LANSING | A large crowd showed its support Tuesday night for Mike Madonia, Thornton Fractional South High School's music teacher and band director, at the District 215 board meeting.
The board was to consider whether to reassign the teacher who has been at T.F. South for 25 years from the high school to the district's Center for Academics and Technology, as well as if he would be removed from his position as band director.
Superintendent Creg Williams said he could not comment on the reason for the possible reassignment because it involved a personnel matter.
He said if the board did approve the reassignment it would take effect next school year.
He said a disciplinary matter regarding Madonia that was to be discussed in closed session did not involve any students.
"It's a violation of board policy and procedures over a period of time," Williams said.
He said corrective measures that had been put in place had not been followed.
There is currently no music program at the Center for Academics and Technology.
"We're looking to add a music program here, thereby expanding the total music program in the entire district," Williams said.
He said T.F. South will continue to have a band program, with or without Madonia.
One after one, current and former students spoke in support of Madonia.
They were allotted a total of 45 minutes to do so and so only about 20 of the crowd of approximately 100 were able to address the board.
Some current female students, and also some mothers of former students, cried as they spoke highly of the teacher.
He was repeatedly referred to as a "mentor," and his supporters recalled what they said were some of his trademark sayings, including "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing well."
Justin Ostrowski, a 2010 T.F. South graduate, drove up from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign when he found out his former teacher was in trouble.
"In my opinion, the music department at T.F. South is in jeopardy tonight," Ostrowski said.
Ostrowski recalled how Madonia recruited him for the band and taught him to express himself and to follow his dreams.
"He gives tough love sometimes, but everybody appreciates it in the end," he said. "They know he only has the best interests of the students and the band as a whole in mind. It's just really, really disheartening to see that the students now and the students in the future, may not have the opportunity to learn from him."
Alex Dolinar, a 2012 T.F. South graduate, also came and spoke on behalf of Madonia.
"I feel like his talents would be wasted at the tech center," Dolinar said. "He taught me more than notes and rhythms, he taught life lessons."
The board went into closed session to discuss Madonia's fate shortly after 8 p.m. and had not returned from that session past 9 p.m.
Madonia was present for the board meeting but did not speak during the public comment portion. He declined to be interviewed and said he wanted to stay focused on the matter at hand.