Art, music teacher positions defended

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School budget set to be approved Feb. 26

By John Barnhart

A number of speakers stood up to defend Bedford County’s elementary art and music programs at a public hearing on the school budget Thursday night. The hearing was held during a regular meeting of the Bedford County School Board.

    Among the 77 positions slated for elimination are 10 elementary school art and music teachers.

    “We are more than numbers,” said Kevin Smith, a music teacher.

    He said that the art and music programs contribute to well-rounded students. He added that elementary school music acts as a feeder program for middle and high school music programs. Smith predicted reduced participation at those levels if the elementary school music programs are eliminated.

    “Elementary resource programs are an outlet for students,” said Debra Moore, another music teacher.

    Moore said the programs allow children to get away from the constant pressure of testing, adding they help children perform on tests.

    Lindsay Schallmo, who teaches music at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, referred to the school’s Veterans Day program, which was presented for the second year in a row last year. The event, which drew a large turnout, featured music by a student choir and treats provided by the school’s PTA. The school started doing this because a number of the school’s children have parents or grandparents who are veterans.

    Karen Nuzzo, an art teacher, said that No Child Left Behind identifies the arts as a core subject.

    “They are considered a core academic subject,” she said.

    “If they are indeed a part of the core curriculum, how can you cut them with such ease?” she asked.

    “What we teach these children can’t be measured by charts and tests,” added Joy Wayne, an art teacher. “Please look at other options, not music and art.”

    Paraprofessionals were also concerned about cuts. In their case, it is the elimination of a stipend which they said would reduce their income by 6 percent. Some, they said, already make  as  little as $14,000 per year. Instead, they asked to be put on a 180 day contract. Many work part-time jobs elsewhere and this would give them more time on those jobs to make up the income loss.

    Some parents had ideas for cost savings options. These included consolidating bus runs. One parent stated that three or four buses go down one street in the Montvale area and suggested using one bus. Another noted that lights stay on all night in school parking lots and driveways leading to them and suggested reducing this lighting.

    Cheryl Sprouse, representing the Bedford County Education Association, said that she was looking at cost increases in the budget and noticed a $37,000 increase for the new superintendent being hired to replace the retiring Dr. James Blevins. Sprouse said that there should not be an increase for a new person coming in at a time when salaries are frozen for all personnel. She said that this amount could save a music or art teacher position or two or three paraprofessional positions.

    “Please put priorities in order,” she told the school board.

    Ryan Edwards, the school division’s spokesman, said that the school board is currently in the process of interviewing candidates for the superintendent job. Once the board makes a choice, salary negotiations will begin.

    Edwards said in developing a budget, the current superintendent’s salary was put in as a line item and an increase was put in as a line item to serve as a negotiating cushion. He said that the money is budgeted for the school board to use if needed. That, however, doesn’t mean that it will actually be spent.

    In other business, Blevins presented the school board with a list of school projects that could be ready to go in nine days if school construction money became available under the federal stimulus bill. He noted there are lots of roof replacements on it.

    The list includes roof replacements for Bedford Primary, Boonsboro Elementary, Stewartsville Elementary’s old building and Forest Elementary. It also includes replacing the bleachers at all three high schools.

    The list was not discussed as the school board agreed that this, at present, represented only a wish list. The board agreed to hold it until it knows if the school system will get any money.