Band parents tune up on BoE plans for cuts

Alan Armstrong. Photo/Ben Nelms.

Music education in the lower grades is popular with many parents, the Fayette County Board of Education was reminded Monday night.

Eliminating fifth-grade band or orchestra and repurposing assistant band directors at the county’s five high schools was on the meeting agenda, and band parents showed up in strength — even a band director from neighboring Coweta County.

The school board meeting room during recent meetings where budgets and school closures were hot topics was full to overflowing again Monday night. The large crowd attending the meeting included a wealth of parents and students advocating during public comments for the school board to reconsider the measure and find other ways to save on expenses for next year.

All 19 people speaking during public comments requested that board members understand that eliminating fifth-grade band and orchestra would have a negative effect on a child’s future.

Some speakers suggested that board members consider cutting back on a portion of some athletic programs.

If fifth-grade bands or orchestras are eliminated, the high school assistant band directors currently working part-time with those students would transition that time to the county’s middle schools to help teach beginning band students, the board heard.

One of the speakers was Alan Armstrong, band director at Northgate High School in Coweta County. Armstrong said he had been in a similar situation where assistant band directors had been eliminated and then reinstated a number of years later. The cuts took a toll on both band directors and the schools’ ability to compete in venues outside the school system. 

If approved and depending on how the band and orchestra programs are restructured, the move could also eliminate up to five full-time equivalents (FTEs) and save as much as $320,000.

Whatever the outcome, or even a variation of the proposal, a decision on the topic is expected to come on April 29.

reddawg44
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Should the fine arts be exempt?

Unfortunately, no proponent of keeping all fine arts will provide an answer on this. They will give you the run around, talking about sports being cut, CEO's of businesses with arts degrees, or how high the IQ is of all fine arts students. Your question does touch the heart of the issue however.

Concernedtchr
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There are cuts everywhere

I'm sorry that there were cuts made to band, but I'm also sorry that there are cuts being made in every single department across the entire school system. Class sizes in general education will be bigger next year, and many general education teachers are losing their jobs right along with the assistant band directors. It's sad, but that's where our county is right now.

People are saying that a large percentage of the band department is getting cut, but they were already a smaller department, so of course the percentage marking is high when they lose four or five teachers. Just so you know, I work at an elementary school, and we too are losing five teachers just in our one school. Middle school band directors will be helping with marching band, band directors can handle their class sizes (the rest of us are also having bigger classes), and starting band one year later won't ruin all of the band programs. Cuts are happening everywhere in our county. Should the fine arts be exempt?

RRR
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Wow...lot of people think they know a lot don't they :-)

Ok... as I said before... Flame suit on and here we go!

1)5th grade band does not cost the BOE any money (Gasp!)
All the instruments are bought by either the parents or larger instruments by the band boosters of the H.S. / M.S. ...from monies the BAND has fund raised.

2)Band directors is the ONE single most cost efficient teacher the BOE has. Yep. Look at the teacher pupil ratio. Why one band director has the numbers in ONE class that 3 or more elective teachers has. And some of the other... FINE ARTS TEACHERS have close to those numbers as well.

3)For the poster who said something to the effect that the 19 people said the same thing. Not really. Mostly some very bright kids who have gone through the "Experience" of the finer band programs in the state. Yeah... their proud of it and should be.

4)Why does a director from a neighboring county come and speak up for the band programs here in Fayette County? Because he sees the quality of the programs and has experienced the same cuts... and knows what it will do for a program.

5)With several posters getting angry about the talk of athletic cuts, please understand that folks are wanting equal support. 40 to 60 kids with how many coaches? I would believe it is more than one. BTW, you can do volunteers to a certain extent. However there is a point where a certified teacher MUST be present. That's the law.

6)Please just go look at the facts. Most of the top 10,25,50 graduates from all of the high schools would be involved in the Fine Arts. Guaranteed. After you check that, look and see how much money these grads (who were in the Fine Arts) get offered in scholarships. I can promise you for the ones who were not involved... there will be no comparison.

We seem to have the same posters on this paper's forum all the time. And really... it is a handful. WE number in the thousands that are involved or have been involved in some sort of Fine Arts activities. (WE are the largest in numbers within the school system too) We understand as well about the cuts. We also understand what separates us from other school systems. Remember Fayette County, we are trying to attract new businesses. (And I am not talking about more McDonald's...) If you want to attract the higher quality, better paying companies to move here... don't dumb down the system. That is what some counties around us did and you see where they are at now.

