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Parents Disagree with Shared Arts Staff in Marple Newtown

District administrators and the board of school directors heard numerous concerns at Tuesday night's 2 1/2-hour meeting.

Concerns over the possibility of sharing teachers for music, library, art and physical education at the elementary level, had Marple Newtown School District parents fighting for their children Tuesday night.

District administrators presented a recommendation to maintain the level of arts programs at the elementary level while decreasing staff members, to the Board of School Directors and hundreds of parents at the April Budget and Finance Committee meeting.

None of the arts programs were recommended to be cut.

"There would be no change in programs," Assistant Superintendent Connie Bompadre said. "There would be a change in staffing."

The Recommendation

Bompadre explained that there would be a four-day rotation for the unified arts staff of music, library, art and physical education, which would allow an increase in instruction time for the students and an efficient schedule for the teachers and district.

The elementary students would have the same music teacher, for example, the entire year however each student in the school would not have the same music teacher, Bompadre explained. "A" day music students would have the same "A" day music teacher and "B" day music students would have a different "B" day music teacher.

Board President Kathryn Chandless said this idea was presented to the arts staff, who expressed their thoughts and concerns, and discussion continues with the principals and a parent advisory committee.

"This idea originated from people who operate the buildings on a day-to-day basis," Chandless said. "We never want to lose staff but we're still early in the process and we're continuing the discussion."

The board has not yet voted on the unified arts staff recommendation.

The Budget

The arts staff recommendation is in correlation with the budget. The final budget must be approved by the June meeting.

Superintendent Dr. Merle Horowitz explained several other budget recommendations at the high school and middle school levels.

Some of those recommendations included PSSA, SAT and Keystone test prep classes, changing the dean of students position at Paxon Hollow Middle School into an assistant principal role (which is state mandated), numerous technology support updates, adding a TV production course at the high school and transferring the high school librarian to the middle school. There would be no librarian then at the high school. (See the attached photos for more detail.)

Those changes could result in a net savings of $151,000, Horowitz said.

The Concerns

The unified arts staff recommendation is also a "skeleton" plan at this point and the details, logistics and pros and cons for each individual elementary school have not been ironed out yet.

The parents, students and taxpayers at the meeting however wanted more detail and were under the impression, the "idea" was actually already on its way to being put in place.

The majority of parents spoke specifically about Loomis Elementary School music teacher Dan Peters, who would be moved to the high school level under this unified arts staff plan. Peters has the least seniority among the music teachers at the four elementary schools.

Numerous parents told the board how their children idealized Peters, how he helped them each day, not just in music class and how the children were excited for a "Mr. Peters Day" not just "music class" and how he has made a connection to the students because he is in the building each day.

A petition to save Peters' job was also created and had more than 800 signatures by Tuesday night.

One young Loomis student spoke to the board telling them he loved Peters and would pay $100 to keep him at his school.

Parents explained that the arts programs help to raise test scores and give students a better interest in school. Parents said cutting staff would cut the quality of the programs and would bring down the quality of the district.

"Stop trying to do more with less and do more with more," one parent said.

The discussion will continue at an April 16 committee meeting.

