Thursday, May 15, 2014

Serendipity Shuffle

An update from Ann Faust, HoCo Families for Music and Arts in our Schools:

Dear Howard County Public school music supporters, I would like to let you all know that we have some good news from the Deputy Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction & Administration Ms Linda Wise. Ms Wise called me today 05/14/2014 and told me that our music sectionals shall be attended as before. While this is a step on the right direction she also mentioned that all content areas will be experiencing cuts of some sort, general music and art will be reduced from the current 60 minutes of instructional time to 45 minutes per week. Again less than ideal, but… Also Ms Wise told me that Mr Rob White's (Instructional Facilitator for Music) and Mr Mark Coates' (Coordinator of Fine Arts) positions will be current until the end of the year after that they will be looking for new candidates. Furthermore, I shall be meeting with them next Wednesday to address any further questions we may have so please feel free to send them to me. As always thank you very much for your support.


If you wrote a letter yesterday, thank you. It is because of you and others like you that the schools system reached out to Howard County Parents for School Music and HoCo Families for Music and Arts in our Schools to communicate the information you see above. While both advocacy groups had been told repeatedly that no decisions had yet been made, and that the Board wouldn't be addressing this until June, it is clear that a decision had been made and no effort was made to follow up with advocacy groups.

What made the difference? Serendipity.

It turns out that, completely by chance, Ms. Faust's call for letters occurred on the eve of the official press conference to unveil the Model Schools program, to be held today at Running Brook Elementary. What could possibly be more inconvenient than having email boxes fill up with letters from unhappy constituents the day before your big event?

That doesn't look good. Whatever philosophy of "control the message" has been in use doesn't appear to be working too well.

The heart of the matter:

  • The pilot program at Duckett's Lane hasn't even completed one year, so there is no data to review.
  • There is substantial data that music and arts programs are a significant game changer in school success for disadvantaged populations.
  • There is no data to show that cutting back on instructional time for music and the arts to introduce world languages produces significant positive results.

Even more puzzling:

  • Music and art professionals had no significant input in the changes
  • Parents and community members who sought to have input were marginalized.
  • Two separate advocacy groups received zero follow-up once the decision had been made
The only reason that a statement was issued yesterday was as a measure of damage control. I think that's pretty sad. And it just isn't good business. I love Howard County Schools and I always want to believe that the school system wants what is best for our children and our community. If the school system had handled this courteously and professionally, we would not be where we are today.

I leave you today with this saddening bit of news: do you know who is most anxious to see the official press conference today? Plenty of teachers in the Howard County Schools, because they have no idea what is going to be said or how it will affect them.

Don't you think they ought to know before the press?





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