LongTimer
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if they only knew!
Quote:

"5)With several posters getting angry about the talk of athletic cuts, please understand that folks are wanting equal support. 40 to 60 kids with how many coaches? I would believe it is more than one. BTW, you can do volunteers to a certain extent. However there is a point where a certified teacher MUST be present. That's the law."

I can tell you that the HS in PTC has 12 coaches for the football program and it has ruffly the same total of students that the marching band has with
only 2 directors (Director and asst.). And other than the two FCBOE employee's the programs are entirely funded by the parents. The band boosters were even asked/told that they were being billed $2,000. for "field maintenance" this past year. I believe that the only expense the BOE incurred was for buses for the marching band to away football games (band boosters pay for buses to competitions).
Before everyone jumps on me about the coaches I know a couple of them are "lay" coaches and are paid for by their boosters. But there is a large cost difference between the two programs for the county. And then you need too look at the "stipend" (they are paid this on top of their salary) difference between what the county pays the head coach and what they pay the band director for marching band, large difference in favor of the coach. Now I'm not saying they don't deserve this because they do, in fact it should be more, the hours these people put in is truly amazing.
I'm just saying they need to look in other areas equally based on the number of students served.

reddawg44
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OK....

I guess you have never been in a school building or a work place for that matter. Just because someone posts something on a site means they are not doing their job? Teachers administer tests, have planning time, and a lunch break. I guess people like you never go to the doctor and surf the web on their phone? Wow!

Call me crazy, but I believe that if I was saying "KEEP ALL FINE ARTS!!!!!!" then you would have no qualms.

hutch866
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reddawg and suggafoot

Dawg, I can understand your argument up to a point, but maybe you can answer a question for me. What other department in the school is about to be cut in half? Can you wrap your mind around that?

Suggafoot, do you actually believe that the only thing the assistant band director does is give free lessons? Your ignorance has no boundaries. I'm sure you were a tremendous ASSet to your band.

reddawg44
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I get what you are saying but.....

I think you and many others are failing to realize that cuts in various places have been taking place for the better part of four years. Some cuts much deeper than others. It's not as if fine arts are being picked on or singled out. In my opinion, it's just "giving up" your fair share to ensure that our system keeps functioning and doesn't become like some neighboring counties to the east and north of us.

Nuk- that's a good one!

hutch866
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Well Dawg

A great non answer. Since you don't know me, why do you believe you can assume to know what I know? If my "share" is 50%, what is your share?
Your first post on here said you didn't want to write an editorial, then you proceeded to do so. Basically, we're down to opinion, what makes yours better then mine?

suggarfoot
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ok hutch

"Basically, we're down to opinion, what makes yours better then mine?"

My opinion that all band students are not THE brightest and smartest comes from experience. You called it ignorance because it didn't agree with yours.

I will still say, they are just like any other group. RRR's deal that most of the scholarships go to previous band students is funny. Band teaches you some things. It isn't THE THING that makes a surgeon a better surgeon. Maybe a Bio or math teacher did more toward that. That is all people are trying to point out here. Just cause someone learned to blow their horn at the right time isn't going to have more to do with the kid cutting into the right place (and not a vein).....maybe the Bio teacher gave them better guidance on that point. The 3 Rs are important and so are the other core subjects. Right now, the majority is of the opinion that cuts will have to be made. If they see that the bands are not costing a lot, maybe you will win your war at the next meeting.

NUK_1
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Hey reddawg44! You should have told them.....

....that you're a band teacher.

heatjam
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Everyone can participate

One thing that fine arts has over sports is that EVERYONE can participate! If you stink at playing your instrument, but you enjoy it, then there is a band/orchestra seat for you. You may not be in the top group, nor have first chair, but there is still a place for you on the stage...can sports teams say that?

reddawg44
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Heatjam

First, I do not think that this is a matter of which is better or more useful, etc. but rather a matter of we do not have enough money to fund all of those things.

Second, the essential question continues to be avoided: why is fine arts more important than core academic concerns such as increasing class sizes across the county at all levels?

Third, the last I checked, in most sports both in the high school level and middle school level there are no cuts. Which means EVERYONE can participate. Some of the same restrictions apply in sports as they do in fine arts. Not everyone can play quarterback, or run the 100 meter dash, or even be the star softball pitcher, but they can participate in some regard.