Boot Road Resident April 11, 2013 at 05:16 PM
Pardon my ignorance but there is a quote that says "There would be no change in programs," Is the issue with just the one teacher? Please explain it to me.
L. Ferguson April 11, 2013 at 05:49 PM
MANY SCHOOL DISTRICTS HAVE ELIMINATED ART, MUSIC AND PHYED ALLTOGETHER. MANY FEEL THESE SUBJECTS ARE NOT 'IMPORTANT' FOR STUDENTS EDUCATION. I DISAGREE! CONSIDERING THE TAXES NEWTOWN TWP. PAYS EVERY YEAR, EACH SCHOOL SHOULD HAVE THEIR OWN TEACHERS IN THE ABOVE CATAGORIES.
Alicia Robinson April 11, 2013 at 06:37 PM
I don't even have children in the school system anymore and pay very high school taxes and find that you want to cut these very important and enjoyable subjects. I have a child that is taking Music as a minor in college due to his love of being able to experience is since grade school. Parents count on our schools to introduce our children to the wonderful world of art, music and physical education. In a society where it is founded that the arts are a wonderful tool towards learning you want to cut back in that area? It really makes no sense to me and if the parents allow this step then it won't be long before you want to scale them back even further until they are just a memory in the past. Congratulations to all the parents for standing up for the educational needs and rights of their children. I ended up pulling my last two children from the district due to the failure in the educational system. As stated, my last child was in the jazz band at his school and both loved the sculpture, pottery and other various art programs the school offered. It is a wonderful way to teach our children to express themselves and use their creative side and you want to take it away or cut it back? Shame on you!
Alice M. April 11, 2013 at 06:38 PM
That meeting was an embarrassment. Dr. Horowitz dropped the ball on this one, misleading everyone from a "misusage" of words in an email. As a small business owner, if someone caused all these unnecessary problems or mislead people who are buying my product, in this case our childrens education, I would fire the empolyee.....I think and others must agree that Dr. Horowitz should be replaced or suspended for her actions and the pathetic show her and her staff put on to the School Board, Teachers, and Parents. The Adminsitrators spinned this on the School Board and that is not right. The School Board was blindsided and Dr. Horowitz or somone in the Administration should publically announce their faults.
adam April 11, 2013 at 08:05 PM
Amen sister. And thanks to John McDevitt and all the patents and students who turned out for trying to hold the administration accountable.
Jack DiPompeo April 11, 2013 at 09:50 PM
I have been watching and reading and talking to a lot of people and one thing is very clear...This is politically motivated and being driven by people that dont care about the kids, just their agenda. The fact that they snubbed John Mc Devitt as president for a political hack as president is clear and she has lost any control to the politicians. We must take back our school board from the politicians and the administrators that do their bidding and put in responsible people that believe in quality education for our children, Instead of combining programs and cutting teachers... maybe it is time to cut back on a bloated administration controlled by the politcians, That would be a real tax savings
Kristen April 11, 2013 at 10:41 PM
The administration's presentation was beyond sloppy. It was obvious that they gave the public as little information as possible, glossing over the negative aspects of implementing this plan. The fact that the elimination of a .6 instrumental music position was never mentioned nor included on their slides helps prove this point. Also, how could they have possibly gone as far as to notify teachers about he change of their position without already having more than a skeletal schedule in place? My suspicion is that they have this schedule, but were afraid to give the public more ammunition. In my opinion, it would be wise of the school board to look closer at administrative positions and what these people do for the district. For example, curriculum supervisors that have very little contact with the kids. For, it is the teachers that have the most contact with the kids that make the greatest impact on the success of students and this district. If this is the direction that this school district is going to take, I foresee it chipping away at all of our property values and crumbling the excellent reputation that we have had up until now. I am ashamed.
JC April 12, 2013 at 02:17 AM
Keep in mind that Jack DiPompeo was once a controlling politician
joe clartk April 12, 2013 at 04:07 AM
This is what happens when you run a business on the cheap. The problem is, This is an educational institution and NOT a business!
Beth April 12, 2013 at 04:09 AM
I recommend that you go to the MNSD website and read the minutes from the Nov. 13, 2012 Budget and Finance Committee meeting. Dr. Horowitz stated that she was asked to look into Library Media and Elementary Instrumental. So the school board was not blindsided by this. These ideas had been discussed before.
Terri McCarthy April 12, 2013 at 12:19 PM
