By Tim Leeds
Ric Floren, Havre Public Schools director of operations, met with music instructors of the schools Thursday to discuss the restructuring of the schools.
Concerned parents expressed their views about the restructuring of the music program during the Tuesday meeting of the HPS Board of Trustees during the open portion of the meeting. Superintendent Kirk Miller told them at the beginning of the open portion that the meeting with the music faculty had already been scheduled.
"We need to get the best information from the music staff," he said.
Miller said he had received a letter from Dr. Tom Booth about the restructuring Tuesday morning.
Close to 20 community members joined Booth at the board meeting, with five of them joining him in addressing the trustees.
Booth said that although all of his children have graduated from high school, the music program is still dear to his heart. He said he is concerned that the plan to include teaching at the Havre Middle School for Havre High School band teacher Ron Coons and duties at the elementary school for middle school teacher Dave Carlson will spread them too thin and damage the program.
The restructuring of the public schools includes eliminating one part time elementary music teaching position.
Cathy Lee said there doesn't seem to be a rationale to cut the music staff. She said that while the enrollment at the schools is dropping, the enrollment in the music programs isn't dropping. She said it is also a very cost-effective program, with a music teacher often teaching classes of 50 instead of 20 or 30. She asked if there could be some alternative, such as cutting the elementary position to 1/3 instead of eliminating it.
Nancy Jarvis said she thinks Carlson is the reason many students stay in the band program. She said the experience in music they receive lasts their entire lives.
Wendy Gerky said the music program gives many students incentives, something to take pride in and something to do with their time.
"If we lose the quality, we'll lose the numbers," she said. "Then where are those kids going to go and what are they going to do?"
Miller said the meeting with the music staff yesterday apparently went quite well. He said they are working with the staff to explore a variety of options to maintain the most important parts of the music program and keep intact as much of the quality for the students as they can.
He said the staff discussed options yesterday to provide the best program possible with five full time music teachers.
He said the plans for the program are a process, undergoing constant evaluation and change. He said the faculty shared their expertise in the area yesterday, and the administration, including the elementary school principals, are looking into ways to implement the suggestions.
Miller said the administration appreciates the fact that community members came forward about the program.
"We appreciate people's expressing their concerns," he said. "We just want them to know we're working hard to make the restructuring the best for everyone."