Last, I am curious what others here think about the fact that fine arts are supposed to be so crucial to development and there seem to be many instances throughout the year where students miss class for trips/performances, yet there is no academic minimum threshold that students must meet in order to participate. In other words, a student can fail every academic class yet fully participate in fine arts in middle school. Contrast that with sports and if a student fails one single core academic class in middle school, they are not allowed to participate for an entire semester. And in middle school sports there are zero instances where class is missed to participate. I find this to be very odd and inconsistent for a number of reasons. One of which is the fact that many pro-fine arts citizens that made comments on the opinion article on this issue pointed to the fact that academic development is helped by fine arts. Really? I believe we are doing our kids a disservice by allowing this to happen.

heatjam
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Reddawg 44

I agree 100% with the response by Know it All. But,are you telling me that there are no tryouts for football, baseball, soccer, basketball, tennis...and that EVERYONE gets to play in EVERY match, game, etc. If that is the case that is awesome! But I seriously doubt it.

The other thing that I want to point out, is that students in the fine arts tend to be much more accepting to students with differences/disabilities. That is NOT to say that athletes or others aren't accepting, I'm just looking at is as a group mentality.

All that being said, of course core academic classes are much more important than fine arts, sports or any other extra curricular activities hands down.

reddawg44
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Get some proof or rethink your position
heatjam wrote:

I agree 100% with the response by Know it All. But,are you telling me that there are no tryouts for football, baseball, soccer, basketball, tennis...and that EVERYONE gets to play in EVERY match, game, etc. If that is the case that is awesome! But I seriously doubt it.

The other thing that I want to point out, is that students in the fine arts tend to be much more accepting to students with differences/disabilities. That is NOT to say that athletes or others aren't accepting, I'm just looking at is as a group mentality.

All that being said, of course core academic classes are much more important than fine arts, sports or any other extra curricular activities hands down.

I take extreme exception to the part about fine art students being more accepting of other children with disabilities. The school where I am, EVERY student is extremely friendly to the students who have disabilities. That goes for athletes, fine arts, EVERYONE.

heatjam
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Reddawg

Did you not notice that I said and I quote "That is NOT to say that athletes or others aren't accepting, I'm just looking at is as a group mentality" ? By the way, do you work at the school?

reddawg44
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OK, still doesn't change what you said

When you say that the fine arts students tend to be more accepting, I can only infer that other students would be less accepting. I take exception to that.

Yes, I work at a school.

heatjam
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Reddawg 44 works at a school

Nice to know that you have time to post on the Citizen while you are working and the tax payers are paying your salary...just saying.

With that being said, I'm done.

Know_it_all
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reddawg44

I suspect by your statements in the last paragraph of your post, that you really have no grasp of the acedemic performance of most band members. If you did, you would realize that they, for the most part, have the highest GPA's of any group of students in the entire school system. Take a look at the top 10 in each class. Bet you can find a common thread in most of them if you look closely. This isn't just a matter of chance. Please find me an example of a band student that "can fail every class and still participate" as you stated. I know plenty of band students, and it doesn't happen. Whether you like it or not, these are the kids that help keep the GPA's in the Fayette School system where they are. They are the ones that make the teachers and BOE look good on state reporting. So, lets go ahead and cut the fine arts as you suggest. Who needs another teacher that is actually helping to encourage the highest performing students in the school system? Yes, you are correct in one thing, we are out of money. But, perhaps, we might look at why we are fully funding an ISS program with certified teachers for the the students can't behave, and stop trying to figure out how to discourage the ones that do. I suspect if you dropped ISS totally, not one band student would even know...

Signed,
Proud Parent of a "Straight A" Band Student (yep ...he even travels to performances too)

suggarfoot
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know it all

Why do you ASSUME no one else has been in the band and knows nothing of the IQ, or lack there of? You act like it is some sort of elitist group, it isn't. I was in the band, as many others reading this. I don't remember a bunch of genius in there. Nor do I remember any "slow" ones either. The deal is....no one in there stuck out one way or the other. We learned to march together, so I guess that says we could all follow the one in front of us. If we couldn't play the note right, we learned to not blow too loud so most around wouldn't know.

I cannot believe the arrogance to say that the world is falling apart cause our little sweeties won't get free lessons and a backup/assistant band director.

reddawg44
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Read carefully please.....

