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Teacher Contractor Handbook

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Office Hours & Communication

For normal communication on non-urgent matters, please contact me during normal business hours, preferably between 9am-5pm Monday-Friday.

Of course, lessons go into the evenings, so if an issue arises with a student or your ability to get to the school after 5pm, please still contact me! For normal schedule updates, non-urgent questions, etc, please reach out during the day as stated above.

Please use Telegram for communication and only call if you have an emergency or an issue which needs immediate attention. For everything else, if you would like to schedule a call or meet with me in person, please message me through Telegram to set that up.

Please avoid contacting me on Saturdays and Sundays if possible for questions or updates. Due to the nature of my work with Electria, I am usually unavailable on Saturdays and cannot handle school issues or questions unless it is a true emergency or something urgent in nature.

Emergency Contact Information

First and foremost, if there is a life-threatening emergency, please call 911.

Then, if I am not there, please call the school number at 502-519-5109 or my cell at 502-609-6691.

If you can't get a hold of me, then try my emergency contact, Faye Simpson at 502-609-6690.

If there is a building emergency (tree falls on the house, water is flowing everywhere, etc) you can't get a hold of me, you may also try the landlord, Bob Kohn, at 502-345-5300.  Identify yourself as a teacher at Highlands Music Academy and explain the emergency and that you were unable to reach me. 


Telegram for staff communication:

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1. History & Mission Statement


Highlands Music Academy, formally Notable Beginnings was started in Appleton, WI by Kate O’Brien (formerly Vance).  Upon moving to Louisville, KY in 2001 Ms. O’Brien sold the Appleton location and started a new one.  Kim Fanning bought the school from Ms. O’Brien in June 2008 upon her move to Virginia.  Under Mrs. Fanning, the school expanded and added nearly 100 students and 10 teachers to the roster. In January 2018, Alison Suell purchased the school from Mrs. Fanning, and has continued to grow the school to over 160 students (and growing) with 15 teachers.



Our mission here at the school is two-fold: to give students a great lesson experience and to take care of the admin work so you can do what you do best…. teach!

We look for teachers who are reliable, knowledgeable, and personable. I also look for teachers who are adaptable to their students. While you and I chose music as our career path, many students coming in for lessons are casual learners; therefore, it is paramount that teachers are able to adapt their teaching style to meet the needs and goals of their students and to cultivate and nurture their student’s love of music. 

Our goal is to grow the school to 300 students and beyond, creating stable work for teachers and providing quality music education to as many students in our community as possible.

I’m here to help, so if you find you need help with a student, have trouble with a parent, have questions or concerns about the teaching space, or need help with your schedule, or using the calendar software, don’t hesitate to contact me.

2. Opening and Closing Procedures

If you are the first to arrive at the school:

  • Turn up heat to 68-70 (prefer 68)

  • Turn air to 70-72 (prefer 72) or turn on ALL window AC units

  • Turn on lights in common areas/hallways (both upstairs and downstairs)

  • Unlock front and back doors.

When leaving your room for the day and someone is still there:

  • Turn off space heaters or window AC units.

  • Turn off lights in your room only.

  • Return the room to how you found it (move chairs, stands, mirrors back where they belong, throw away trash, etc).

If you are the last to leave (please check the whole building to see if you are):

  • Turn off all window AC units and space heaters.

  • Turn heat down to 65 or the air up to 75

  • Turn off all lights.

  • Lock all doors (keypad lock units only)

3. Sick Days, Conflicts, & Vacations

Important: Please notify us FIRST about your conflicts, travel plans, or cancellations and NOT students. 

​1. If you are sick:

  • If you are feeling ill, the earlier in the day, the better for us to know. Late notices create an unnecessary hardship if we are notified only an hour or two before your lessons are to begin. More notice allows us time to notify students and/or get a substitute teacher in.

2. Travel Plans & Conflicts:

  • Request time off in Opus1 for the dates you will be out. This will notify us and once we process your requests, the dates will be automatically blocked off in your schedule - this means students will not be able to self-book into your blocked dates! 

  • If you will have extensive or frequent time-off requests, please discuss this with us so we can make a plan or modify your schedule accordingly.

