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School’s arts program questioned

ABHUTCHISON, Sierra Sun

A recent change in Glenshire Elementary’s music program has caused a few Truckee parents to question the district’s use of Measure S funds.

Measure S, which Truckee voters reapproved in 1997, is a parcel tax that funds specific educational programs, projects and equipment that would otherwise be unavailable to Truckee students in the Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District. It raises approximately $2 million annually.

The music program at Glenshire has evolved from a specialized music program taught by a teacher with music credentials, to a broad based-program called Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) taught by a teacher with credentials in fine arts, not music, according to Glenshire Principal Susan Ritchie. VAPA includes instruction in dance, music, theater and the visual arts.

Diana McNally-McAll, a Glenshire parent and music teacher out of her home, said she is upset because she voted in favor of Measure S so a music program could be supported by those funds.

“My problem is really as a voter. It is money I agreed to pay taxes on to get certain programs passed. The (Measure S fact sheet) guarantees in writing to maintain a music program at every school,” said McNally-McAll.

Full program

Glenshire is currently the only elementary school that does not have a full music program, according to other music teachers in the district.

Until the opening of the 1998-1999 school year, for three years Glenshire Elementary had a specific music program taught by a teacher credentialed in music. After that teacher accepted a transfer to another district school in early August, Ritchie said it was impossible to find a new teacher from outside the district who could complete the state required screening and paperwork before the start of school.

Ritchie said she posted the position through the TTUSD personnel office, but at the end of the posting period had received no applications that were considered suitable for an elementary music teaching position.

According to Ritchie, she consulted with TTUSD Superintendent Pat Gemma about broadening the scope of the program from strictly music to encompassing all the fine arts. As consolidation was taking place at the school due to decreased enrollment, a staff member came forward, offering to teach VAPA.

“A teacher that was temporary and was going to lose her job, was able to take over that class. It was a win-win situation,” said Gemma.

Before any action was taken, Ritchie said the Measure S Citizens’ Review Steering Committee discussed and supported the idea of a visual and performing arts program, since it would be funded by Measure S funds.

The Steering Committee, which meets as needed, is a broad-based group made up of community members, a parent site representative, a teacher, an administrator, a school board member and the superintendent, reviewed the proposal in September, 1998.

Jan Ganong, Chairperson for the Measure S Citizens’ Review Committee, said they first approved the program as a one-year pilot program.

“It is incorrect to say that Glenshire no longer has a music program. It is not the same music program as last year, but has been expanded into visual and performing arts programs with music as one of the components,” said Ganong. “We believe that music is still being promoted.”

A mid-year survey was sent home to parents through the students in early December, according to Ritchie and the Measure S Citizens’ Committee. The committee members looked at the surveys, teacher input, quizzes and administration input as tools for their assessment, said Ganong.

“So many parents said, ‘We really like this program. My child loves knowing they have a choice,'”said Ganong.

“The surveys indicated (the parents) were overwhelmingly supportive of the program,” said Ritchie.

Ritchie said of the approximately 60 to 70 surveys returned, only one survey was negative and just a couple had constructive feedback indicating they would like to see the music portion strengthened.

Diana McNally-McAll said she filled out and submitted a very negative survey and knows of at least two other parents who did as well. Ritchie said she never received McNally-McAll’s survey.

“Mine was not included and I’d like to know where it went,” said McNally-McAll.

Another Glenshire parent, Helayne Lehman, said she doesn’t believe she ever received a survey in December.

“I would remember a survey like that,” said Lehman. “I feel that VAPA is so diluted, that there is not real strengths to it.”

“We value everything that the parents tell us and do what we can to incorporate what they’re asking for into our program,” said Ritchie.

According to Ganong, the committee made the recommendation to the district that VAPA could continue as long as the music portion be strengthened in response to the few surveys that indicated concern for this area.

Carol Reed, a Glenshire parent and a resource teacher, said she thinks the new program is wonderful.

“I am thrilled with it because my children come home talking about (VAPA). That when you know its made an impact. Over break we visited the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco and my little boy said, ‘Oh look, there’s Van Gogh’s Waterlillies..’ I was delighted they’d been exposed and how it enriched their lives. As a parent I am really pleased,” said Reed.

McNally-McAll said her biggest question is if it is legal to use Measure S funds for the VAPA program.

“I am concerned because I had been promised a music teacher,” she said. “It’s almost all art now. We all love art, but next year, reword the measure when you ask us to vote on this.”

On a Measure S fact sheet supplied by the district and the Measure S Committee, nine areas were indicated for Measure S funds to support. Music is one of the nine categories, and the sheet indicates: “Elementary and middle school music programs, supplies, equipment and maintenance” will be funded by the measure. The guarantee on the fact sheet is that “the citizens’ review committee has ensured that Measure S money has been spent in the categories specified by the resolution.”

McNally-McAll wonders if the other schools in the district have music programs, why doesn’t Glenshire.

“The language in a measure like Measure S requires some interpretation. This community put together a committee to oversee and monitor Measure S funds,” said Gemma.

“My belief is that it is legal, or I wouldn’t have advised the board to go along with the citizens’ review committee in recommendation of the program. The decision was made appropriately, given that it was made completely above the board with the oversight committee-a taxpayer’s citizens’ committee,” said Gemma.

Other music teachers in the district are concerned with the new program at Glenshire.

“We all of the sudden don’t have equality here. We have a school that has far less music education. That was one of the things that was solved with Measure S. There was money to hire music teachers at all of the elementary schools,” said Jeri Collins, a music teacher at Truckee Elementary.

Collins doesn’t believe that the music education component can fit in with the time frame and coursework of VAPA.

“All of us in the district are going about music education in different ways, but accomplishing the same goals-except what’s going on at Glenshire,” said Collins.

“A sequential music class is important for all elementary students,” said Randy Humphries, music teacher at Sierra Mountain Middle School. “The fact is, there was a full-time music teacher last year and they have changed that.”

“There’s been a lot of research that shows that developmentally music expression is important for (the students),” said Collins.

Ritchie said she believes VAPA does offer enrichment to Glenshire students.

“We are very pleased with the broad scope of program, which is all of the arts. We really believe we are providing enrichment in all of the arts to all of our children here,” said Ritchie.

“I like the idea of more thematic instruction and less specific content. It gives the students more of a chance to explore different talents,” said Gemma. He said he thought the other elementary music teachers might be concerned they would be forced to do a more global program, but that that is not the case.

“I feel the (music) teachers are comparing apples to oranges – a pure music program versus a VAPA program,” said Ritchie. “But we have the support of our staff and the majority of our parents.”

Ganong said that the Measure S Citizens’ Review Committee meetings are open to the public. The next meeting is scheduled for May 18 at the North Tahoe High School library at 3:30 p.m.


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