You interpreted what I posted as a blanket statement. For me to suggest that ALL band/chorus/fine art students are failures would be folly on my part and that is not what I posted. Go back and read it please. I said there are students (and yes, that is plural) that fail classes and participate in fine arts. That is a fact. In terms of a specific example, I think you and I both know that it would not be appropriate to cite specific students where this is the case.

Should I take the following statement out of context as you did with me? "Whether you like it or not, these are the kids that help keep the GPA's in the Fayette School system where they are." So, does that mean that our academic success around the county is only from fine art students? No, there are students who do not participate in any extracurricular activity and are extremely bright and high achievers as well as athletes who participate in sports. And that brings me to my other objection to what you posted.

I have never said that I WANT fine arts cut in any form or fashion. My single point is that I am having a hard time understanding why fine arts should be spared completely while virtually every other aspect/program of the system is cut/downsized. Good teachers losing jobs, teachers pay being cut, furlough days, custodial cuts, rising classroom sizes, and the list goes on and on and on. I have asked that question in several ways multiple times (as well as others here) in both this article and the opinion piece that was published a week or so ago. Yet, there has been no answer. I am truly curious what the answer would be.

"So let's go ahead and cut fine arts as you suggest. Who needs another teacher that is actually helping to encourage the highest performing students in the school system?"
Yeah, let's go ahead and cut sports and coaches because the students they help do not matter as much because they do not achieve as high, so you say. Many of the students who participate in sports have never been introduced to fine arts but rather find their niche in sports. These activities keep them out of trouble and promote academic success. But who cares about them, right? They are not the high achieving students that make the system and teachers look good so we should just ignore them and cut all that is important to them in an effort to preserve ALL fine arts.

In terms of ISS, there are a couple points. First, it would be nice if we did not have children with behavior issues. But at the end of the day, they are kids and no matter what school it is, there are behavioral issues and they must be addressed. Second, when students are in ISS, having a certified teacher in the room facilitates the student actually doing work while serving their suspension rather than just sitting idly.

"I suspect if you dropped ISS totally, not one band student would even know..." I can't figure if you are simply naïve or if your handle is truly appropriate...

reddawg44
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We finally have an answer, sort of.....

as to how citizens in our community who value band/orchestra/etc. think we should pay for their favorite, most valued program. Cut sports. At least that is what this article says. No one answered on the other opinion article as to other ways we could save money in order to keep fine arts from being cut and I doubt any of those same people will make any suggestions here either.

Wow, that is really unbelievable! First of all, middle school sports have already been cut and more are scheduled. Two years ago, 7th grade football was eliminated. Now, it appears wrestling (boys) and softball (girls) will be eliminated. Second, as I and many others asked in a similar opinion column a week or so ago, why is fine arts more important than other things? Is it more important than having smaller class sizes? Is it more important than staff development for the teachers around the county? Is it more important than purchasing new and interesting books for the libraries in each school?

It is just beyond my comprehension that given the state of our budget, that people are complaining that their pet program is going to be cut. Sure it stinks, but we are all in this together. To attempt to have other areas of the school system bear the brunt of these cuts so some can keep their favorite programs is nothing short of selfish.

g8trgrl
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Comparing sports to fine arts budget wise

I think I have an idea on how to keep the cuts to fine arts and sports even. Each program can have 1 person in charge & the rest will be volunteers. I think the football teams would be ok with this - same amount of kids essentially......One head coach = one band director.

Any thoughts anyone????

PS - If reddawg44 works at a school? I want to know which one - looks like a great place to surf the web all day & post on the Citizen

Husband and Fat...
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People do not understand

People do not understand the severity of the budget cuts needed. That must've been a fun meeting where 19 people repeated the same thing over and over and over. Ms. Bacallao will vote for no cuts but the others who understand the budget crunch will do what is best for everyone, not one single mob

PTC Avenger
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Pay for band out of your own pocket

Eliminating 5th grade band will have a negative impact on a child's future? Lol hardly, the child still has all of middle school and high school to learn. The fact of the matter is that cuts must be made. There is not enough money. Read that again, there is not enough money.

RRR
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Hopefully they will see....

how important the ARTS are to the parents of Fayette County. Obviously surrounding counties see the importance of 5th grade bands and the assistant high school directors... let's just hope the board does on their April 29th vote.