School Board makes band a required class for 5th grade
Posted 10/28/10 (Thu)
By Caroline Downs
All Kenmare Elementary School fifth graders will participate in band beginning with the 2011-2012 school year, with all fifth and sixth grade students required to join band beginning the following year, following a 4-3 vote of the Kenmare School Board during a regular meeting held October 19th.
The split vote came after a lengthy discussion, launched by Curriculum & Technology Committee chairman Craig Ellsworth when he announced the committee’s recommendation was to incorporate band into the fifth and sixth grade core curriculum, with the school and Kenmare Veteran’s Club, Inc. sharing the cost of purchasing instruments for student use.
Current band and chorus instructor Ken Starr opposed the change, an opinion he has held since the idea was first raised last spring. He noted that as a member of MENC: the National Association for Music Educators, he researched mandatory band classes on several discussion boards and submitted a question about the practicality of requiring fifth grade band.
“The responses I got were not encouraging,” Starr said. “There’s a percentage of any class or grade that’s realistic to expect to be involved in band. From what I read, from 20 to 40 percent is realistic. It sounds like an ideal situation, but the headaches are far greater than what the program is worth.”
The KHS band currently has 27 musicians enrolled, including 3 freshmen, 8 eighth graders, and 5 seventh graders. On the other hand, this year’s fifth grade class has 14 of the 18 students enrolled in beginning band, voluntarily.
Board president Lenny Rodin said some of the elementary band students look at what their non-band classmates are doing back in the classroom now as “fun” activities during band rehearsal time.
“We band people decide we’d rather be in the band room than stay back in the classroom,” Starr said, adding that many schools use such times as study halls for the non-band students.
“To me, [mandatory band] would be part of a well-rounded education,” said Rodin. “This would incorporate a few more kids into learning music.”
“If that is a concern, I would suggest we go to an electronic piano lab instead,” Starr responded. “Piano and singing are the best ways to really learn about music.” He described a class where students would work on music skills at their own pace, at an electronic keyboard that included headphones. Students would learn solo and group musical selections.
Starr estimated the cost for an electronic piano lab at approximately $20,000 and said a dedicated space would be necessary. “If you are really concerned about providing a good music education, studio piano would be a better situation than mandated band,” he said. “I’ve found no advantage [for required band] in the information I’ve read. I’ve watched kids in required music classes, and it’s not a pretty sight.”
He pointed out that the current seventh grade music class, which is a required course, combines vocal performances with general music education. “I understand that other teachers don’t have the choice [of working with students who want to be in the class],” he said, “but if a student doesn’t learn math, that student doesn’t have to stand up in front of an audience and show his math skills or lack thereof.”
Ellsworth went on to make the motion for mandatory fifth and sixth grade band as recommended by his committee, with the district providing instruments for student use. The board did not discuss Starr’s research or piano lab proposal. Ellsworth, Rodin, Roger Johnson and David King supported the motion, while Lars Christensen, Mike Zimmer and Jan Kostad voted against it.
Parent Michele Nelson, seated in the audience, immediately raised several issues about the program with board members as the meeting was adjourned. “I have a concern this will become a battle for some parents as mandated,” she said. “Not all children are musically inclined, and this take’s parents’ choice away.”
She asked about the budget for the program, as well as the upkeep of the instruments. “Will the child have a choice of what he or she wants to play?” she asked. “And what about the teacher? I got the message he would be a little frustrated about having kids who don’t want to be there.”
Nelson continued, “Have you looked at other schools that added band to the core [curriculum]? I’m a little confused about what your real reason is for having this as a core class.”
Ellsworth reminded her that Kenmare Veteran’s Club had shown an interest in funding 50 percent of the cost of the instruments for students. “One of the biggest reasons we’re doing this is because we just moved to include the band grade as part of the [high school] GPA,” he said. “We want to get kids in there and give them an opportunity to try it, and we can’t make it a core requirement without providing the instruments for them.”
“You don’t want to spoil their taste for music if they’re not into it,” said Nelson. “There’s good and bad [to this idea]. There has to be some balance.”
Superintendent Duane Mueller did not weigh in during the board’s discussion and vote, but he spoke the next day about the decision to require band at the fifth and sixth grade levels. “The rationale is getting kids exposed to some of these things,” he said, describing the band class as a good opportunity for all students to develop their skills in music. “I agree with Mr. Starr that not all the kids will probably stay in it, but many schools across the nation are cutting their arts programs. For some students, that opportunity wouldn’t be available.”
