Call to Action for Teachers & Arts Advocates

I�ve just learned about the agenda for the Monday, September 20th School Board meeting that includes a proposal to transfer additional funds to the athletic afterschool budget from the educational contingency fund.
On Monday night, September 20th the School Board will be holding a special Board meeting. There will be public appearances. I think the art and music teachers (arts professionals in general) need to either e-mail board members prior to Monday or be at this meeting demanding a fine arts coordinator to help them with administrative and educational issues. I would suggest that the fine arts teachers send copies of all e-mail questions that you are asking about where you are working, how to transfer supplies, scheduling be copied to the school board.
I�m sure that Mary Gilbrandsen, Mary Ramburg and the HR department are doing their best, but they are simply inadequate resources for 130+ personnel working in 47 schools with increased class sizes and increased number of sections. Art has mistakenly said that Mary G. has done the allocations for the arts. In fact the senior administrators have determined the allocation amount, but finding the personnel for those allocations and working with the principals on scheduling was a major function of the Fine Arts Coordinator at the beginning of the year.

The reason this coming Monday is critical is because the Board will be considering a second request from the District Administration to add possibly up to $100,000+ into the extracurricular sports budget � see more information below.
Last Monday night, Laura Beale and Don Hunt spoke to the board, advocating for replacement of the Fine Arts Coordinator, (FAC). The Board did not respond to their requests for help, telling them they had no money. Board members said this to these two speakers after transferring $200,000 to the athletic budget from the educational contingency fund two weeks earlier. Further, Board members were not happy that people were pitting the arts against athletics. In my opinion, Board members are creating the division � not the public.
Board members did not tell these speakers that they could have made the requirement that the athletic director positions need to follow the union contract, but those working with the sports budget would need to work that out with existing funds, working with parents and coaches on this issue. That�s because Board members were not given this option nor did they ask for this option from the Administration.
Instead, a majority of the board voted to transfer educational funds to extracurricular activities � and only extracurricular sports activities, not the performance budget at West High School, for example.
To make a decision that did not transfer funds, the Board would have had to have a strategic discussion, which they did not.
What�s on the Board�s agenda
Agenda Item 4 – 2004-2005 adjustments to the budget relative to the price that has to be paid to be admitted into a MMSD interscholastic athletic event.

The board received a memo from Roger Price detailing two options to lower the ticket prices for athletic events, saying the additional cost is $80 – 100,000+. Roger�s options propose that the additional funds needed to cover the cost of the two options be transferred from the education contingency fund to the extracurricular sports budget. That would amount to nearly $300,000 added back to the sports budget in about 3 weeks, which would result in a total extracurricular athletic budget greater than $2 million for the �04-�05 school year.
When proposals such as these are made, the Board continually ignores the big strategic picture. Board members need first to review what cuts were made in June � which were in the classroom or affected delivery of educational services to children. Also, the board ought to review what proposed amendments to the budget have been made since June and what the outcomes of those changes to the budget were. All of these discussions need to take place in the context of the district�s overall educational priorities with consideration of equity and fairness to teachers and to students.
There are simply no procedures in place in the administration for changes to academic curricula that minimizes the impact on teachers and on students. Teachers are not engaged in a process; the community is certainly not asked nor included in discussions and decisions in any meaningful way. The result is bad decisions and more pain than necessary in the development and implementation of the MMSD budget. The results for the fine arts in the district is a continued deterioration of an excellent curricula that was once run extremely efficiently.
Action Needed Monday Night
I would recommend that the fine arts teachers need continually to e-mail the board about the additional burden to their workload is placing on them, the deterioration in their curriculum, the impact on the low income children, the increased inefficiencies they are experiencing.
I hope Don Hunt and Laura Beale will speak to the Board on Monday, again. Last week they were telling him they had no money for the FAC!!!!!!!
I strongly caution against comparing sports and the arts, which is not the issue – the Board is trying to pin that on folks, mentioning this to Don Hunt last week after he spoke. Teachers need to advocate for what they need to do their jobs and to show the negative impact and increased inefficiencies on their academic work, which results in lower academic standards for children. Every other academic subject has administrative and/or educational support from a person experienced in the field. The arts need this as well. There is no good reason for eliminating this support, but keeping this support for all other academic areas.
I will be speaking on Monday night regarding the failure of the School Board and the Administration to reinstate the FAC and that their decision to cut this position last spring has added inefficiencies to formerly efficient academic curricula. I believe the FAC helped keep the cost per child low by providing needed educational and logistics assistance to teachers who are often the only professional in their field in a school and are almost always in more than one school � up to 5 schools last year for one teacher.
The cost per participant in the arts is about $200-250 overall. For comparison nearly $1,000 per child is spent on math in elementary school and nearly $2,000 per child on language arts. Nearly $400 per participant is spent on extracurricular sports.
I will also address costs in my public appearance, emphasizing the costs of the inefficiencies the district is incurring, the lower quality of service to children, especially low income children who do not have options that children from families with money might have. I will offer some different options for the Board to consider rather than increasing the budget once again for extracurricular sports, including:

  • What cuts were made last June � what�s been changed since then. What�s been proposed to be added in/what has been added back into the budget and where did the money come from?
  • Lower ticket prices with no further increases to the athletic budget � MMSD administration needs to sit down with coaches, parents, etc. to go over the budget. As a group decide where to make changes so that ticket prices can be lowered. This should have been done when the additional athletic directors were discussed � prioritize. Even better, these discussions need to begin now for next year.

Lastly, I am working on a table of what the FAC does � I have the basic information, so I hope to get this done. I�m also working on information that shows the degradation of the Fine Arts curriculum over the past 5-6 years. It�s shameful, because the fine arts have been targeted disproportionately to other areas in the budget.