Doublebassblog.org reader, International Society of Bassists member, and Newton, Iowa string teacher Cara Stone recently contacted me about cuts in her school district, which (as is all-too-frequently the case) disproportionately target the arts. Cara is one of only two string teachers in her district, and cutting her position will leave the entire district (seven separate buildings) with only one string teacher. I can feel my blood starting to boil just thinking about it!
More testing? Sure! More music. Well, now…that would be lunacy! Cut cut cut….
One note before reading Cara’s message–she’s asking people to contact her school board members, and rather than putting them on the blog post here and subjecting them to the inevitable torrent of spam (though maybe I should…especially if they cut Cara’s position!), just leave a comment on this post with a valid email address and Ill send you the list myself.
Hi–I’m a member of ISB (a younger one, only 25, and actually just finished paying off my lifetime membership a little while back…anyway…). I also subscribe to your blog through my RSS feed. I am wondering if you might be able to help me. I am doing my best to pull out all of the stops…here’s the situation:
At 2:20 p.m. Friday, in the very public copy room at Emerson Hough Elementary, the H.R. guy from our school district approached me and told me right then and there that the school district was cutting 10 positions at the secondary level. My position is one of those 10 (and I make up HALF of the string department…that could mean a variety of things: one being that the other orchestra teacher might be teaching at FIVE elementary schools, the middle school AND the high school…on top of extra-curricular duties associated with both positions OR that there would be ONE string person within the district and that the band teachers would pick up the additional string duties that the ONE string specialist would be unable to do, this would be in addition to their already overwhelmed schedules…). What he failed to mention (until I asked, already knowing the answer, of course) was that the School Board is the group that votes on this and has the final say. This is where I need your help.
I have already personally contacted all of my students’ families and encouraged them to attend the School Board meeting scheduled for this Monday at 6:00 p.m. I have also contacted prominent orchestra directors from around the state as well as ASTA President, Jeff Solow, and I have between 8-10 who have agreed to write in support of the string program. I also have a petition started opposing cuts to the music department. We are presenting a Powerpoint presentation to the board on Monday and will have students perform beforehand (and perhaps out in the hall during as well…). A parent has put together a DVD of performances and is bringing that along as well to have it playing before. We’re not taking this sitting down, though I think the administrators were hoping/expecting us too. I make random analogies…here’s one of them: I’m kind of like those Spacebag storage systems…I am pretty good at staying out of the way and I’m not too shabby at what I do (I’m a teacher; I teach students, the whole child). Anyway–When necessary I can open up for the right cause (advocating for our students and community) and BAM that Spacebag got a while lot bigger. I digress…
My appeal to you is this: I am asking that anyone and everyone who appreciates string music, the arts and/or giving students from all backgrounds opportunities to excel please contact our school board members in the district. Any clout you can pull is greatly appreciated…If you are an educator in a school district with strings, mention that; if you simply appreciate the fact that music is an important part of educating the *WHOLE* child, mention that. Whether you are a student, parent, citizen of another town or this one–Anything you can do to make sure these students have these opportunities for years to come would be great because, really, that’s what it’s about–These kids are way too rock-star to be without a quality string program…and spreading one person between SEVEN buildings does not constitute a quality string program; having teacherswho are not string specialists and who are not capable of providing appropriate and specific instruction does not constitute a quality string program.
Thank you for any assistance you might provide!