By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

The beat goes on at Mac High

While Dana Libonatai battles rare form of cancer, district staff rallying to sustain quality program

During Dana Libonati's absence, due to a bout with an extremely rare form of cancer,  McMinnville High School's jazz choir is being covered by other teachers, particularly Robin Pederson, who teaches symphonic choir.

Principal Kris Olsen said he is looking for a long-term substitute with jazz choir experience. He would like to find someone who also can take over Libonati's music theory course.

He said a retired Salem-Keizer jazz choir teacher may be able to lend a hand later in the year.

As for the students, Olsen said, "The kids are probably managing better than the adults." He said the Twilighters and Sterling Jazz groups each have their own leadership structure, and students have stepped up to help with rehearsals.

Superintendent Maryalice Russell said the district wants to make sure it sustains a quality program during Libonati's absence. "The whole music staff across the district is rallying, supporting kids and maintaining a great program," she said.

Mac High also is looking for a new band teacher.

The previous teacher resigned on the first day of school to take a new job. Retired band teacher Pat Lay came on board to fill the job first semester, but isn't prepared to stick around indefinitely.

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