Over the last few days, we have received a great deal of communication expressing concerns with what is being characterized as a 'cut' to our BHHS music program. Given the level of concern and the many different understandings I see represented in the communications, I want to provide some baseline information.
A New Schedule
We are currently in the process of staffing our schedule for next school year, which will feature a new, eight period day instead of the current seven, giving our students additional opportunities and choices. While these additional opportunities are a great thing, it's also important to understand that any change to the schedule represents a change to the overall 'ecosystem,'.
Impact to Courses
In preparation for the eight period day, virtually all of our departments (including our music department) offered new courses for students to consider. Like most high school schedules, ours is demand driven; meaning that we offer a menu of courses and run only those that populate to a minimum level. Historically, we have had a number of courses offered, but not run in any given semester based upon demand. Though our student interest in band and choir remain strong, the student numbers did not warrant running the new, additional music courses. Therefore, the BHHS music courses currently scheduled for next year are identical to those offered over the last four years with no program additions and no program cuts.
Impact to Teachers and Program
This new eight period day also means that the number of courses a teacher must teach to maintain a full time schedule is increased by one. So when the newly proposed courses did not reach the minimum number to run, it left some BHHS music staff one course shy of a full teaching load. One way to maintain a full schedule for our BHHS music staff is to provide some instruction at the middle school level. While there are some perceived disadvantages to such an arrangement (some have expressed concerns with travel, greater fragmentation, and less student access throughout the day) there can also be some strong advantages. We have shared our high school music staff with our middle schools in years past, and found that it yielded some positive impacts in terms of building a strong progression to the secondary level. Much like the world of athletics or the progression of other academic subjects, unifying music instruction throughout the district will benefit students of all ages.
Why can't you just add the class section?
In the larger picture, these kind of scheduling dilemmas and issues play out in a great many departments throughout the high school, and they have enormous cumulative budget implications. Every year, we make difficult staffing decisions and try to make contextual and equitable decisions, balancing program and budget. Given that the state now provides us with less per-pupil funding than we received a decade ago, we have to draw a more disciplined line with each passing year.
Staffing is a Process
You should also be aware that staffing for each year's schedule is a relatively fluid process. Small changes occur throughout the Spring and Summer that may call for some scheduling or staffing revisions. Sometimes it's also possible that our initial scheduling/staffing decisions may have failed to take into account some important piece of context or information. In such cases, we are always willing to sit down with our teacher teams and hear their concerns.
It is also important for our students and families to know that our BHHS administration is open to hearing concerns and is empowered to make adjustments as needed. As always, it is best to initially contact the person closest to you in the best position to hear and address your concern. In this case, that would be any member of the BHHS administrative team. If you feel that they have understood your concern and you are still not satisfied with the outcome, your next step is to contact Assistant Superintendent for Learning Services, Todd Bidlack.
BHS deeply values music education, and all of our world class programs!
Lastly, please know that this district deeply values music education. As a musician myself I have personally experienced the power of music to change and enrich one's life. All of my children have had lives transformed by music education, with two of them being drum majors and a third a professional musician touring all over the world. While I honor the perception that individuals may have as their own, the factors affecting overall program quality are not always as straightforward as they appear.
This district is absolutely committed to having a world class music program alongside a long list of other top programs. Maintaining and developing a K-12 program of excellence requires collaborative work over time, and that collaborative work starts with the classroom and building administration working together. I urge you to continue lending your support as well as sharing your concerns at the school level as we work together over the long term to take a strategic approach to our K-12 music program.