He continued, “Personally, I think it’s a good thing. The research shows [these types of classes] provide a spark in kids’ lives and help them do well in other aspects of school.”
Details of the program, including instrument use, selection and maintenance, still need to be determined, but Mueller noted that fifth and sixth graders would take both band with Starr and the regular music classes with instructor Barb Johnson. “We will be getting the information out to parents toward spring,” he said.
Committee looks into
textbooks and laptops
The Curriculum & Technology committee started a review of the district’s textbooks and copyright dates, with some dates reflecting the most current edition of that book available. The committee is also continuing to research the use of laptop computers and iPads for students, with the idea that such technology may be provided to each student in the future.
Superintendent Mueller described a federal technology grant available now for certain eligible schools in North Dakota. “There are a lot of strings attached, but the grants are $100,000, and we have a good shot at it,” he said. “If we would get that, it would give us an opportunity to look at something.”
The grant awards will be announced November 9th.
He also said four teachers volunteered to work with the Curriculum & Technology Committee to consider the use of laptops, iPads, etc., for students.
Board members discussed several aspects of the idea, including the importance of staff training, the logistics of getting machines into student hands, the way the computers available at the school now are almost constantly in use, and the possibility of levying from one to five mills for technology purposes.
“Right now, we raise about $9,000 per mill, so we could commit $45,000 just for technology,” said King. “If we look down the road at a levy, that sends a message from this board that we’re serious about the technology.”
Buses, Suburbans, mowers
Transportation Committee chairman David King reported on several items regarding buses, school vehicles and mowers.
Board members approved a motion to authorize Superintendent Mueller to spend up to $25,000 and trade in the Chevrolet van for an SUV-type of vehicle, like a Chevrolet Suburban or Tahoe, following the committee’s recommendation.
“We’re looking at making an upgrade with the van,” said Rodin, “something with four-wheel drive that we can utilize in the winter time and that’s more versatile.”
Ellsworth said the purchase would allow the Suburban currently provided to Mueller as a professional vehicle could be made available for staff use in transporting students and the newer Suburban would be used by Mueller.
The board also approved a motion to purchase a 72-inch, three-point mower attachment from Gooseneck Implement at a cost of $2857.
The purchase of a zero-turn riding mower was discussed, with bids received from Gooseneck Implement for a mower at $10,640.90 and from Farmers Union Oil at $10,600.00.
The school district currently owns two riding mowers, one used for 15 years and the other for six years. Superintendent Mueller described both mowers as worn out, but suggested if a new one were purchased, one of the old mowers could be stored for use at the elementary school.
Board members decided to postpone the purchase of a new zero-turn riding mower for a year.
Transportation Committee members also suggested the board consider future purchases of a new route bus, a minibus and an activity bus, in that order of priority, over the next three or four years. No action was taken.
Board members discussed recent changes in the school lunch program that upset several students and patrons. “I’ve been inundated with calls and stopped on the street,” said Lenny Rodin.
“We want [head cook] Barb [Henderson] to know, don’t worry about saving a little bit here and there so that the kids run short on the amount of food. As a board, we will take money out of the General Fund [to pay lunch program expenses],” Rodin said.
Superintendent Mueller indicated that the changes previously suggested to reduce the amount of extra food available during each lunch period had been reversed, and Principal Faul said Henderson had expressed concerns about trying to plan menus around the fact the school maintains an open campus policy for the lunch period.
Questions came from patrons and students about the serving sizes. Business manager Renae Murphy explained that in spite of talking about a variety of changes, the only change that actually took place was serving two hot dogs with one bun, on one occasion. “And she’s changed that back now,” Murphy said, adding that extra peanut butter, jelly and bread are available at meal times for kids to eat. “The portions are the same as they were before, other than the fact there are no seconds.”
The school has continued the practice of serving one carton of milk with each meal, as required by federal hot lunch program guidelines, and charging a quarter for each additional carton of milk students want with their meals.
“I haven’t had complaints about the quality of the food,” Rodin said. “It’s just been about the quantity.”
Zimmer asked if there was a way the students could provide feedback about the school meals.
“You’re getting the calls. You need to come in and see it,” Mueller said as he invited board members to eat lunch at the school cafeteria any day. “Talk to the kids and get your questions answered.”
