To The Daily Sun,
Dear Sachem Nation:
I have intently listened to the concerns presented in the letters sent to the newspaper by concerned community members and groups that represent music. I recognize and appreciate their concerns. They are not inaccurate . . . but they do not offer a viable solution to our current problem. Some of you who read our local print media regularly are aware that I also put out what I had hoped were clear, transparent and very public explanation as to why I made the decision to move symphonic band to its position as our first 5th block course, while ensuring it continued to garner credit. After what I believe has been careful consideration of the reasons provided by caring people about band, I am offering this response to ensure we maintain an accurate perception on this important topic.
We do not have any teachers available to offset the traditional model of delivering the music program at Laconia High School. As many of you are aware, due to significant budget cuts, we lost a content area teacher in each of the four academic areas, a world language teacher, a secretary, an administrator, four sports and two football coaches (and a partridge in a pear tree . . .). While being required to do that, we protected the Fine Arts program and made sure it returned all positions, even though there are two retirements in that area this year. It is my hope that our fine community understands that losing five teachers in the academic arena will have an impact on our class size next year. To provide a teacher to support band and chorus by off-setting those classes so they can be offered as "skinnies" (45 minute courses taught all year so band and chorus can break out into smaller groups) is no longer possible. To do this would result in very high class size in the courses offered and reduce the academic options for band students. As an example; band students for next year are currently registered for six different science courses, we can't take away their plans in this important area for the sake of band AND the class would be overloaded. In civics, the class sizes would be very high and many of the upper-classmen have already taken the course. Finally, with these budget cuts it is truly an improper use of the smaller amount of "teacher" resources that we now have for the overall school community. I can only hope there is enough faith in this community to recognize we have done the research in these area and all outcomes do not serve the needs of the student body. One other note related to educator positions, because we made the decision to keep all fine arts teachers, music electives will continue to be offered at LHS.
The decision to move band to its new position is also about serving band as close to its current way as possible. This model ensures symphonic band meets for 45 minutes and jazz also has 45 minutes. When band students complete their class at 2:45, they are free to leave, go to athletic practices (all start no earlier than 3 p.m. next year) or go to a club meeting. Jazz, pep and pit bands (some of these have less than 10 participants, historically) can also use the second 45 minutes after band as they have in the past or organize during Sachem Support Block (SSB) during the week. These offerings actually increase the time students have for this important part of our overall program.
Is this ideal? NO, but it certainly isn't ideal that we lost all those other equally important positions (and teams) either. Can we still deliver quality education? Yes, but the reality is that the economics of this situation required using a different structure to deliver this program, as it is integrated with the overall educational program. Educational needs do not always align with the budgetary restrictions proscribed by our city's charter. Now it is up to all of us — students, teachers, administrators and parents — to make this work best for students. Given the history of these groups working together, I will bet on them every time!
Jim McCollum, Principal
Laconia High School