No changes to elementary band program
June 11, 2008 · Updated 10:54 AM
"Even before the meeting began, the footsteps, creaking chairs and whispers echoed throughout the gymnasium.Within two hours, the army of parents, students and school staff succeeded in quashing proposed changes to the Central Kitsap School District instrumental music program.The Wednesday night school board meeting had been scheduled to include a public forum for the community to provide input to board members on proposed changes to the elementary instrumental and orchestral schedules. But the audience left the building declaring victory after a two-month exchange of e-mail, letters, telephone messages and heated debate.More than 70 people crowded into the Jenne-Wright Administration Building to hear Allen Hughes, director of elementary education, deliver two examples of scheduling changes to the program, which were designed to increase student preparation for the state-mandated Washington Assessment of Student Learning examination while still providing time for music education.The two models would each cut 30 minutes per week out of the current 150-minutes-per-week program, which would allow more time for general education, Hughes said.Do we have any evidence that the current program is adversely affecting student learning? board member Chris Stokke asked Hughes.I can't answer that, Hughes responded, adding that no correlation between music education and academic success has been proven.Stokke questioned the necessity of the investigation into the music program, which was requested by board members John Farbarik and Robert VanDenburgh.Are we just doing this because one person wants us to? he asked.Despite numerous research studies sent to the board by the community, Farbarik said he disagreed with anything endorsing musical education's effect on student aptitude, comparing such inconclusive studies to those of the gay gene and cold fusion.There is not one piece of evidence between music and academics, he said. There's been a lot of studies and a lot of garbage.When the audience was allowed to voice its concerns, most speakers called for either keeping the program is it is currently scheduled to increasing its hours per week.As a parent of two children at Clear Creek Elementary, Daniel Leader questioned the strong emphasis on passing the WASL tests rather than focusing on the childrens' well-being.I think we're confusing good education with good test taking, he said. Is that good educating?Any reduction in the amount of the elementary program would likely cause students to lose interest in the program from elementary school through college, said parent Wade Larson.The program could fall apart from the bottom up, he said.In addition to students benefitting from the instrumental programs, Judy Conlow, who has a daughter at Emerald Heights Elementary, said parents had the ability to decide whether their children should participate in the band orchestra.To me, that's a win-win situation, she said.As a percussionist at CK Junior High, ninth grader Tiffany Cartwright told the board that most of the students in her advanced placement algebra and English classes are in band, which is an indication of the benefits of the music program.Band is the most productive class I have, she said. Time gets wasted in all my other classes.Participating in the music program, said Klahowya Secondary eighth-grader Carina Wayman, helps students build their confidence and think outside the box, which are necessary for the advanced WASL questions.Band helps you endure these problems, she said.As an orchestra director at various schools throughout the school district, Leah Irby-Oxford said band and orchestra provide students with the ability to succeed in areas other than math and reading.These subjects are important as well, but we need these skills to enrich our kids, she said.After more than 20 people addressed the board on the topic, board president Carl Johnson said he was happy to witness the communication between the community and the board.Board member Christy Cathcart quickly introduced a motion to maintain the current schedule rather than continuing the search for an alternative. Stokke seconded the idea.Only Farbarik voted against the motion. The decision was announced over thunderous applause from the audience.As the music program supporters began leaving the meeting, their mood was much brighter than when they arrived.I knew it was going to go this way, said parent Dave Stewart, who said he has been monitoring the issue for quite a while. I thought it was going to be a one-man show, but others eventually jumped on the bandwagon.What's encouraging to me is to hear the tremendous support from our community, Olympic High vocal music instructor Tom McVicker said. It certainly validates what music can do.Despite the community's overwhelming show of support for the board's decision, Farbarik told the board and the four remaining members of the audience that he was still dissatisfied with the program.I feel like we haven't come anywhere close to solving the problem, he said."