To The Daily Sun,
I am writing to sound an alarm about the plans to change our LHS band from the model it has followed since band began at Laconia High School many years ago to the "new" after-school band program.
I am in full support of Debbie Gibson and in agreement with her concerns presented at the recent school board meeting, but my own fear does not involve musical or academic concerns.
I have taught Health at the LHS for over 20 years. Health classes address alcohol and drug abuse — and my experience in this in Laconia goes back even longer then 20 years as a mother of four sons who graduated from LHS.
We are all aware that Laconia is nearly ground zero for drug problems and as teachers we see all the pain and collateral damage to families that drug abuse brings to a community.
Our district has been the recipient of several huge grants that have goals that address substance abuse and mental health. To meet these goals we try to provide experiences that are proven protective factors against drug use.
One of these factors is learning about drugs in school. My students will tell you I am a broken record on the dangers of drug abuse. I would literally stand on my head if I thought it would keep kids off drugs. However facts can only influence so much and many of our students understand these facts very deeply from sad experience in their own lives with the toll drugs can take.
In combination with drug education some of the strongest protective factors include social factors — and I take these following right from the list:
— Feeling connected
— Strong commitment to school
— Doing activities
— Adult and peer disapproval of drug use.
These are science based facts.
We could get a grant for 10 million dollars to create a program that would greatly deter drug use in Laconia but we already one — our band.
My students note in writing people who have had a positive impact on them when we study relationships and Mrs. Gibson's name comes up more then any other. With 173 students enrolled in music classes this year (then add the drama students who are part of the music groups affected by these cuts) our band director effects more students then any other adult in the school — bar none.
We will never replace Ms. Gibson with another educator of her stature but make no mistake, a band director who is a music teacher in the school and present all day in the building is a powerful positive force. If I had a dollar for every student who comes back to thank Ms. Gibson for her impact on their lives we could balance the budget right now.
I wish every citizen could drop in unannounced to our band room- it is a place of joy and learning where the students are at home as they are in no other area in our school. If permitted they would be there 24/7.
Why are we changing this time-honored way of teaching music when no other surrounding schools have done this? Why are we cutting off this strong anti-drug presence in our school at a time when we need it most?
If our music program dwindles 40, 50 or, as feared, 75 percent, one of the unintended consequences of this change will be young people lost to drug use. I hate to say this but it is a statement I will stand behind and then, for what its worth, we can take that to the bank.
LHS Health Educator
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