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."
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 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 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.