When the (Kyrene School District Governing Board) decided to go to the 68-minute class schedule (3 to 2 vote), it was justified by statistics from an outside group the former superintendent brought in. Their claim was in order to compete with other districts, the students needed more academic time.
They also included the A Lab. At this board meeting many parents were opposed to this. We claimed that it would not make a difference, and that the students would use the A Lab as a time to socialize, and teachers would use it to prep. Both have come true in many cases.
The sad part of it all is that music programs were cut completely in half. That would be like taking a math class and wiping out half of the curriculum. But, it was made clear by the board, superintendent, and the pressures from outside entities, that this would be the new way. It was also presented to those opposed that if this did not improve test scores, music would be back as full time.
So, now that everyone is seeing that cutting music programs for the sake of more academic time doesn’t work, why are we not considering bringing them back?
The district still tells everyone how great our music programs are, but they’re not great … they’re average. There are some fine teachers, but half the support. The district pays lip service to the public in order to show that Kyrene is well rounded. It’s not well rounded because they’re learning very little in their music programs now, especially in the junior high. In fact, since the music programs were cut back I have noticed a major difference in knowledge, skill, and overall ability by the students. Just survey music teachers in the Tempe Union High School District to find out.
Why is it that an individual student can move up to a higher level in other curriculum but not in music? Many students are discouraged to be in the programs at Kyrene (and this has been going on long before the music was cut back) because they’re not placed by their ability level, but rather their grade level. This only discourages the students that really want to excel, and encourages those who just need a free period where they can have some “fun,” or an “outlet.” That is not what music education is. That is what recess is. The music staff is divided into teaching part time choir/part time band, or part time band/part time drama, or part time drama/part time orchestra, and many teachers travel, etc (many of which are not qualified to teach). This is not a quality education. There are some quality music teachers still in your district, but trust me (as I am on music boards and know many music teachers in Arizona) Kyrene does not have a good reputation for music. The new teachers coming out of college say things like, “I want to teach in Mesa, Gilbert, Tempe, Chandler, or if I can’t get anything then I will teach in Kyrene.”
Please know my language is only strong because this has been ignored for so long. Groups like KMFA and Arts Council for Youth have been trying to put this message out there, and it continues to be ignored. Many Kyrene music teachers are apathetic to this as well, and are becoming discouraged.
So, instead of fixing the problem by going to a standard conventional model (i.e. six periods a day with one to two electives that go year-round) you’re choosing to pilot another model at Pueblo and KMS that once again short changes music programs. Why not make music classes like the others? Let students sign up for an elective that meets the entire year every day so they can actually learn how to properly play their instrument, read music, and be placed according to their ability level?
Please be honest with the public about this. Please do not try to tell people how wonderful your music programs are, when you have no idea how they compare to others in Arizona. Support your music teachers to take kids to festivals promoted by Arizona Music Educators Association (AMEA), Arizona Band and Orchestra Directors Association (ABODA), and American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) rather than just Disneyland trips or paid festivals out of state that bring home plastic trophies that say how wonderful they are.
There are so many festivals offered in Arizona and few of your music teachers participate. Very few music teachers attend the AMEA State Conference (the only one we do a year) because they say their school cannot find a substitute teacher for them, or they have no financial support. In fact, one new teacher received an award for being an outstanding new teacher of the year. He could not get a sub that day to receive his award. He had to rush over during a prep period and go back to school. Also, very few music teachers are seeking advanced degrees in music education, and rather opting for advanced degrees in administration, counseling, or other curriculums because they’re afraid they won’t have a job if they don’t.
Maybe you should survey your music teachers to have some hard facts and data.
Please stop treating music teachers less than a regular academic teacher by putting them in teaching positions that they are not qualified for (they get paid the same, and they are highly qualified).
I am happy to serve on a committee to help bring music back to full time, and give the music teachers the support they need. Please contact me if you would like any assistance.
• Greg Hebert is a concerned Kyrene parent living in Chandler. He is choral director at Corona del Sol High School, music director at St. Thomas the Apostle, AzACDA president, and a board member of ACE.