DeKALB – Members of the community came out in force to oppose proposed changes to the DeKalb middle school schedule, which would eliminate general music and reduce some full-time positions at the two schools.
The DeKalb School District 428 board is set to vote on the proposal at its Aug. 6 meeting. The schedule change would be implemented during the 2014-15 school year.
Under the proposal, one of the middle schools’ elective classes will be eliminated so that mathematics can be expanded from 44 minutes to 88 minutes. As a result, students will have one period to take electives or receive extra help in math and reading.
Tracy Williams, the school board’s vice president, said the district needs to make hard choices in the education it offers students.
Describing himself as the father of two orchestra students, he said he understands the importance of having music teachers.
“We clearly understand the value that comes from having these programs,” Williams said. “But we are falling short in math achievement. ... We need to address our achievement gap.”
Music teachers from the district, as well as parents and other interested individuals, spoke at length during the meeting’s public comments section about the necessity of keeping music in the classroom. A lot of them wore stickers that read, “Hello, my name is Music.”
“Engagement in the fine arts helps students stretch their minds beyond the bindings of the book or the strict rules of the classrooms,” said Mark Barwegan, an art teacher at Huntley Middle School.
Steve Lundeen, the director of the DeKalb High School band, said he was worried that decreasing music at the middle school could have a negative effect on enrollment at the high school.
If the board adopts the proposal, students will have one elective period where they can choose band, orchestra, choir, computers or art for the semester or the year. Only general music would be eliminated, said Douglas Moeller, the district’s assistant superintendent of curriculum and student services. This would also be the same time in which students can receive extra help in class.
Moeller said the district saw increases in student performance in language arts after that was increased to 88 minutes a day.
District officials are expected to reduce three full-time positions as aresult of the schedule change, but Moeller has previously said these reductions would not entirely consist of dismissing teachers. Student enrollment and faculty tenure also factor into this.
The school board also considered a proposal that would eliminate the band and music ensembles, but they rejected this option.
The District 428 board will decide at its Aug. 6 meeting whether to keep or change the middle school schedule. Here are the key differences:
• 44 minutes of mathematics
• One exploratory period where students take band/choir/orchestra, receive extra help in classes, or take a teacher-led exploratory class.
• Elective class that has students learn nine weeks of health, computers, art and general music
• No full-time reductions
• 88 minutes of mathematics
• Eliminate exploratory period
• Elective class where students take band/choir/orchestra, computers and/or art, or receive extra help in classes
• Eliminate general music from electives
• Reductions of three full-time positions