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Drastic changes cause inequity

For over four years, district officials have attempted to reduce music programs at certain small elementary schools using the argument that this would create more “equity” of experience for students at schools of various size. The reasoning was that a school of 300 students “didn’t need as much” music/physical education/library as a school with 800 students — yet all had been assigned one full-time music teacher, one full-time P.E. teacher, and one full-time media specialist.

Since our elementary schools in Beaverton have never actually met the nationally recommended minimum of 90 minutes of music instruction per week, my friends and I have always found it interesting that the district would see fit to balance programs by taking away from music staffing at small schools rather than adding to the large schools. Be that as it may, this year was billed as the year to create equity — to create a “school district” rather than a “district of schools.”

The School Board has been provided with a copy of the draft schedules provided by the district during the budget process this spring. Tonight, I am here to report that these drafts have become a reality, and they expose an ugly truth: The drastic cuts to our music programs this summer have created even more disparity between the schools. While children at Bonny Slope see their music teacher for 45 minutes once every eight days (and have a total of 21 music lessons for the year), children at my own school get music once every six days (total 30 lessons), children at Barnes get music once every four days (total 40 lessons), and children at Aloha-Huber Park get music twice every five days (total 70 lessons). This disparity is real at schools throughout the district, depending on school size.

Since children at Aloha Huber now have music for 45 minutes twice a week, they are finally meeting the nationally recommended minimums. When the district finally does decide to create equity, this should be done by bringing all schools up to the national minimums using a model like the one at Aloha Huber.

Also, please note that our curriculum is now vastly out of balance. During the six-day specials rotation that is common at average-sized schools, children now sit behind a computer for their 45-minute “specials” twice as often as they have P.E. and twice as often as they have music. Of the six days in the rotation, children spend one day in the library, two at computers, one with the counselor, one at music and one at P.E. Yes, the counselor is now used in the specials rotation at my school and at least 16 other elementary schools. She teaches “guidance lessons” to regular homeroom classes of 30-plus students during 45-minute sessions all day and has only 45 minutes per day to actually do counseling. Last year, as an elementary counselor, she had over four hours a day to provide responsive services. All of these counselors are now down to 45 minutes per day. The dramatic changes at the elementary level have created unacceptable levels of imbalance and inequity and should be corrected immediately.

Jennifer Mohr is a music teacher at Cooper Mountain and Fir Grove elementary schools. She testified in front of the Beaverton School Board.




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