Board rejects proposed change to fifth-grade band
The band will play on -- at least for next year.
After a lengthy and lively discussion Monday night, the De Soto USD 232 Board of Education voted 5-2 to reject a proposal to move fifth-grade band from regular school hours to after school.
A district administrative committee recommended the change in an effort to recapture classroom instructional time.
Superintendent Sharon Zoellner told the Board in February the time was needed to better prepare for state assessment tests, especially with the federal No Child Left Behind Act demanding district's demonstrate annual yearly progress or face the loss of federal aid.
Board members agreed to take no further action on the matter that would affect the upcoming 2004-05 school year.
"I think the Board almost did the right thing tonight," band advocate Kent Willnauer said after the meeting at Mill Valley High School.
Even though band will stay in the regular school day, Willnauer said the board acted single-mindedly and "wasted the district's time."
Willnauer, who has older children in the district, accused the Board of taking a shortcut to arrive at the proposal and targeting fifth-grade band as the "sacrificial lamb" of gaining more academic instruction time.
"They had a single agenda item," he said. "They did not come to fifth-grade band because they looked at other options. That was their first and only option."
Clear Creek Elementary School Principal Randy Doerksen, Mize Elementary School Principal Lowell Martinie, and Starside Elementary School Principal Paula Hill spoke on behalf of the administrative committee.
The committee surveyed third- and fourth-grade parents and met with band instructors, fifth-grade teachers, vocal music teachers and administrators to discuss ways to increase academic instructional time. They then recommended the band program be patterned after the choir program and be taught outside of regular classroom time. Fifth-grade choir is optional and scheduled before school.
Doerksen said the committee focused on band because it was the only optional elementary school program that took place during the regular academic day.
Regardless of the vote's outcome, Martinie said the Board did what it was supposed to do -- choose to accept or reject a proposal.
"I think, this evening, that the process has been served," he said.
Carrie Lillig, a fifth-grade teacher at Mize, said it was chaotic and disruptive when some students left for optional band practice during regular classroom time.
"I think that choir and band should both be a part of the instructional sixth-grade day," she said.
Fifth-graders will take three state assessment tests during the 2005-06 school year, one more than is currently required.
Board president Jim Thomas said it was essential for students to clock more classroom time to keep up with the standards imposed by the No Child Left Behind Act, which requires schools to show progress every year.
"These standards are getting higher, and we must achieve those," he said. "It's not our choice, it is the law."
Board member Bill Waye agreed that schools needed to recapture instructional time but said nixing band wasn't the way to do it.
"I don't think it's the intent of No Child Left Behind to scrap successful things," he said. "Band might be the easy way to do that, but I don't think it's the right way."
Superintendent Sharon Zoellner said fifth-grade band instruction will stay within the instructional day and the allotted time would not be decreased. However, normal yearly scheduling, like what time of day and what day of the week band is scheduled, would be discussed with the person hired to replace the current fifth-grade band director, who will resign at the end of this school year.