The district administrators and the board of school directors are more than welcome to visit the Newtown Square Public Library throughout the month of June to view wonderful examples of the Value of the Arts in our schools. The Friends of the Newtown Square Public Library will be delighted to display the extraordinary artwork of MNHS AP Art students in June, and will host an Evening with the Artists, their families, friends, and the public on Friday, June 14th - from 7 to 8pm. Come and show support for your students, enjoy the art show, and browse the books at the Newtown Square Public Library!
3boyz April 12, 2013 at 12:29 PM
JC - you are correct, but Jack is also a parent of some awesome Marple Newtown students, which is not the case with many on our school board. Terri - thanks very much for your thoughts AND for showcasing the artwork in the Library - I will be sure to save that date!!
Bill G. April 12, 2013 at 01:08 PM
Dana K- So are you saying that some members on the school board, in your opinion, do not have "awesome" children? Who are you to insult someone’s child? How dare you, you should be ashamed of yourself for going this low. Also I find it funny that you are supporting what Jack DiPompeo said even though he was, as JC points out, was a “controlling politician” until the good people of Newtown dropped him like a bad habit. Are you finding a friend in him because he is supporting the same school board candidates as you? Hopefully you can respond without insulting other peoples innocent children.
KD April 12, 2013 at 01:23 PM
Whoever this dana k person is? I am sure that if you have childrent they aren't perfect as well. A.J. Baker has two children with special needs to my knowledge and I believe John McDevitt as well has a child with special needs, so according to you they are not awesome? You are rude and down right ruining the community. I am sure your kids aren't perfect? Do they get good grades on every test??? When you decide to post something that refers to children with special needs that puts them down, you clearly need to reevaluate your life.
3boyz April 12, 2013 at 01:32 PM
The Truth - my apologies - I should have re-read my statement before hitting "reply"! It was not my intention to attack anyone's children at all! And you were right to point it out. My goal is to be supportive of the students of Marple Newtown (and their parents) - I really think politics should be completely removed from this board and I hope others agree! I would like to see more Marple Newtown parents on the board so that the focus can be on academics and not politics. my apologies again for any offense I may have caused - it was not my intention!!
3boyz April 12, 2013 at 01:33 PM
KD - my apologies to you as well!
3boyz April 12, 2013 at 01:36 PM
my point was that Jack's kids were students in the district and that many board members send their kids to other schools. my apologies for my wording!
KD April 12, 2013 at 01:45 PM
Thank You, but the die was cast, I just believe and others will most likely agree that you shouldn't just apologize to people on the patch but to the School Board publically. And It is to many's belief that it is the Administration that needs to be replaced not the school board.
Joseph C. Brangiel April 12, 2013 at 02:12 PM
We need to get away from the name calling etc.. Those of us who have children in the district care about their educational experience and not which politicians you all like or dislike! The main issue here, especially in the world of high stakes testing that we live in, is the fact that reducing or eliminating these programs will result in lower test scores. Students who read music and play in the band (as a group) perform much higher on standardized tests (like the SAT's) than those who do not; this is a fact! In addition, they have better attendance/disciplinary records, are more confident and demonstrate the ability to adapt to various social settings. What baffled me was the fact that Dr. Horowitz spent a good deal of her presentation talking about the steps that the district is planning to implement to raise test scores and then talked about reducing programs that we know are directly responsible for higher scores and better students! Someone needs to help me understand this? Our district (as a whole) has been scratching and clawing its way to mediocrity for the last 15 years. Now, we run the risk of slipping into an whole different category. It is time that we take the necessary steps to create a district that serves as a model for those around us rather than accept that the best we can do is be average.
Joseph Rufo April 12, 2013 at 02:38 PM
For anyone to think that Dana was attacking anyones children is simply ignorant. The comments by KD(whoever you are) are completely absurd. Dana was simply referring to the fact that someone in the community has or had two awesome kids that went to mnhs, and that others have chosen to send their children elsewhere, not that those children were anything less than awesome. It doesnt take a PHD to understand the intent of her comments. Its unfortunate that simple comments would be purposely twisted as to attacking children.. I think there should be no anonymity in these posts.. Why are we using aliases and initials ? I also think the attacks on the board president are totally unfair, as she is her own person and a hard working mom in our community dedicating her time. Thanks to all the board members for your careful consideration of these cuts and thanks to John M for taking a strong position.
