School District Supports Music
This is in response to Ms. Linda Taylor's recent LTE titled, “Get Involved in Saving Music”. She stated, “I don't have all the facts, but I will tell you what I know.” Allow me to share some facts. I have served on the Salida Middle School Accountability Committee for the past three, years, and served our school district for over 17 years in various capacities (teaching, subbing, serving on other accountabilities, wellness, School Board, etc..). We presently have a principal that has gone to the School Board requesting an FTE (an FTE is essentially a full-time teacher at any given school) not just for a music/choir position, but also for an FTE Spanish position. What an asset it would be to offer our children not only a foreign language at the middle school level, but an ADDITIONAL position for music/choir. The principal has the support of the Accountability Committee, and we are presently waiting for the Board's response, which takes times. A process does need to happen, like looking at the big picture of what the needs/wants are for the entire district, not just SMS.
Yes, it is true that we have been talking for months about the conversion of a choir room to a physical fitness room. Let me tell you, this is not because “sports gets more” (and to be clear, this did not come at the request of our PE dept). This shift needs to happen for various reasons. And I invite you to get involved in Accountability if you would like to learn more fine details. The short version...this potential change came about because by law we need (and want) to service ALL students fairly. There was a need for our Special Needs community to have space allowing clientele to be better served, and more fairly served. The last thing we need to do or should do is break the law. Putting this Life Skills classroom in this existing PE space, made sense logistically (proper plumbing, electric, space requirements, privacy issues, etc...). The existing PE space needed a place to go (because their space was needed for Life Skills), and it did make sense after many tours of the facility to use the choir room, KNOWING that we were advocating for an ADDITIONAL position. The high school has a shared choir/band room, and they are definitely not the only school in the state to share a choir/band room. This does not mean cutting classes, as there is, nor will there be choir and band classes going on at the same time. This shift allowed us to still advocate for MORE music for our students, and meet the needs of a population that we can not and will not think lesser of. That is not only against the law, but it is morally wrong.
A few more facts that I would like to add:
It is my understanding that the SMS principal has had conversations with concerned community members, including Ms. Taylor, explaining the mis-information. I too have been approached by community members, and have cleared up the misinformation that has been spread. The present choir position has been a .71 (not full-time) position since around 2003. At semester, Principal Woodell asked the School Board to move this position to full-time for the rest of the year, which they supported. The School Board also recently approved paying our present Jazz Band teacher an $800 stipend to teach a zero hour (7 am ) class, once a week for the majority of the school year. Again, showing their support for the arts. Finding qualified applicants has been difficult for years. The District has posted this new FT position 3 or 4 times and they normally have 0-1 applicants. This year the District has had 4 different people in this music position. They are looking for a 5th, and ironically this position was flown in our local newspaper, supporting the arts in our community, on the same day that I read this LTE from Ms. Taylor.
The District wants to offer more music options for kids at SHS and SMS. Having a full time person in both buildings would do this. If all goes as planned, choir and band will be offered next year for interested students. Currently children in grades 5/6 must chose one or the other and 7/8 graders have no choice (only band).
On top of all these wonderful opportunities for our students, our principal will still be working on housing a potential FTE foreign language teacher, should that request get approved, and potentially having to house a “maker's space”, depending on grant approval.
Obviously, there is a lot to juggle, and the dedicated staff at SMS knows how to make things work. It is hard to not advocate for your own program, but in our rural area we always need to look at what works for one another, and especially, what works for our children first and foremost. Again, if you care to be part of the solution and if you would like to better understand process, please contact the SMS principal, Will Woodell and he will let you know when our next Accountability Committee meeting is held.
I don't disagree with you about the influence that music has on the development of our children...my child is a full-fledge musical learner and thrives because of the impact it has on his life and in his studies. Thankfully we are in a District that supports music. These room changes are because we have thoughtful decision makers, taking in to consideration EVERY learner. So “keeping music in our schools”....I would say this district is far from trying to cut back on opportunities. Hope these facts help you see that there is more to the story.