Friday, October 24, 2014

Advocates Speak Out

Last night the Howard County Parents for School Music (HCPSM) had their regular monthly meeting.* As a part of their goal of music advocacy, HCPSM has reached out to Board of Education Candidates since before the primary in order to share pertinent information with HCPSM membership and the greater community. Candidates were invited to attend meetings, and to complete a survey:

(1) Outcome 3.1 of HCPSS's Vision 2018 states that "HCPSS collaborates with family and community partners to engender a culture of trust, transparency, and mutual respect." How is HCPSS currently performing to meet this goal, and what specific actions would you, as a member of the Board of Education, advocate?

(2) Parents of children involved in music programs have voiced concerns about the sudden, unilateral implementation of an untested elementary model requiring schedule changes that have a negative impact on music education. Yet the strategies in support of Outcome 3.1 in HCPSS's Vision 2018 clearly promote "interactive communications" (Strategy 3.1.2), inclusion of "stakeholder groups in planning processes" (Strategy 3.1.3) and "intentional strategies to involve parents in decisions" (Strategy 3.1.5). As a Board of Education member, what specific strategies would you advocate to be more inclusive of parents?

(3) There are numerous documented connections between participation in music education and success in STEM subjects. Do you advocate for inclusion of the arts into a STEAM program? How would you address this?

(4) What do you see as the role of the Arts programs in Howard County public schools?

(5) What is your personal connection to music, and what has been your specific involvement with music in Howard County?

(6) What is your understanding of the duties and responsibilities as a Board of Education member, especially in relation to the superintendent?


Here is the opinion part, that is, my opinion. There has been an attempt in some quarters to paint HCPSM as a narrow, elitist, selfish group of parents that are merely trying to get more "goodies" for their own children.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

HCPSM owes its very existence to the deeply held belief that music is an integral part of education from early childhood through high school, and that it has benefits for every child. In fact, more and more research bears out the necessity for an arts-rich education in addressing the achievement gap in at-risk populations.

It is hardly selfish to say: music is for everyone. It is not narrow to advocate for the highest levels possible of Music and Art instruction in Title 1 schools. It is not elitist to spend a large part of every year seeking donations of instruments so that they may be refurbished and used in schools where there is the most need.

At the conclusion of last evenings meeting, HCPSM released the following statement:

Over the past year we have become increasingly aware of how important it is to have a Board of Education open to collaboration with stakeholders. For that reason, we believe that the following Board of Education candidates demonstrate the highest commitment to respectful collaboration: Cindy Vaillancourt, Bess Altwerger, Zaneb Beams, and Dan Furman. No matter who you support, please vote!

Whether your concerns are in Arts Education, STEM, the achievement gap, Health and Wellness, AP Courses--whatever might bring you to reach out to the Board of Education--you are going to need elected representatives who are "open to collaboration with stakeholders."


Please vote.

*My husband and I take turns representing our daughter's school as HCPSM representatives for OMMS. Last night he went; I stayed home with M.


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