The prospect of not replacing all the retiring music teachers was foremost on the minds of the community members who spoke during the Open Forum portion of the Emmetsburg Community School Board meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 19.
Dave Van Oosbree spoke first, thanking the board for their work. He said he was concerned that cutting the music program would cause it to wither and die. Commenting that students do well in different areas, he said, "Sometimes it is football, sometimes it is music. Sometimes band is somebody's football."
Mina Fantz said her three children participate in band, music and athletics. She voiced concerns that the students would lose their 1-to-1 lesson time with just one band teacher. "I would like to see vocal and band continue to excel," she said.
During her comments in support of the band program, Mary Wordford said she believes children deserve the chance to explore their natural talents.
Speaking to the board in support of the music program, Nori Van Den Hurk said arts contribute to the academic experience. "Individual lessons are useful for kids with focusing issues. Instruments give immediate feedback and the process uses different areas of the brain," she said. "Music helps people to think in a bigger way and assists in problem solving."
In response to concerns voiced, Superintendent John Joynt said a lot of time and effort went into the decision to recommend a three person music department. "Our recommendation is to have a grade 5 12 band instructor, as well as K 7 and grade 8 12 vocal music positions. We are advertising two music positions," said Joynt. "I am very comfortable with the decision. We have had the teachers involved and the board has been involved."
Joynt shared the statistics regarding music program participation. In the area of general and vocal music, 280 students grade K 4 receive general music instruction. In grades 5 6, there are 116 students in general music. Vocal music students in grades 7- 8 number 99 plus 18 Catholic school students. There are 53 high school mixed chorus students and 76 students in the high school concert choir. In 5th grade band, 25 students participate, which includes 3 catholic school students. The 6th grade band has 21 students including 1 catholic school student. Twenty-two 7th and 8th graders are in band which includes 4 students from the catholic school. The high school band has 36 students.
Additionally, the Superintendent shared a survey of music departments of schools with similar enrollments. According the Joynt, most of the districts operate with three instructors.
Board member Tammy Naig questioned if two people will be capable of doing everything. "We have a great program. Mr. Fog has been very busy with 130 students, " she said.
Kim Campbell, board member, said she has received community reaction to the decisions to have cuts. "I am hearing we are doing the kids an injustice by making cuts."
She also asked about the marching band. "If we cut marching band, our community will be angry."
Band instructor Aaron Phillips said the numbers of students involved in the music program began to change when the number of classes required for graduation increased. He added for many it is a scheduling issue. "I know of at least one student who has said they can't be involved in choir, band, FFA and graduate in four years."
Vocal instructor David Fog echoed Phillips comments, saying "The biggest issues of scheduling occurred when we increased to 50 credits for graduation. We encourage AP classes; we encourage college courses. We are stretching our kids and are competing for student's time." Fog encouraged the board to consider a nine period school day for students.
Joynt responded to the suggestion of a nine period day by saying Assistant Principal Tracy Christensen has been working on the possibility. He said it would require a 8 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. day. He added, "It doesn't look like it's going to work."
In other business before the board, a public hearing for the adoption of 1080 Hour School Calendar was held. There were no comments received regarding the change.
Superintendent Joynt reviewed the preliminary budget for 2014-2015 with the board. He walked the board through the FY 2015 Aid and Levy Worksheet, highlighting the numbers used to develop the general fund budget. The proposed amount of taxes levied on property by the school district is $3,632, 793 which is an increase in asking of $64,730. The proposed tax rate is $11.05739 per $1,000 taxable valuation. Last year's tax rate was $11.97, according to Joynt.
The board set March 19 as the date for the public hearing on the budget. The board will also vote on next year's school calendar.