3. Substitute Teachers and Makeups

  • For teacher absences, we will try to have another teacher substitute. If we cannot get a sub, then we will reschedule the lessons or give the student a makeup credit. 

  • If we cannot reschedule the lesson (none of your makeup availability works with the student's schedule) then we will give the student a refund or credit for the lesson.

    • NOTE: Do not offer students lesson refunds, this is at the discretion of HMA.

      • Please realize that refunds not only costs the teachers, but they also cost the school which is why we ask that teachers try to offer adequate alternative times for makeup lessons if possible.

4. Lesson Scheduling & Attendance Procedure

When a student calls, emails, or texts the school for lessons, the office staff will arrange a time from the teacher’s schedule for that student, and agree on a start date. Students are also able to self-book themselves into lessons on our website and the teacher will be notified automatically via text and email from Opus1. 


Teachers may view their schedule at any time by logging into their Opus1 account.

  • It is advisable to check your schedule daily, rather than relying on your memory.

  • Opus1 also recommends not syncing your account to your google account, as it does not update frequently enough.

  • Lessons should be marked in Opus1 as “Attended” or “No Show.” 


If a student needs to change his or her permanent lesson time, the change must be arranged through the school.


When a teacher is nearing his or her limit on students, he or she will notify the owner so there is ample time to locate a new teacher to take the overflow. Preferably this notice will come when he or she does not want any more than 4 or 5 more students.

5. Communication with Students

1. Do NOT share your phone number or other personal information with students.

  • One of the benefits of working with Highlands Music Academy is that you do not have to handle client communications. You should not be bothered after hours with texts and emails from students and parents.

  • Keeping communication funneled through the school also helps mitigate miscommunication and keeps our school policies enforceable and respected by students. 

    • This also allows us to handle common questions and issues so you don't have to!

2. DO Communicate with students through Opus1

  • Go to "Client Comments" in your account and you can share files and lesson notes with students!

  • If another teacher subs for your students, they will also be able to see comments or files shared with students.

3. Do NOT share my personal cell with students, have them call, text, or email the school at:

4. Answering Student Questions:

  • If a student directly contacts a teacher, the teacher will refer him or her to the office staff for all scheduling.

  • If a student needs to change his or her permanent lesson time, the change must be arranged through the school.

  • If a student must miss a lesson, they can cancel their lesson by signing into their account via Opus1. This can also be done by contacting the school directly (text or email preferred).

  • If a teacher needs to change his or her schedule the owner must be notified with a ample notice.  The office staff will then contact the affected students and arrange new lesson times for them.

6. Room Usage, Materials, & Care and Maintenance of furniture and instruments:

1. Room Setup and use:

  • Please return rooms to how they looked when you came in (if you move chairs, stands, pianos, mirrors, or window shades)

  • Please turn off lights when you are finished with a room.

2. Materials:

  • Highlands Music Academy cannot supply materials such as books, pencils, metronomes, or any other teaching materials.

  • Please only use your materials which you bring to the school.

    • Some teachers keep supplies at the school, so the materials in each room belong to another teacher.

    • Please ask them if you wish to share supplies before using.

3. Care and Maintenance:

  • Please be respectful of the instruments, furniture, and other items in the room.

  • If something breaks while you’re in the room, please let me know.

  • If a child is in the room under your supervision, please don’t allow them to damage things. If it is an issue or you feel uncomfortable addressing it, please let me know so I can address it with the parent.

4. Heaters and Fans:

  • Summer: you may use the air conditioning units in the windows – please turn them off when you leave.

  • Heaters: please only use the heater while you are in the room and unplug the heater when you leave the room/done with teaching

7. Your Schedule & How to Make Changes

  • At this time, teachers can not update their own availability in Opus1.

  • As a contractor, your schedule is up to you - simplyly email us with your new availability anytime you need to change it (add more hours, remove hours, etc).

    • Please try to give at least 1-2 weeks notice for permanent schedule changes if possible, especially if it affects current students.​ The more notice, the better.

    • Be mindful of your schedule as it fits for the whole year. It is not practical to offer all-day availability for the summer, when you know that in August your schedule will be cut in half! 

