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Instrumental instructors

Four teachers who serve five schools are among those on layoff list.

May 13, 2010|By Max Zimbert

Thursday is sixth-grader Brad Stonebraker’s favorite day of the week. Brad plays saxophone in the school’s orchestra at Valley View Elementary School, one of five campuses where band and orchestra teacher Deneil Jurado works every week.

“The back of my car is my office,” she said. “I got an SUV just for all the instruments.”

The program relies on four teachers who work at five elementary schools. The classes, like bus transportation at Clark Magnet High School or a host of other programs and expenses, are on a list of potential cuts the Board of Education continues to consider.

Board members must close a $18.5 million deficit by July 2013 or face greater regulation and intervention by state supervisors.

State law requires that school districts maintain balanced budgets every year for three consecutive years.

“So far, what the board has said is that they understand the importance of art education and how it promotes and enhances education and the academic achievement of all students,” said Katherine Thorossian, the assistant superintendent for educational services. “They have tried to maintain it, and will continue to maintain it for as long as possible.”

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Any savings from the program would come from cutting the four teachers who make instruction possible, officials said.

Many instruments come from parents or school Parent Teacher associations.

“It’s not dollars we invest in an ongoing manner,” said Eva Lueck, chief financial officer.

Cutting elementary music would generate about $400,000, Lueck said.

Laying off the four music teachers wouldn’t affect class size, Thorossian said.

However, she said, preserving elementary music allows classroom teachers to be more effective instructors.

When the music students have their time in orchestra or band, it frees up other students for one-on-one instruction or group work.

“If students are stuck at different points, you can really hone in on those points when you break them up into smaller groups,” Thorossian said.

Jurado sees between 60 and 160 students every day, depending on the school. She estimated that works out to nine to 12 sections of students, each about 40 or 45 minutes.

“It really helps students be more positive and go to the next level,” she said. “It teaches them teamwork and to be responsible for their part.”

Brad’s been playing sax for three years, and might continue the instrument through middle school next year.

“It’s really different than anything we do in school,” he said. “Thursday is one of the fun days.”


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