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Educators, parents urge school board not to cut arts and music

By Staff | Apr 22, 2009

A crowd of teachers, parents, artists and musicians addressed the Lee County School Board Tuesday night to show their support for the arts and ask the board to forego a plan to cut fine arts teaching positions.
On Thursday a total of 574 district employees received notices that their jobs may be eliminated next year and 84 of those included art and music teachers from 43 elementary schools. Some of the teachers feel that their concentration is being targeted by the district.
Teachers who testified Tuesday before the board stressed the importance of arts in the development of a child, and pointed out that teachers trained to teach the core subjects are not in a position to pick up the slack left behind by staff cuts.
Mainly the teachers demonstrated their frustration with hearing a barrage of reports detailing millions of dollars of cuts and the possibility that soon many young children will not be exposed to the arts.
Linda Nash, a music teacher at Skyline Elementary, described how her students learn to perform, compose and conduct music on a daily basis.
“Before cutting elementary music programs, there is more you need to know about elementary classrooms than I can tell you in two minutes. Please visit our elementary classes before making a decision on the best interest of our students,” she said.
Mariner High teacher Jen Riley asked the board to consider the arts before making any decisions on budget cuts.
“I am speaking directly from my heart in saying, please, when you think about budget cuts, think about how important art and music is. It is the foundation of everything we have in our community,” she said.
Parents also took time out of their schedules to attend the board meeting, and said they do not want their children missing out on learning the arts.
“I don’t want to see her missing out on arts and music. We pay the salaries of this school board, and they should answer to us and the parents’ views in this city,” said Jennifer Myers, a parent of a district student. “I ask and demand you take into consideration the community’s feelings and not make a unilateral decision.”
Some parents said they are looking forward to enrolling their children in kindergarten in Lee County and want the arts to be preserved, while others told the story of their child’s successes in life from the arts.
Although 30 people addressed the school board, the response from members was that they support the arts but there is nothing that can be done to avoid cuts. In the last two years the district has cut more than $60 million.
“There aren’t any cuts we have to make that will benefit the students,” said Chairman Jane Kuckel. “We are in a situation where 80 percent of our budget is salaries. We will be in a position where we can’t make any more reductions in other places, so we will need to turn to personnel. That is sad for us.”
Board member Elinor Scricca said she does not want the arts to become politicized.
National advocate John Benham told Lee County teachers in a gathering last week that they need to become involved in the decision-making process by pointing out that “politics is process.”
“I would ask that it not become a political thing, if the community wishes to somehow raise some money, do whatever they need to do to support the arts, than so be it,” said Scricca. “But I will be very dismayed if somehow or other this become a political process. The arts are to be enjoyed, not exploited.”
Scricca, who has spearheaded the district’s art and musical showcase called “Pride and Patriotism,” said she supports the arts.
The school board does not support the idea of working with Benham, but Board member Robert Chilmonik said he would contact Benham and bring back new ideas for the district.
Vice Chairman Steve Teuber told members of the community that they need to contact legislators to secure more money for the district.
“We can’t make the decisions because we only can use the money we are given. At the end of the day it is all about how much money we are getting from legislators,” he said.

Educators, parents urge school board not to cut arts and music

By Staff | Apr 22, 2009

A crowd of teachers, parents, artists and musicians addressed the Lee County School Board Tuesday night to show their support for the arts and ask the board to forego a plan to cut fine arts teaching positions.

Last Thursday, a total of 574 district employees received notices that their jobs may be eliminated next year and 84 of those included art and music teachers from 43 elementary schools. Some of the teachers feel that their concentration is being targeted by the district.

Teachers who testified Tuesday before the board stressed the importance of arts in the development of a child, and pointed out that teachers trained to teach the core subjects are not in a position to pick up the slack left behind by staff cuts.

Mainly the teachers demonstrated their frustration with hearing a barrage of reports detailing millions of dollars of cuts and the possibility that soon many young children will not be exposed to the arts.

Linda Nash, a music teacher at Skyline Elementary, described how her students learn to perform, compose and conduct music on a daily basis.

“Before cutting elementary music programs, there is more you need to know about elementary classrooms than I can tell you in two minutes. Please visit our elementary classes before making a decision on the best interest of our students,” she said.

Mariner High teacher Jen Riley asked the board to consider the arts before making any decisions on budget cuts.

“I am speaking directly from my heart in saying, please, when you think about budget cuts, think about how important art and music is. It is the foundation of everything we have in our community,” she said.

Parents also took time out of their schedules to attend the board meeting, and said they do not want their children missing out on learning the arts.

“I don’t want to see her missing out on arts and music. We pay the salaries of this school board, and they should answer to us and the parents’ views in this city,” said Jennifer Myers, a parent of a district student. “I ask and demand you take into consideration the community’s feelings and not make a unilateral decision.”

Some parents said they are looking forward to enrolling their children in kindergarten in Lee County and want the arts to be preserved, while others told the story of their child’s successes in life from the arts.

Although 30 people addressed the school board, the response from members was that they support the arts but there is nothing that can be done to avoid cuts. In the last two years the district has cut more than $60 million.

“There aren’t any cuts we have to make that will benefit the students,” said Chairman Jane Kuckel. “We are in a situation where 80 percent of our budget is salaries. We will be in a position where we can’t make any more reductions in other places, so we will need to turn to personnel. That is sad for us.”

Board member Elinor Scricca said she does not want the arts to become politicized.

National advocate John Benham told Lee County teachers in a gathering last week that they need to become involved in the decision-making process by pointing out that “politics is process.”

“I would ask that it not become a political thing, if the community wishes to somehow raise some money, do whatever they need to do to support the arts, than so be it,” said Scricca. “But I will be very dismayed if somehow or other this become a political process. The arts are to be enjoyed, not exploited.”

Scricca, who has spearheaded the district’s art and musical showcase called “Pride and Patriotism,” said she supports the arts.

The school board does not support the idea of working with Benham, but Board member Robert Chilmonik said he would contact Benham and bring back new ideas for the district.

Vice Chairman Steve Teuber told members of the community that they need to contact legislators to secure more money for the district.

“We can’t make the decisions because we only can use the money we are given. At the end of the day it is all about how much money we are getting from legislators,” he said.