3boyz April 12, 2013 at 03:18 PM
KD - I am going to trust that the Bakers and John know me well enough to know exactly what I meant and to accept my apology if they did not. I can't apologize for wanting MN parents on the board who are as invested in my children's education as I am.
Sherry-Lee McAuliffe April 12, 2013 at 03:28 PM
As a Board member who has two children in district, one with needs and one without, and knowing Dana there was no insult intended. If you new her, you would know that she is quick to compliment and speak well of kids she knows. I took her awesome comment as no more than that, that those kids are awesome in her mind not that any of the other board members kids are not. I can't speak for my fellow board members but I can speak for myself and there is no apology needed by me.
John McDevitt April 12, 2013 at 03:41 PM
Dana: I know what you meant and certainly no apology is necessary. This political alias KD was just cherry picking your words and he is the one that brought our special kids into this and not you. Don't waste your time with these clowns with 30 different gmail addresses so they can have all theses names to comment on Patch. We didn't always get along but if i had you on the board with me at executive session on Monday night, Tuesday night would of never happened. John
Jack DiPompeo April 12, 2013 at 10:33 PM
JC whoever you are... I agree i was a politician but was never controlling ... but that being said i do understand the inside track of these things, it always amazes me that people will make comments on patch that are sometimes very hurtful but refuse to sign their real names
Momof3 April 23, 2013 at 03:15 PM
With the elementary Unified Arts having so many free periods they should have gone to a combined schedule. As a tax payer I shouldn't have to pay a huge salary to teachers that have 2 to 3 free periods per day and really give no extra activities to our children. I am tired of parents standing up for something they really truly not understanding. Ask to see their schedules, you will see.
3boyz April 23, 2013 at 05:23 PM
I am sorry that you couldn't be at the meeting to hear how well-spoken and informed the elementary school parents are with regard to everything that these incredible teachers fit into their day/week. There are no "free periods" in these buildings and those points were raised and quantified over the course of these meetings.
Joseph C. Brangiel April 25, 2013 at 06:56 PM
Though the comments posted on this page (no matter the opinion) should be valued by all, it is very difficult take anything said by those who refuse to identify themselves seriously. It is highly possible that MOMof3 is indeed the mother of 3 children who live in the district, and that her statement reflects a genuine desire to utilize the districts resources appropriately. It is also possible that the person responsible for this post has absolutely nothing invested in the growth and development of the district! They could be looking to run for office and want to sway public opinion against funding, or maybe this individual is a community member who is opposed to increased funding under any and all circumstances? How can we know? Assuming that this individuals motives are genuine, I would love to know what she considers a "huge" salary? I know a lot of art teachers, and none of them are breaking the bank. I also don't know any art teachers (unless they are part time employees) that have 3 free periods during a day. They get their lunch period and a prep, which is often inadequate as prepping for an art class takes much longer than most subjects. I would like MOMof3 to see how long it takes her to set up 20 stations with paint, brushes, water, paper etc.. and then add up the amount of time it takes to clean that up several times during a school day. I will guarantee you it is way more than the time allotted for these teachers to prep for a class!
Boot Road Resident April 25, 2013 at 08:37 PM
How many people do you really think read the Marple Newtown Patch where a comment posted to an article which stays on the front page for two days would 'sway' public opinion?
Joseph C. Brangiel April 25, 2013 at 09:09 PM
Not really sure? But since this article received around 30 comments, I think it's safe to assume that at least double and maybe triple that number read it. If that's the case then it's also safe to say that it has come up in conversation with other community members etc.. That is exactly how public opinion and political activism (regardless of the issue ) evolves over time.
Boot Road Resident April 25, 2013 at 11:07 PM
I think it is a safe bet that 90% of the people in the Marple Newtown area have never heard of the Patch even though I do enjoy. It would be nice if people were as passionate about fixing our terrible test scores which was provided another point of evidence by US News and World Report this week.

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