7. Studio Policies

Here are our Studio Policies that students and parents must agree to upon signing up for lessons:

1. All payments are processed by pre-authorized credit cards on the 25th of each month for the following month of lessons. Private lessons are $120 per month for weekly 30 minute lessons, $180 per month for weekly 45 minute lessons, $240 per month for weekly 60 minute lessons. There is a $35 registration fee due ONLY at time of registration. Tuition is never prorated for missed lessons. Tuition does not include any retail teaching materials such as books or instruments.

2. For any lesson missed by a student, please give us at least one day's notice and we will schedule a private make-up lesson with your teacher. Unfortunately, no shows or late cancellations will not be eligible for a private make-up.
For any lessons missed by a teacher, the Academy will attempt to provide a substitute teacher. If a substitute teacher is unavailable, a private makeup lesson with the teacher will be scheduled promptly.
In the event of school closing due to severe weather, we will reschedule private lessons, and may schedule makeups during a holiday break.

The Academy will soon begin to hold one-hour group make-up classes every weekend for any lesson missed, for any reason, at any time, regardless of notice. The classes are age and level appropriate. To sign up for a makeup class, contact the office and not the instructor for a date and time.

3. Every student here is on a month-to-month basis. To discontinue lessons and to discontinue charges to your account, fill out the withdrawal form before the 20th of your last month. We do not prorate tuition for the last month’s lessons. Students will be responsible for their last month’s tuition whether or not they attend lessons.

4. Monthly tuition is based on a 48 week year. We are closed for four weeks for holidays. In the long months, you will get five months, short months such as November and December, you will get three lessons, and most months you will get four lessons. The tuition is the SAME each month; i.e. we don’t charge you more when you have five lessons, and we don’t charge you less when you have three lessons in a month. This makes everyone’s accounting easier.

5. Highlands Music Academy operates year-round and does not close for the summer. We are happy to offer unlimited makeups for our students, and they are held every Saturday. If you are taking a month off for vacation and want to resume the next month, your payment is still due on the 25th of the month to reserve your lesson space. The lessons for the month you miss can be made up when you return from vacation.

6. The school is not responsible for providing before or after care for students. We advise parents/guardians with children under the age of six to remain in the school lobby or parking lot during the classes. Students are not to be left at the school for excessive time periods before or after their lessons.

7. Parents are always allowed to sit in on lessons. We have an open-door policy for lessons.

8. Parents, legal guardians of minors, students and adult students waive the right to any legal action for any injury sustained on school property resulting from normal lesson activity or any other activity conducted by the students or their siblings before, during, or after lesson time, including hearing loss or hearing damage. Highlands Music Academy is not responsible for any damage done to vehicles or items stolen from vehicles.

9. Children must wait for their parents to pick them up inside the Academy. Please do not ask them to meet you elsewhere. Students are not to be dropped off on the street or curb. The Academy assumes no responsibility for children who leave unaccompanied.

Dealing with Difficult Students or Parents

Unfortunately a business does not work without customers, and occasionally we do get the difficult ones.

In general, if someone is giving you a hard time or nitpicking the policies or scheduling with you, just send them to me.  Your job is simply to teach the student.  If any discussion arises, just tell them it’s not your decision to make –you just have to follow the policies - and have them contact me by phone, text, or email. Usually, this will resolve the issue since they know that you don’t have the power to change the policies. If they do come to me, I will calmly explain the reasoning behind the policies.  If they still have a problem, they are free to terminate lessons.  

I can’t stress this enough, but PLEASE don’t let the parents walk all over you. If you let them bend the rules once, they will never stop. This is most important in the monthly tuition and scheduling. PLEASE don’t discuss tuition with them. If they want to change their tuition for one month, send them to me. The tuition should only change if YOU are missing a lesson. If you are there, you are to be paid for that lesson whether the student is there or not. In the same vein, do not let them change their lesson time repeatedly. All this does is mess up your schedule and confuse them. If they need to change their lesson time, send them to me.

If a student wishes to terminate their lessons, they must fill out the withdrawal form on the website ( by the 20th of the month before billing on the 25th.

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