H.S. director addresses elementary music program

By Nancy Gutierrez

Exeter Union High School teacher Kirk Clague addressed the Elementary School District Board during their meeting, Tuesday, May 25.

Clague spoke on behalf of the EUSD music teacher Nora Allstedt during public comment.

"I have concern that the path planned for music at Wilson and Rocky Hill may lead to a serious weakening of the music program in all the schools," he said.

Clague had received information that one of the two permanent, full-time music teacher positions might be eliminated in 2004-2005.

"I strongly urge you to reconsider cutting the programs in our elementary schools. While I do understand the impetus to save money and improve standardized test scores … cutting the music program at the elementary levels would be counter productive," Clague said. "There are reams and reams of scientific evidence regarding improved learning and achievement by students who are active participants in music learning and this is most evident in the younger years."

Superintendent Renee Whitson said in a phone interview that there are no agendized items involving cutting a position other than getting direction from the board regarding the music program.

"We need to address the question and say if there is a problem then what is the problem," Whitson said. "But there are no scheduled cuts."

Nora Allstedt is the Wilson Middle School and Rocky Hill Elementary School band director. Between the two schools she directs five bands, teaches 10 different classes and instructs 178 students. When Allstedt first came to Exeter she taught only at Rocky Hill. When Wilson's music director left last summer, Allstedt took over directing at Wilson and Mendy Lovik, the High School Choir Director and full-time language arts and journalism teacher, began teaching Wilson's choir classes. There are currently no choral classes taught at Rocky Hill.

"We assumed this would be a a one year thing and hoped someone would be brought in to help," Allstedt said.

Allstedt said that as neighboring districts cut programs she along with Clague wanted to bring to the board's attention how important music education is to students. Clague said the high school music programs are directly effected by any inefficiency in the elementary and middle school program.

"I find that your band director is being asked to shoulder more than any one person can do effectively," he said. "The effects are that at EUHS we have only eleven freshman band members joining us. I have exactly no young men joining my choir. Our program has suffered an unusually high attrition as the beginner classes have been huge at Rocky Hill every year. I believe that part of the reason is overloaded schedules."

Allstedt said next year she will spend half the day at each school instead of teaching a full day at each site and alternating days. She said when she first started three years ago she saw students six times in a 10 day cycle. Now she said she will see students four times in a 10 day cycle.

"I understand the pressure the district is under with testing, but a vital part of a child's education is the arts," she said.

Allstedt and Clague hope the district will fill the position with a choir instructor to handle both classroom music and choral education.

In other business:

  • The board discussed the future of the Life Lab at Rocky Hill Elementary School. The Life Lab is a garden that serves as an outdoor classroom for teachers to use when studying academic areas like math, science and even English. Rocky Hill Principal Jessica Bradshaw provided board members with a general proposal with changes and additions to the lab as well as a plan to improve on the maintenance of the lab. The EUSD board will decide what to do with the lab at the next board meeting in June.

  • The board presented certificates of recognition to sixth graders Esperanza Ruiz and Rosa Gonzalez; seventh graders Laurel Dyckman and Tyler Edwards; and eighth graders Erik Allen and Laura Brinkman.

  • The board approved a facility use request by the Exeter Union High School Band Boosters for the use of district property located at the corner of E and Clarence Streets. The EUHS band boosters would like to set-up a fireworks booth at the location. The location they have used for the past three years is under new construction. The fireworks booth is one of the boosters major fund-raiser.

  • The board approved the job descriptions and restructuring of technology job titles to better fit the current duties performed by employees in the district office. Current duties have been reviewed and analyzed with current job descriptions and new job descriptions have been established to better match duties.

  • The board also approved the eRate funding commitment for upgrading of materials at Wilson Middle, Rocky Hill and Lincoln Elementary Schools. Cabling will be upgraded and computer ports will be added to increase data speeds. the total cost of the project is $560,118.75. eRate will pay 80 percent, or $448,095, the district is responsible for the balance or $112,023.75.

    eRate funding is the result the Telecommunications act of 1996 which made schools and libraries eligible for Universal Service support. More importantly it ensured that schools and libraries had affordable access to advanced telecommunications.

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