We all can “talk the talk” when it comes to supporting Fine Arts Education among our friends, but what about really doing something about it on a local level? Can we do anything at all? To quote Bob the Builder… “Yes, We Can!”.
Local School Board meetings are not just for conducting the day-to-day affairs of the school districts, they also provide a public forum for discussion. Literally, there is mandated time, in all school board meetings for guests, visitors, and residents of the district to express their opinions, concerns, and praise for the the anything related to the school district. You have the right and quite possibly, the moral obligation to go to these meetings when something concerns you about your school district.
Recently, I was asked to sign a petition about the perceived lack of FINE ARTS facility space in a proposed new middle school building of a local district. When I became aware of this, I immediately started to gather what information I could about the subject. Fully realizing, that I may not have all the pertinent information, I decided to draft a letter to the school board and present it, personally, to the school board when they met next.
Thankfully, the school board was comprised of well-meaning, intelligent folks who really do have the interest of the children and their education in the fore-front of their minds. After a chance to speak for about 5 minutes about the importance of Music/Arts Education in our schools (in a meaningful and non-threatening way), the school board responded to me with more questions for me and at the end of the meeting took the time to go over the plans of the proposed new building, personally, with me and other interested parties.
As I said, knowingly, I didn’t have “all the information” going into the meeting, there are always, at least, two sides of a conversation… They explained some of their decisions with me and a number of other concerned citizens, and helped us to understand their thought process in this regard. All in all, I believe their proposed building was adequate for the current needs of the Arts/Music program, but I again stressed the importance of looking toward the future, and planning for success in the programs -not just continued current “numbers”. I also talked with the board about “keeping a watchful eye” on the Fine Arts programs, supporting the children in continued and sustained Arts/Music education, and not simply treating the Arts/Music programs as something extra…
I also explained to the board that Music and Arts Teachers have every bit of educational credentials as other teachers and needed to be afforded the same rights, privileges, and facility spaces as other teachers. Music teachers using “carts” as a classroom is not only a slap in the face to the teacher but also provides the students with a lesser music education and experience due to the unfortunate circumstance.
What follows is the letter I personally handed to all the school board members before I spoke to them (taking out the name of the school, despite that the document is now part of the public record). You will find it very cordial, positive, and constructive. Please feel free to use any part of it for your own needs.
Click on the image below to expand it here and/or download a template of this document (PDF) for you to change and utilize as you see fit for your own music advocacy needs.
We can make a difference for the Fine Arts programs in our schools if we have the courage to step out and stand up for what we believe in! If you need help in finding specific scholarly articles to help you with your “fight” for music or arts in the schools, be sure to check out http://supportmusic.com. It has a wealth of information waiting there for you to use and explore in this regard.
Do I think we/I had any impact on the School Board’s future thinking about the building and the importance of Fine Arts Support in the district? … You Betcha! In order to be heard, we must first speak.
I enjoyed this post and in particular, the paragraph regarding ‘Music and Arts Teachers having every bit of the educational credentials as other teachers’ and should be be afforded ‘the same rights, privileges, and facility spaces as other teachers’.
I would take this a step further and venture to say that music teachers put as much we if not more time into their craft as lawyers, doctors and accountants. These are the disciplines that we should be aspiring to emulate as far as compensation.
For far too long (dating back to Lowell Mason and the Boston School Board days!) music educators have been ‘giving away’ their expertise because by our very nature we are a kind and caring group, often putting students first and our own needs last. I fear we have gone too far down the road inside academia and now we may have few options (if any) as we attempt to gain back our budgets and programs, not to mention our rightful rewards as professionals.
It’s sad for students when programs continue to shrivel up and die. And even sadder for our profession as a whole which gave so much to ‘school music programs’ over the years and had such little support.
My dream is that letters like yours will some day no longer be necessary!
Thanks for the post. I agree, wouldn’t it be nice if we could just experience fine arts in the schools as smoothly as any other subject.
Thanks for your points!