Crowd Protests Changes to Elementary Music Program at Clearfield School Board Meeting

(Photo by Wendy Brion)

CLEARFIELD – Parents, students and other residents turned out last night for the Clearfield school board meeting to protest changes made to the elementary music program schedule.

According to information provided by Superintendent Terry Struble to the GANT News staff, this year all students in grades K-6 will receive music instruction at least once a week.

And, for example, fifth grade students will have three group practices a week and two lessons if they are involved in strings, band and choir. But for those addressing the school board last night, this is not nearly enough.

According to information provided by one parent, the district has discussed elimination of one of the five music teaching positions twice and eliminated general music for fourth and fifth grades in 2015-16.

During the last school year, 2016-17, the district decided to hold off on any decisions regarding music staff to see if there was growth in the music programs.

The information included the number of students in elementary, junior high and senior high band, orchestra and choir from the 2015-16 school year until now and shows the number of students involved has increased.

District officials did not comment on the accuracy of the numbers provided.

Many spoke about the value music has in life, how it helps students in other academic areas, gives them purpose, goals, improved self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment.

One student noted that playing an instrument is a complex task that one does not learn in 10 minutes every other week, which is the amount of time those concerned fear will ultimately be at the students’ disposal.

Another woman spoke about how the music program helped her through some very difficult times in her life.

Will McConnell noted his children are now in the high school band, but he felt the need to speak for the future band students, fearing that cutting back on elementary music now will result in a diminished high school band, as well as orchestra and choir.

Area resident Judith Bungo added that love of music is instilled in children at an early age, and the power a teacher has over students affects them throughout their lives.

Other parents questioned whether the district really heard their concerns over the years and expressed a sense of betrayal and even suspicion about why the schedule was not released until the school year started.

At the end of public discussion, board President Larry Putt suggested that a committee be formed consisting of Struble, the music teachers, some board members and some community members to examine the matter and search for solutions.

Moving on, district Business Administrator Sam Maney updated the board on a discussion last month regarding photography at the junior-senior high school.

The board was questioned as to why only one photographer was allowed to take pictures on campus and the board explained that the district had an agreement with Images by Jan to do pictures for the yearbook and put together packages that parents could purchase, as well.

Maney said that he sent out an e-mail to the groups at the junior-senior high school that took advantage of this arrangement and that about half responded.

None indicated a problem with the current arrangement, and the yearbook adviser informed him that it was much easier and more efficient to work with one photographer.

In regards to the contract automatically being renewed each year, unless one of the parties (photographer or district) disagrees, Maney said the solicitor informed him that this was an appropriate contract.

He added that the board may add a clause stating that Images by Jan has exclusive right to take yearbook photos; however, parents may have their students have other senior portraits taken elsewhere.

The board welcomed senior Jakob Sorbera and junior Katlyne Fye to the board as student members. Sorbera will serve one term, and Fye will serve two.

The board also approved hiring the law firm of Weiss, Burkardt, Kramer LLC of Pittsburgh as special council regarding a personnel issue.

The board ended with an executive session for personnel with no action taken.

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