm to the institution, but we have to make it clear that this is not acceptable.”

The rift between the MCPA board of governors and the faculty association began when word began to circulate of a potential sale of the historic school on Chebucto Road to a local developer.

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This caused tension, as the faculty said there was a lack of transparency regarding the negotiations. The issue revealed deeper problems between the faculty and the board of governors, which Davis says operates “undemocratically” in a cone of silence.

During a town hall public meeting on July 31, a panel hosted by the faculty association tried to shed light on the situation and alleged lack of transparency at the board level. They made it clear they wanted the conservatory re-write its bylaws. But there were no board members present at the meeting, except for vice-chair Olga Milosevich, who sat in on the panel and was critical of the level of secrecy at the board level.

The faculty association also wanted to see the board of governors create spaces for faculty members to be appointed to the board. As Davis points out, the MCPA is a not-for-profit and he says faculty want it to move to an open membership style of governance and bring more transparency to the prestigious performing arts school.

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“Right now, the board of governors are the only recognized members of the conservatory,” said Davis.

“It has created a lack of accountability and lack of communication between the faculty and the board.”

Global News reached out to board chair William Webster but like previous interview requests, Webster declined to comment on the story. He said the board was meeting again Tuesday night to finalize details from its previous meeting but wouldn’t elaborate if that was to deal with the staff departure.

In an August 15 letter issued by the board addressing the ongoing dispute, Webster said the board was not considering a move from the historic Chebucto Road location.

“The Conservatory has no plans to move from our current location,” he wrote on the board’s behalf. “The current Board is not taking and will not take any steps towards making such a move.”

Webster addressed the governance issue in the letter and said the board intended to conduct a full review of its governance model, which includes bylaws, statute and board composition.

The internal feud has been difficult to endure for Natalia Pavlovskaia, a faculty member for 15 years who said the politics has spoiled some of the joy of teaching. Last week, she decided to resign as a piano teacher and in a letter to her colleagues, she called the environment inside the school “hostile.”

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“I cannot teach in the atmosphere when you yourself are feeling like you are in the middle of a battlefield, the teaching process requires a huge concentration of all of the resources,” said Pavlovskaia.

As for the former MCAP faculty association members, they have posted registration for their classes on their new website and hope one day to return to the Chebucto school with a new set of bylaws and governance model in place.

“We will continue to be very open and transparent with the public and our fellow faculty members and other stakeholders of the conservatory so that we can push for a more open and democratic structure for everybody,” said Davis.

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