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Support drummed up for music in District 289

Posted: Tuesday, Jun 25th, 2013

MENDOTA - Nearly two-dozen music supporters attended the Mendota Elementary District 289 Board of Education meeting on June 20. Concerns have spread throughout the community over scheduling changes that would affect the band program at Northbrook Middle School.

Changes were initially sought when trying to coincide trimester exploratory classes with the school’s quarterly grading system.

Kristen School, district superintendent, addressed the crowd to clarify the issue as it exists at this time. “I think there have been a lot of misunderstandings and presumptions that have been made. There have been many scheduling options considered over the last several months, for the betterment of all students. The music program will operate on basically the same schedule as it did last year, without the addition of 7th and 8th grade general music,” she said.

The general music education class was proposed as a possible class to add making the necessary four exploratory classes for a quarterly grading system.

The collective members of the scheduling committee will continue to study the schedule for the future. “Not sure if you are aware of it or not, but we make changes to the schedule every single year,” School added.

With news of changes being made, community members quickly banded together to show their support of the long-standing music program that is already in place in the district.

“As a former music teacher myself, I stand firm in my support of the arts and my support of music education,” assured School.

She requested to hear concerns and answer questions face to face instead of through the media or Facebook. “I think one person shares a concern and then one thing leads to another,” she said.

She also stressed, the intent behind decisions the district makes is always to enhance the programs that are offered, not to take away from anything. “One thing that has been a real positive out of this is to see that there is a very strong support for music in our community. I thank you for your support of the arts,” she said.

Several members of the community then addressed the board.

Band parent, Michelle Wade asked the board, “Why was the community not asked to be more involved in making these decisions?”

Wade also questioned the board’s knowledge that changes were even being made.

She expressed her concerns that changes will result in fewer students continuing music education. She said the high school will see the impact as well, as the reduced participation will be a “trickle down effect.” She listed all of the high school music programs and concerts that could be eliminated should a drastic decline in band participation be experienced including, marching band, pep band, and the annual ice cream social. She believed that even a minor change at the middle school level would create a larger impact at the high school level and throughout the community.

Wade stated that she has gathered 140 signatures against making changes to the music program. “We are asking you to leave the program alone.”

Brady Hughes, 2013 Mendota High School valedictorian, shared with the board the impact that music has had for him. He cited the researched benefits of music to students and stated his opinion that the proposed general music program would be disastrous – taking away learning time from students that have chosen to study music verses students who are required to take the course.

Deb Joslin, an active musician in the community, addressed the board with her concerns. She estimated that changes in the music program could result in a 70 percent drop of band members by the time current 5th graders reach their senior year of high school. She told the board that changes should not be allowed to take place without the input or acknowledgement of those affected by the change. “In the end, they affect us all,” she said.

Sean Pappas, board president, thanked the speakers. “We do serve the community. We are glad to hear your voices when it is necessary; that is what we are here for. We appreciate it. We would like to hear more of that. We can’t know if there is something wrong or an issue if you don’t tell us,” he said.

Pappas continued by stating that part of the board policy procedure is that they do delegate responsibilities to the administration teams. They are allowed to make changes to the schedule as necessary, not requiring board approval. Pappas did not feel changes were made behind closed doors as was expressed by Joslin.

For the complete article see the 06-26-2013 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 06-26-2013 paper.

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