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Music changes spur frustration

Superintendent urges parents to be patient

STERLING – The music program at Challand Middle School likely will be a bit different next school year.

Parents, whose students are in band, orchestra and choir, are frustrated, even angry, with the options. Administrators, dealing with a tighter budget for the district and a new schedule at the middle school, are, too.

Sterling Public Schools in March cut 12 teachers, the majority of them at the middle school, as part of more than $1 million in budget reductions.

Challand, as a result, is restructuring and will have a new schedule, with one fewer class period, next year.

Band, orchestra and choir rehearsals could move to before or after school. The ensembles might meet only 2 days a week, rather than 5. Individual lessons for seventh- and eighth-graders could be scaled back.

Parents of current and former middle-school music students pleaded with the School Board on Monday night to go back to the drawing board before it irreparably ruins the music program.

"It seems like the district hopes participating in music will be as difficult as possible, making it easier to cut music even more next year," Amy Boze said.

"We'd hate to see the board rush into a decision because it's May and we have to have something done," Sarah Schlegel said. "Take a second look. ... Go back to the music teachers, go back to the staff and say, 'How could this be more effective? What proposals do you have to help us put this together?'"

Superintendent Tad Everett explained to the board and to the contingent of parents at the meeting that the proposed schedule changes can be traced back to finances.

"There was never any intent as we reduced our budget to reduce our music program," he said. "There was never any intent to be where we are today with music. It's all fallout."

Everett, a band parent himself, urged parents to be patient as the district balances its rich music program with its bleak financial situation.

"We are keeping our music programs," he said. "We will have to make some changes, though ... nothing is finalized yet. Lots of things are still on the table."

Board member Gail Dancey asked what the biggest hurdle would be if the the schedule was to remain the same for another year.

"We'd need dynamite," Everett replied. "We'd have to start all over. We've made cuts ... There might be some Band-Aids, but the issue is, then, we have to decide if we can get by with a poor structure for a year and then start over a year from now.

"We're long down that road, and to come back and correct this is going to take dynamite."

Board member Terry McGuire suggested the administrators, music teachers and, possibly, parents, use the coming months to find a solution.

"The moving pieces are so complex," he said. "They're so complex that from 8 [p.m.] to 8:55 [p.m.], in a 9-inning game, we've thrown two pitches. ... we're not going to solve this tonight."

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