Grade 5 Strings – How you can help

Grade 5 elementary string students need your help. There are ways you can support the hundreds of ten-year olds who are in Grade 5 strings and this year’s Grade 4 students who would like the chance to take the course next year:
A. Bring your child to play his/her instrument at Thursday’s Budget Hearing – April 19th at 6:00 p.m., Memorial High School Auditorium.
If your child would like to “play” in support of Grade 5 strings, there will be an opportunity to do this at Thursday’s budget hearing to be held in the auditorium at Memorial High School ( Students from grades 5-12 are welcome. There will be adults present to help coordinate the playing of a few songs from the strings festival. If you want to play, please come at 6 p.m., so we can organize the students.
B. Email the School Board – – let them know:
1. you support the program for all children,
2. what this course has meant to your child if your child is/has
taken elementary strings,
3. you would like the newly formed school board community task
force on fine arts to have a chance to do it’s work, which
a. identifying the community’s fine arts education values and
b. identifying ways to increase low-income/minority
participation in the arts (45% elementary string students
are minority, 35% are low income), and
c. identifying funding priorities for the School Board
C. Speak at the Budget Hearings – 6:30 p.m. – Tuesday, April 17th at La Follette High School Auditorium and Thursday, April 19th at Memorial High School Auditorium:
There are two public hearings next week on the budget – Tuesday, April 17th, 6:30 p.m. at La Follette High School and Thursday, April 19th, 6:30 p.m. at Memorial High School – both public hearings are in the school’s auditoriums. If you come, you need to sign if you want to speak. You can sign in and not speak but say you support the program. Each person who speaks is given 3 minutes.
For nearly 40 years, MMSD has had an elementary strings program. Two years ago, elementary string instruction was cut in half. Last year, Grade 4 strings was cut entirely. This year, Superintendent Rainwater is proposing to cut Grade 5 strings, which would eliminate all string instruction during the school day.
Thank you for your support of Grade 5 strings and a strong fine arts education for our children.

2 thoughts on “Grade 5 Strings – How you can help”

  1. The dedication and organization to convince the school board on an annual basis to save the elementary strings program is truly astounding!
    Perhaps it’s time to take that talent and energy to the lawmakers to convince them to save our schools.

  2. Thanks for the complement – sort of.
    I’m writing my state legislature and am planning to go to Thursday’s meeting at the legislature. But, I’m not about to let our School Board off the hook when there’s work we could be doing locally, but the administration does nothing from year to year, excluding the community until when – late March, which does not make sense to me unless you just want to contain the furror to a few weeks and don’t mind riding it out yearly. That does not make sense to me and does not help build broad community support for an operating referendum. I do not support threats to elementary strings, school closing, class sizes unless a referendum passes. The Superintendent does not put athletics out there for cuts to sports, nor would I support it.
    So, yes, we have to lobby our state legislatures, but we need to be doing something locally that includes referedums, but not only referendums. I suggest those who are energized at the state, work with us at the local level in kind. We could use the support, and there are plenty of ways we can help one another.
    While I strongly support changes to school financing, I believe there are areas of education, which Madison values, which can benefit from a mix of funding – taxes, fees, grants, private dollars – to stabilize support for these programs and to “free up” money now to keep class sizes down. However, this takes time, transitions and a Superintendent willing to do this for the arts, which I am still waiting to be convinced he’s willing to do, especially after his assault this year on the ten year olds. I remain hopeful but skeptical.
    The Superintendent’s proposed cuts to Grade 5 strings was even more insulting to the students this year following on the heels of two major cuts to this program as well as the establishment of a community fine arts task force while he protected sports. In January, the School Board unanimously approved the formation of a community fine arts task force with three charges – identify community’s values/goals for arts education, identify up to 5 ways to increase low income/minority participation in the arts and recommend funding priorities/strategies for fine arts education. What a way to start a task force – the School Board may want you do address these questions, but we’re not going to give you the time to do your work. I hope not.
    Elementary strings is only one fine arts class, but has taught up to 2,000 children in one year – more than many of the other music and art classes. So, it’s a big course, and it’s a foundation course – for band, orchestra, chorus. Plus, 45% of this year’s students are minority, 35% are low-income. You are not going to increase participation of low income/minority students in more advanced music and art courses if you cut out the foundation courses. Further, what has been amazing to me since 2002 is how strong the minority and low-income enrollment in elementary strings continues to be as top administrators try yearly to cut it away and string teachers are told not to recruit students, which many used to do in the spring for the following year. I haven’t even mentioned the research showing the academic benefits of this type of instruction.
    As a community member of the board’s fine arts task force, my personal wish is to stabilize and grow our fine arts education. I hope we get the chance to do our work, and respect for doing our work. Again, I’m hopeful, but skeptical.

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