Proposed New Schedule Would Cut Elementary Music Programs
On January 26, 2010, the Gilbert School District administration presented to the School Board a proposal for a new elementary school schedule. The primary objective of the proposal is to address much needed scheduling conflicts and constraints. While the proposal has clear benefits and addresses real needs of home room teachers and principals, the unintended consequence would be a significant cut to the elementary music program.
If implemented, the proposed schedule change would reduce band and orchestra instructional time by as much as 38%. This would reduce Gilbert's instructional time below Mesa, Chandler, Queen Creek, and other surrounding districts (see chart of comparison) and reduce the program from three to two days a week. Past experience in other districts such as Mesa and Paradise Valley clearly demonstrates that diluting the elementary program unquestionably cascades through to damage the junior high and high school programs as well. Other districts that have made the mistake of cutting the elementary programs have since had to correct the mistake and are rebuilding from the setbacks.
Mr. Jason Martin is the principal at Highland Park elementary, one of the schools that participated in the pilot program. We commend him and his colleagues for the extensive effort they have invested toward working out the many complicated scheduling factors. This has been a huge task and we support the continued effort to achieve the goals of the pilot program. However, he also stated that "if the Gilbert Unified School District expands the alternative schedule to all elementary schools, the band program will not be the "premiere" program it is now."
We feel very strongly that drastically reducing a thirty plus year commitment of premiere excellence in the Gilbert music programs to average or below in order to solve a scheduling issue would be a huge disservice to the educational experience of the students, and would be a dramatic break from Gilbert's tradition of success and achievement. We understand, respect, and support the administration's clear and legitimate need to solve the scheduling issues. We are also very much appreciative of the effort required by home room teachers and principals to accommodate the existing schedule. We recognize and support their desire for changes. However, the proposed reductions to the elementary music program will impact our children all the way into the high school programs and undo decades of growth for our district as a whole. That is far too high a price to pay for the scheduling benefits. It is our sincere hope that we can work together to strike a balance.
The administration and school board members have been gracious and accommodating in hearing our concerns. We have asked them to seek ways to achieve the scheduling goals without such a large reduction to band and orchestra. We have also expressed concern that the only program being cut to accommodate the new schedule is music. On January 26, the School Board strongly urged the administration to go back and evaluate alternative scenarios that would better preserve the band and orchestra program while achieving the scheduling goals. We are working together to seek viable alternatives that balance the importance of music education with the needs of teachers, principals, administrators, and above all, the quality educational experience of the students. We need help and ideas to solve this. If you have suggestions or input for solutions, please forward them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The board will hear this issue again on Thursday, February 18 at 6:00 PM. Please attend! This is the time to express your feelings on the importance of our music programs. Because this has the potential to diminish the quality of the instrumental music programs far beyond just elementary school, the outcome of this decision will be a direct reflection on the future of the Gilbert School District's fundamental and philosophical commitment to music. Now is a pivotal time to reaffirm the long standing and core value in Gilbert that a quality and premiere music education really does matter and has our lasting support. The best way to show both the breadth and depth of support for music is for as many people as possible to attend the February 18th meeting and to provide written statements of personal feelings, beliefs, and experiences with the music programs. You are welcome to contact the board directly, but in order to show courtesy to the board and administration, we are assisting in organizing and streamlining the input. If you send your written statements to email@example.com, we will, compile it for the board.
Please Pass the Word! You can follow us at www.GilbertMusicMatters.com. Questions, comments and suggestions can be directed to our website, to firstname.lastname@example.org and to any of the Facebook groups: Gilbert Music Matters, GAME, More GAME, Gilbert Education Matters