In other business:
*Board members approved minutes of the September meeting and the district’s bills for payment as presented.
*Murphy reported the district still owes about $250,000 for the high school renovation project. “We were anticipating $1.75 million, and that’s about where we’re going to be at,” she said. “The [balance of the] general fund is going to be below $500,000 until our tax money starts to come in.”
*Board members approved a revision in the wording for the district’s teacher evaluation policy, to reflect the board’s review of the evaluation tools used by the administrators.
*Members of the policy committee discussed their review of the head lice policy. According to Superintendent Mueller, the old policy dates back to 1998 and calls for students with lice to be sent home, which is no longer considered legal. First District Health Unit recommended the policy be updated to follow guidelines issued by a national pediatrics organization. Mueller noted that some schools in the area already have a new policy in place, while others maintain policies similar to that of Kenmare’s.
“The parents here have been good to work with,” Mueller said. “We have sent information about this home to parents with the elementary newsletters.”
The committee had no recommendation regarding the head lice policy at the meeting, and will continue its work to revise the policy.
*The board approved contracts for Arnold Jordan as an assistant girls basketball coach and Lars Christensen as the co-head wrestling coach.
*Superintendent Mueller announced he and Principal Scott Faul would be voting on the proposed 80/40 plan to re-align schools into districts and regions for volleyball and boys and girls basketball seasons. No Kenmare board members supported the changes, which included four regional tournaments for Class A schools, eight district and four regional tournaments for Class B schools, and a combined state tournament for classes A and B.
As currently proposed, Kenmare would be included in District 7B with Burke County, Divide County, Grenora, Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood, Powers Lake, Ray, Tioga, Trenton and Trinity Christian. The other half of the new Region 4B would include Lewis & Clark-Berthold, Lewis & Clark-North Shore, Max, Glenburn, Our Redeemer’s Christian School, Velva, Sawyer, Westhope-Newburg, TGU and White Shield.
*School board members attending the North Dakota School Boards Association annual convention later this week include David King as a member of the state board of directors, local delegates Roger Johnson, Mike Zimmer and Lars Christensen, and Kenmare board president Lenny Rodin.
*The board supported a motion to provide all district staff members with $100 in Kenmare Bucks for a Christmas bonus, with Johnson and Rodin abstaining from the vote.
*Board members approved a tuition waiver agreement for a high school student from Bowbells who recently moved in with her father’s family.
*Superintendent Mueller advised board members about the status of the school construction projects, with the ceiling tiles and flooring still awaiting installation. “They’re confident they’ll meet the deadline,” he said, adding that carpeting had been installed where needed and the white boards had been hung. The new heaters in the elementary classrooms were in use, and the plan for both buildings was to do a walk-through on November 1st or 2nd and complete a punch-list of final items to be addressed. A few dates were being considered to welcome the public for an open house to view the remodeled classrooms at the high school.
*As activities director, Faul shared copies of the changed regional schedule for the 2011 9-man football schedule. Kenmare-Bowbells-Burke Central will host five games and travel for four, with Surrey, Dunseith, TGU, Tri-County, Four Winds, North Star-Starkweather, MLS, St. John, and Leeds-Maddock as opponents. The first game of the season will be played August 26th, with K-B-BC hosting Four Winds, and the final game is scheduled for October 14th. Faul noted the varsity team will travel greater distances, but the JV and junior high squads will continue to play some of the neighboring schools.
*Faul also announced the awards night for the fall sports season would be held November 22nd, beginning at 7 pm.
*Both Faul and Mueller discussed the schedule for the state assessments, planned for this week for grades 3 through 8 and juniors. “We want to give our kids the best chance we can,” Faul said, adding that more teachers would be involved in proctoring the exams, the tests would be scheduled for the morning periods, and breakfast would be served to all students at the high school before the day started.
“We’re also going to follow that morning schedule,” said Mueller, “and several test-taking tips were sent home to parents.”
*The Curriculum and Technology Committee, with Ellsworth, King and Johnson, will meet on Tuesday, November 2nd, at the high school beginning at 8 am.
*The Building Committee, with Christensen, Ellsworth and Kostad, will meet Tuesday, November 2nd, at the high school beginning at 8:30 am.
*Board members will conduct the superintendent’s semi-annual evaluation on Thursday, November 18th, beginning at 6:30 pm.
*The regular school board meeting for the month will follow on November 18th at 7:30 pm.