MBUSD Music Program Cuts - Student Letter
The message below was written by a student and is directed specifically to students. Please share with your student if they are interested in writing letters to the MBUSD School Board regarding recent cuts to the district music program. And please be on the lookout for a separate message which will be distributed soon for parents.
Please note: Students should identify themselves in their letters as MUSIC students. They definitely can share their experiences in choir, band, or orchestra, but we really want to represent ourselves as a single unified voice for the entire MBUSD music program.
Here are some notes I took on the student meeting this morning with Dr. John Benham regarding how to write letters to the school board about the cuts they've made to the MBUSD music program. Please take the time to write a letter and help try to save our music program!
1) Talk about what the music program has meant to you and how important it has been to you.
2) Talk about the importance of small classes/ensembles.
3) Talk about your disappointment if the music program is cut and how it will affect everyone. Focus especially on what skills you learn in music classes that transfer to other classes and what intellectual and academic habits you form as a result of being in music.
3) Don't attack anyone.
4) Get younger siblings to write letters, even if they're not in the music program yet, to let them know how much they want to take music (choir, band, orchestra) when they get to middle school or high school and how disappointed they'll be if they can't.
5) Watch the school board meeting livestream on April 15th, and get your parents to watch it, too. (This link isn't available yet. Please check back at www.mbusd.org and click on "Board" to see instructions on how to view the link when it's available. The link to the April 15th board meeting also will be distributed to everyone as soon as it's available.)
6) Letters need to be submitted by April 14.
7) Don't make phone calls to any board members.
8) Limit comments to 400 words or less! Your letter doesn't have to to be that long, and sometimes fewer words can be more effective. You can make it shorter or longer, whatever works best for you, but no more than 400 words!!
9) Be creative--talk about how excited you were to go on the different music department trips (for example, the choir trip to Italy or the band trip to Washington, D.C.) and how disappointing it will be if those can never happen again, or talk about the new band video or Mr. Hayden's choir podcast about the Italy trip, etc. (would be a good idea to send links to the band video and the choir podcast about the Italy trip).
Band video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3uO9hcI-LM
Choir podcast (Mr. Hayden's interview starts at 13:30): https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-naccw-d80c23?utm_campaign=u_share_ep&utm_medium=dlink&utm_source=u_share
10) Submit your letter as a public comment to be read at the April 15th school board meeting. (The link to submit public comments isn't available yet. Please check back at www.mbusd.org and click on "Board" to follow the link to send your letter as a public comment to the board. The link also will be distributed to everyone as soon as it's available.) THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. PLEASE BE SURE TO SUBMIT YOUR LETTER AS A PUBLIC COMMENT AS SOON AS THE LINK IS AVAILABLE SO IT CAN BE READ AT THE APRIL 15TH BOARD MEETING!!!
For more more info about the recent cuts to our district's music program and their devastating impact on music in our schools, please scroll down.
Dear MBUSD Music Family and Friends,
We hope you are all well and adjusting to the new way of life we've all been thrust into these last few weeks. We are reaching out about the recent budget cuts that impact the Manhattan Beach School District music program. With everything going on with CoVid-19, you may be wondering why we're reaching out about the music program right now, since other concerns might be forefront on your minds. We hope to address that question, as well as others, in this message.
The Short Version: Despite the chaos caused by Coronavirus, there has been no extension concerning the pink slips issued to teachers in early March. Also due to Coronavirus, the District is likely facing a much more bleak financial future than was previously expected. It is critical to the future of the music program in MBUSD that we face these realities head on, educate the Board of Trustees about why music programs present unique fiscal, academic, and social/emotional advantages, and plan for what we know is coming.
The Long Version: Status of Budget Cuts and Music Program Reductions: A Brief History -
In February, the Board of Trustees made $3.6 million in budget cuts affecting the 2020-2021 school year. Those cuts included the elimination of the elementary music teacher position for 1st and 2nd grade and the elimination of the music assistant positions for all music programs (choir, band and orchestra) in grades 3 through 5. At the same time, zero period was cut for 6th grade at MBMS (which potentially impacts the music program going forward).
At the March 4th Board meeting, further cuts to the District Music program were proposed by the Administration and approved by the Board under the guise of eliminating "low enrollment" classes (as part of that same $3.6 million budget reduction), which impacted the Mira Costa music programs in the following way: a 50% reduction to the Choir program and a 50% reduction to the Orchestra program.
The Superintendent was clear at both of those Board meetings: Next year, an additional $3.5 million in budget cuts will need to be made affecting the 2021-2022 school year. This sobering fact confirms: The $3.6 million cut was just the beginning.
In March, the District issued "pink slips" to affected teachers and employees, notifying them of their potential reduction or termination.
Shortly thereafter we all experienced a massive upheaval in our "normal" way of life due to the Coronavirus. While most of us shifted focus to implementing distance learning in our homes, and the District's main focus is on working through the various issues involved in that, the State of California has confirmed that no extensions have been granted concerning the timeline around those pink slips that were issued in early March.
This Means That: Our music teachers and assistants are still facing termination or reduction pursuant to the Board's actions in late February and early March.
At the Board meeting on March 25th, District administration painted a bleak picture of what the economic circumstances may well look like once we're on the other side of the Coronavirus pandemic. While not explicitly stated, the implication was that the earlier figure of $3.5 million in additional cuts was a floor, not a ceiling. We must assume, based on the March 25th presentation, that in fact budget cuts impacting the 2021-2022 school year will be more drastic.
This is the Time for Information and Action - Prior to the Coronavirus, a consortium of parents had already commissioned a report from a national expert in this area, Dr. John Benham. This group of parents is interested in demonstrating to the Board that MBUSD's music program hits all the right notes: Fiscal Responsibility, Social/Emotional Wellness, and Academic Excellence. While this was true before, it needs to be brought to the public's knowledge even more so if indeed we are facing larger cuts than originally estimated.
It is important to underscore our belief that this is not about "saving" the music program at the expense of other, equally important, programs. Rather it is about shining a light on the fact that the "us or them" mindset is a false dichotomy, one that we buy into at our detriment. We are interested in engaging in a much broader look at how our District functions, asking critical questions from that wider perspective, and reimagining when and where appropriate.
We can't engage in that higher perspective without reliable information and a clear understanding. To that end, Dr. Benham's report, which is currently being compiled, looks at all aspects of how the music program functions in our district, and it provides critical, research-based, data-driven, factual information necessary for a comprehensive understanding, to allow for thoughtful discussions, and informed decisions concerning the District's music program. The report also is intended to propose clear, proven solutions to many of the issues that currently exist with respect to the music program. A virtual town hall meeting was held on Saturday, Apri 4th, to discuss the preliminary findings of Dr. Benham's report, and a copy of the final report will be distributed in the next few days.
The MBUSD School Board and Administration were notified that Dr. Benham had been hired and that the report had been commissioned and would be made public. We further asked that no decisions be made that would impact the music program until the report was reviewed and discussed. The Board has included Dr. Benham's report as an agenda item for the Board Meeting on April 15th.
Board Meeting on April 15th - It will be important for parents, students, alumni, and concerned community to show their support for the music program at the April 15th Board meeting. If music in MBUSD has been a valuable part of your student's education, please consider submitting a public comment for the Board's consideration. We expect that the Board will continue to meet virtually, and so will use the same public comment procedure as was used for their March meeting, which is an advance online submission. For your convenience, we will circulate links to the public comments submission portal and the Board meeting live-streaming prior to that meeting.
Thank you for your continued support of music in MBUSD!
Mira Costa Choir, Band, and Orchestra Boosters