String Orchestra Festival Soars Despite District Administration Annual Assault

The annual string festival is a reminder of how wonderful music education is, and of how important this is for our children’s education. This annual spring event is also a reminder of how badly the existing School Board is failing our children. Lawrie Kobza, school board candidate for Seat 6, wrote, “Fourth and fifth grade strings is a well-established, much-loved, and much-supported program. There is also significant research demonstrating a high correlation between playing an instrument and achievement. Given all of these positives, the 4th & 5th grades strings program should not be considered for cuts until the district does everything possible it can to retain or if necessary restructure the program so that strings can continue to be offered in 4th and 5th grades even in times of tight finances.” This is Lawrie’s approach – not settling for the status quo, working together creatively for what we value for our kids’s education. I am voting for her on Tuesday, April 5th, because the strings festival, sports, academics would all benefit from her talents on the school board. The status quo is not working locally – the longer we stay with the status quo, the more our kids will suffer.

The 39th string festival that was held yesterday was inspiring and an experience that children and parents alike will hold dearly in their memories. Consider, when the first elementary string orchestra was taught in 1969 Madison, there were was not even 100 students. Today, the total student population has not changed all that much and the elementarys string orchestra has grown to nearly 2,000 students – 1,866 students this year.
Yet, each year students, parents and teachers are left to wonder – what is going on? It is not simply about money, it is not even about scheduling. The Superintendent is not considering children’s learning and achievement – he has no clue about the benefit to children’s learning of this curriculum. He has has spent every year since he has been Superintendent using one lame excuse after another trying to cut this program, remaining deaf to the children, parents and city of madison. Why can he “get away with this?” On this and many other trends that are troubling in our school district. Rainwater has a compliant school board and he loves it, who wouldn’t.
Shipping this curriculum to MSCR would destroy the music education instrumental curriculum. Setting up private lessons to supplement what children learn in school would add to the learning experience, having small group lessons would complement the program. The spring performance yesterday was the culmination of a semester’s work for children – they memorized all those songs. There were complicated skills, etc., that was included in that work. Think of how much learning they absorbed into their minds!
The Rainwater budget excuse to cut the program is not supported by the data, a possible impact on test scores is not supported by the data, and even the scheduling is not supported when teachers are left to work out the issues. Leopold Elementary is an example of a school where the new teacher has done a phenomonal job of working out the scheduling with teachers and the demand for the curriculum and participation has soared.
So, what does the current superintendent and school board approve – an increase in the administrative budget these past 2 years of $1.4 million – the number of administrators have increased in number, not decreased. Not one cut. this year’s budget increase cut $2 million from the elementary and secondary school budgets – adding dollars to every other department. Those are bad decisions for kids, and the current board is letting the current administration make those decisions. The current school board is letting the administration to use “terror” to manage our school district on budget, new buildings, boundary changes, etc. Yes, state financing is not there, but neither is our existing school board.
For four years, students, parents and the community have asked for a community advisory committee on fine arts education – nothing from the School Board, because the Superintendent does not want us to come together to work together. When you make changes to what children learn and study, you start with the curriculum – you begin with the teachers.