Concern for NCPS students program prompts Rowe to voice skepticism on staffing plan.
Nebraska City Public School patron Jimmy Rowe had hoped to address the Nebraska City School Board Monday and get feedback about the organization’s plan for the school music programs. He didn’t get the feedback but was afforded the chance to talk to board members.
Due to the resignation of a music teacher at Hayward Elementary, a shift of job duties is being undertaken that will move Marcus Price, the middle school band teacher, to Hayward for 2017-18 where he will lead music instruction and prepare fifth graders for entrance into band. He will replace Edie Madsen at Hayward.
Emily Roth, the current band instructor at the high school would be asked to oversee both the high and middle school programs. And Stephanie Stanek, the current high school music instructor would be asked to cover the high and middle school programs.
This proposition, Rowe told the board, is not ideal. In fact, it would do harm.
“If what I heard is even mostly true—as the parent of a present, past and likely future music student, I must object to this decision strenuously.”
At the opening of his talk, Rowe underscored what music has meant to him.
A 1983 grad of Nebraska City High School, Rowe said music, both vocal and band, was what kept him involved in student life. “Had it not been for the music curriculum and the outstanding directors that we had, I would have had little interest in junior high or senior high school and only gone to class and back home again,” said Rowe. “Today there are a couple of hundred students who are like I was back in my day.”
Rowe said that Nebraska City continues to have great music educators and prompted the board to think about the talent and dedication required of those instructors if they are to lead a successful program.
In band, Rowe noted that the instructor works with small groups and soloists and gives one-on-one instruction time to other students while also selecting music for competition and for concerts, planning and organizing special events, planning the pep band schedules to agree with the athletic schedules and planning halftime shows for football games not to mention organizing the band to march in parades, which Rowe said is an undertaking which carries its own list of complications.
Vocal music, Rowe said, had just as many nuances and difficulties which instructors must navigate.
Rowe said having one band instructor or one vocal instructor for both middle school and high school is about as plausible as having one coach lead the junior high and high school football programs.
For the record, Nebraska City sought and hired a replacement for the high school football job when Coach B.T. Kracl resigned his position to take a job with the Crete public school system.
Rowe said his using that as an example doesn’t indicate any animosity toward sports. He said he appreciated sports greatly but wanted to see the music program treated in the same way as football.
Rowe said people have often noted that music seems to come as a second consideration to athletics and that this decision, even if it’s only to get through one school year, seems to add legitimacy to those thoughts and feelings.
Rowe said he was not interested in placing blame for what he felt was a short-sighted decision by NCPS, but rather to remind the board that they should take seriously what effects this decision will have while also realizing the importance of a music education for all students.
In citing research projects by Princeton and UCLA, Rowe said the studies show that students who play an instrument or who sing when reading music is a requirement fare better in other academic pursuits when compared against non-music students.
“Music simply makes a better student,” he said.
Following Rowe’s talk, the board moved foward with its agenda and heard from building leaders for Hayward, the Middle School and the High School.
Brian Hoover, principal at the High School, used his time before the board to praise staff members for their voluntary work.
Hoover said that high school instructors Shari Whitehead, Jessica Rice, Jenna Howell, Lacie Glasford, Allyson Molzahn-Paap and Jason Bartman have all volunteered their time to help introduce new NCPS employees to their new work environments during a mentoring period this week, thus helping to ensure a smooth transition for those employees.
Hoover said the school does this every year, but noted this year, with a lot of new staff members, the process is even more critical.
“This is volunteer time. This is time that they are dedicating to our staff to make sure we have a successful school year,” Hoover noted, adding that he would encourage patrons to thank the volunteering teachers for their service.
Principal Craig Taylor from the Middle School addressed the board in regard to the booming success that the school’s after school programs are already enjoying this summer.
Taylor estimated that over 100 kids per week are taking advantage of a wide range of learning opportunities at the school.
Hayward Principal Scot Davis said that his school is just as busy this summer with a free breakfast and lunch program, which serves kids from birth to 18 years of age regardless of their participation in summer programs. As many as 80 kids have taken advantage of the program daily.
Other events at Hayward include summer school, which continues until June 23, and summer enrichment programs, which serve kids from both the Northside and Hayward school.
Turning to an action by the board, the members voted to renew an annual contract with Lunchtime Solutions Inc. for the 2017-18 school year. The contract, which was put in place with the option of renewing as many as four times, just completed its third year. The contract could be renewed again for 2018-19 before the school board would have to bid out the lunch services.
Dr. Jeffrey E. Edwards said that Lunchtime Solutions Inc. continues to meet with him on a regular basis to review the budget numbers and noted that the organization is also seeking feedback from the students so they can attempt to satisfy needs.
Dr. Edwards noted that participation in the school’s breakfast program has been down, but added that the school is working with Lunchtime Solutions Inc. for a plan to increase those numbers. The causes of the lack of participation were identified as a lack of time for the students in the morning and possibly transportation issues for getting to the school early enough to partake in breakfast.
The board members approved the athletic budget for 2017-18. Stacie Higgins, who sits on the Finance Committee, said that this was her first time in working with the budget and said she was surprised that payments to game officials represent a major portion of the budget. She further noted that the budget is one of the smallest, if not the smallest, for schools in Nebraska City’s Eastern Midlands Conference. Higgins commended the sports programs for doing more with less.
In other news:
The school board approved a cooperative agreement for girls’ and boys’ high school soccer allowing students from Johnson County Central and Lourdes Central Catholic to participate for the 2017-18 school year. The agreement puts soccer in the same two-year rotation as every other Pioneer sport for cooperative agreement consideration.
The school board approved bids for concrete work at the high school with Midwest Concrete, and concrete projects at Northside, Hayward and the Middle School with Walters and Son Construction. By separating out the jobs, board member Kent Blum said the schools would save about $1,000. Funds for the concrete work will come out of the building fund.
The school board approved a strip and wax job for all five NCPS gym floors. The work, which will cost $11,263.91, is necessary due to the wear and tear of use. Funds for the project will come out of the building fund.
The school board approved the resignation of a number of employees with those being Catherine Dow, third grade; Edie Madsen, Hayward music; Alexis Spath, third grade and Susan Watkins, first grade.
The school board approved the hiring of a number of employees with those being Andrew Butler for high school language arts; Theresa Durst for second grade; Daniel Hempel for middle school strength/health; Corey Kenter for high school language arts; Dylan Mahoney for fifth grade; MaKayla Riesberg for fourth grade and Hannah Wilson for third grade.