I was asked to post the following letter from Robert Rickman, MMSD instrument teacher, to Rita Applebaum, MMSD Interim Fine Arts Coordinator:
Dear Ms. Applebaum,
I was recently informed that you spoke to Mark Messer, Memorial High School orchestra teacher, about the 4th and 5th grade Strings classes. I am shocked to hear that you have moved to eliminate fourth grade Strings classes based upon a conversation with him, and a hurried and undiscussed vote from Strings teachers that you solicited by e-mail the day before school was out.
Approximately 8 years ago, Mariel Wozniak, the Arts Administrator, called me and ten of my colleagues together to interpret Wisconsin DPI music education guidelines and adapt the Madison Strings curriculum accordingly. Our current curriculum is the result of this arduous and thoughtful undertaking.
If the curriculum must be revisited, I believe that the least that should occur in terms of educationally justifiable action is to have a curriculum evaluation discussion amongst senior instrumental teaching staff as to best practices for administering this 4th and 5th grade instrumental curriculum. It would be irresponsible for this matter to be acted upon by any other means.
After teaching instrumental music for 16 years (specifically Strings from 4th to 12th grade), it is my opinion that the 4th and 5th grade curriculum should remain as is, even with a reduction from twice a week to a once a week lessons.
I am sure that you are aware that 4th and 5th grade Strings is hugely popular in Madison. Attempts to eliminate or reduce this program have been met with huge community outcry repeatedly over the past four years. Additionally, the School Board clearly directed the administration to provide Strings at least once a week even in light of the failure of the referenda. I trust that as acting Arts Administrator, you will do everything you can to support this curriculum, the will of the public, and the School Board.
If I can be of help in any future discussion, please call upon me.
Robert C. Rickman