Speak Up for Strings Tonight: Public Appearances at Board Public Hearing On the Budget – 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 9th at Memorial High School

Dear Madison Community,
Children and parents are encouraged to speak in support of elementary strings and to bring their instruments to tonight’s School Board public hearing on the budget if they would like to play. My husband, Fred Schrank, who is the principal bassist with the MSO and who teaches orchestra to elementary and middle school children in the district, will be there. I’ve asked him if he would accompany those children who might want to play for the School Board to show their support for the course. The public hearing begins 6:30 p.m at Memorial High School, 201 S. Gammon Road, Auditorium [map].
For your information – the School Board takes students who want to speak for 3 minutes (or play for 3 minutes) first. I also have signs and will have colored markers for students or others who want to make signs for the School Board to see.
The Superintendent’s proposal to cut Grade 4 strings is unacceptable, incomplete and would put in place a music curriculum planning process AFTER the cut is made to Grade 4 strings instruction. His conceptual idea is to plan to offer elementary children experiences with varied instruments in the 07-08 school year when Grade 5 strings would be cut and there would be no more elementary strings. That’s a curious idea. Why? Current General Music practice is to offer children experiences on different instruments – so the planning would not result in any meaningful curriculum change except the elimination of elementary stringed instrument instruction. What kind of plan would that be? No community planning took place this year for music education, which DPI recommends as best practice for standards based curriculum planning – include professionals and the community in the effort. The only plan is to cut Grade 4 strings, with planning for next steps to follow. Without good planning and good information – bad practice and bad decisions follow.
My question: Where’s the planning been for the past year, for the past 5 years? Our kids deserve better. Hundreds of children and community members have spoken in support of the elementary strings course over the years and emails and support for this course remain strong as demonstrated by the children once again this year through their enrollment in this course – over 1,700 children in September (550+ low income children who will be hurt the most by this cut).
After 5 springs of advocating for this course, I’m exasperated and annoyed; but when I listen to children and parents tell their stories about their hopes and dreams, I get reinvigorated as I was last night after listening and speaking. Last night, Ruth Robarts, Shwaw Vang and Lucy Mathiak spoke strongly in support of the program and in working on strings through the Performance and Achievement and the Partnership Committees. I think the idea to collaborate among board committees is novel and appropriate for Fine Arts – and may be for other areas. I feel involving the community – music and art professionals, parents, organizations in the process is critical to the long-term success of fine arts education in Madison, especially in tight financial times.
Also, Lawrie Kobza, School Board Vice President, reminded the Superintendent that the School Board had additional options to his proposal to consider – the Superintendent’s options plus keeping the course the same as this year or restoring the course to what it was two years ago (2x per week for 45 minutes).
So, please, if you have time tonight, come and Speak Up For Strings! Even if it’s only to stop in on your way to and from another event (it’s that crazy time of year with concerts, sporting games, dances and preparation for graduations taking up lots of time) and register with the Board in support of the course. I’ll be there to help with registering to speak in support, or simply registering your support. Each person’s presence makes a difference – individually and collectively!
Barbara Schrank
P.S and FYI – the Supt.’s proposed Grade 4 strings cut would not affect any current teachers and would be made through retirements and resignations. However, 1,700 children would lose something they dearly value that provides them with so much. I think, over time, our community will lose even more.

One thought on “Speak Up for Strings Tonight: Public Appearances at Board Public Hearing On the Budget – 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 9th at Memorial High School”

  1. A parent asked me to post the following comment:
    “In your outcry, please loudly note that this is a program that directly and positively supports students from families that are not economically well off. Cutting the program hurts only these students. Those with money may learn an instrument whether or not it is offered in school.”

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