PHS choir/music teacher abruptly steps down

TPH: Shacker

After less than two years as A Capella teacher at Piedmont High School, Sid Quinsaat has resigned the position.

The surprise resignation caps several weeks of uncertainty during which Quinsaat was absent from teaching duties and mostly incommunicado. During those weeks students and administrators were unaware of the teacher’s whereabouts.

According to PHS principal Adam Littlefield, the school had been expecting Quinsaat to return to work after winter break. Quinsaat’s resignation came in a Feb. 24 email to Littlefield, who notified parents the following day. Littlefield declined to discuss the reasons behind the resignation or any other contents of the email. Quinsaat did not respond to messages from the Exedra requesting comment.

The abrupt departure of a teacher in such a key role has thrown the PHS A Capella program into disarray. Quinsaat taught 94 students across four PHS music courses – Chamber Choir, A Cappella Advanced, Freshman A Cappella and AP Music Theory. Quinsaat also taught a course at Millennium High School, and is listed as choir director at St. Ignatius College Prep in San Francisco.

Starting in mid January, when it was believed that Quinsaat was only on a short sick leave, PHS administrators assigned substitute teachers for those classes, said Littlefield. As the days and weeks mounted and Quinsaat had still not returned, the school was not always successful in finding substitutes to keep the classes on track. Since then students and parents have expressed deep frustration at the sudden derailment of this important part of their music education. Said parent Margaret Hiller, whose daughter Megan is enrolled in A Capella; “The A Cappella students have been without a teacher since a few days after winter break ended. The situation is very concerning, with no end in sight.”

The A Cappella groups are a core part of PHS’ music program, and AP Music Theory is offered only once every other year. The choir program has long been known for its stability as well as its excellence. Previous directors, including Alan Harvey and most recently Joe Piazza who retired last spring after 31 years, left big shoes to fill. Both instructors ran the program at a high level and turned PHS into a vocal training center with regional renown. The annual May Revue is a highly-anticipated community showcase.

Quinsaat, whose passion for music and belief in students was always visible, came to Piedmont in 2018 with two years teaching experience and took charge of the Choir program this fall. There were reports of friction between Quinsaat and students, though it is not known if this had any connection to Quinsaat’s decision to step down.

Some students expressed sadness last week as word of Quinsaat’s departure worked its way through the PHS campus. “We were worried and confused,” said one. “I wish we weren’t spending every day wondering if they were ok and if they were coming back or not. It’s hard to understand why they would just leave everything.”

According to Littlefield, PHS is seeking a permanent substitute to finish out the year, and has posted the open position on education websites to be filled next fall. The state of California is currently facing a teacher shortage. Littlefield said there is no chance that Joe Piazza could return to fill in.

The Feb 25 email from Principal Littlefield to PHS parents and students:

A Message from Piedmont Unified School District

Dear Students and Parents of Mx. Quinsaat,

I recently received communication from Mx. Quinsaat that they have resigned their teaching positions at Piedmont High School and Millennium High School. PHS will be posting the Acappella and AP Music Theory position through Edjoin, the online portal for hiring educators. Thank you to those of you who have offered suggestions for prospective substitute teachers. Please encourage interested applicants to contact me at  for more information about the position. We will continue to have existing PHS teachers and general substitute teachers serve as substitute teachers during this transition. I will be working with our music teachers in developing lesson plans until a long term substitute teacher is hired. Thank you for your patience, understanding and support.

Adam Littlefield, Principal 
Piedmont High School

One thought on “PHS choir/music teacher abruptly steps down

  1. The Piedmont High School AP Music Theory class recently read your article regarding Mx. Quinsaat’s resignation. Thank you for your coverage of this and so many more important issues.
    Following are some quotes from letters of appreciation written to Mx. Quinsaat after their resignation. (So “you” refers to Mx. Q.) Thank you for considering these quotes! It is important to our class that Mx. Quinsaat is recognized and remembered as a skilled, extraordinary teacher who was respected and loved by many students.

    “You taught me how to be excited about the “boring” part of music. You are also incredibly compassionate and always made sure to ask the class of how we were doing, even when you were not feeling your best.” -Jenna Kim, 11th grade

    “You were always so kind and welcoming that it made it hard for me to feel stressed in your class. You always taught with so much passion and vigor, making it more enjoyable and easy to learn for everyone.” -Luke Chan, 10th grade

    “I don’t think I have ever met a teacher so enthusiastic and passionate about the subject they taught, and your energy was so infectious that even after a long day where I felt like I wanted to just go home and skip 6th period, by the end of the day I would feel reinvigorated from your sheer optimism and charm.” -Hajime Sano, 10th grade

    “You made the class such a welcoming environment and it allowed me to try new things without being afraid of failure. Your passion for music really showed through your teaching and inspired us all as musicians and as students.” -Isabella Wu, 10th grade

    “I really felt like we could understand each other and our mutual passion for music made the class truly fun and interesting.” -Ella Vo, 10th grade

    “While you shouldn’t worry about our studies without you, I can speak on everyone’s behalf in saying that you will be missed dearly, for your humour, your knowledge, your relatability, and your wonderful personality. In many ways, your departure is akin to that of a friend rather than that of a teacher.” -Robbie Sylvia, 10th grade

    “Your class is such an inclusive, open, comfortable, supportive environment—something you rarely find at school.” -Caitlin Gong, 10th grade

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