Support Buncombe Co. Band Directors and Off-Campus educational opportunities for our kids!

Support Buncombe Co. Band Directors and Off-Campus educational opportunities for our kids!

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Elizabeth Henley Hipps started this petition to Buncombe County Board of Education and

To Whom it May Concern,

At a recent Band Booster meeting, we learned that the Buncombe County Schools has decided to discontinue previous funding and support for music opportunities off campus and outside of the classroom.  The impact, as it was explained to us, means that the band directors in our county will have three choices to continue to provide these experiences for our students.  These three options would be as follows:

1.     Take the children to the event, use their leave time for the time away and incur the cost of both the substitute teachers and transportation for the students themselves.

2.     The Band Boosters program would need to provide funding to pay for the substitute teacher, band director as well as transportation costs (which have historically already been paid for by the booster program).

3.     Strip the students of the opportunities altogether.

Frankly, none of these options are acceptable and simply make our stomachs turn.

Thanks to our band directors, children in our county are offered multiple opportunities to expand their music education.  These include participating in All-County, All-District and All-State concert, and jazz bands as well as MPA programs.  Students participate in auditions, take classes from leaders in the field and have the opportunity to meet other students across our state with a shared love of music.  Band directors offering these types of experiences to their students should not be expected to fund the events out of their own pockets.  If they are supposed to do so, the only option may be to strip these children of the opportunity and, in turn, stunt musical growth.  Unacceptable.  Support for this continued education should come from the administration.  Period.  It is merely the right thing to do for our children.

Additionally, it is our feeling these educators should not have to use personal leave time to travel with students for educational activities.  The Buncombe County Board of Education states that it “believes that it is important for employees to have leave available to attend to personal, civic, and professional matters as well as to meet family commitments. This need for leave is to be balanced with the need to provide an effective instructional program for students.”   The new expectation of band directors, your employees, to use personal leave time for student opportunities is a direct contradiction to this policy statement.  The care and concern for family-time seem to fall to the wayside as directors are being forced to choose between their family and their students.  This is not fair to the directors, their families, or the students and should never be an expectation placed on anyone in a professional career of any kind.

The Buncombe County Board of Education Policy Code 3000 discusses the importance of providing high caliber education for the students in its classes.  It sets the expectation that learning should beyond the basic education helping students “learn and acquire the skills necessary for a lifetime of continuous learning” and “acquire the skills necessary for success as a life-long learner.”  Throughout this policy it is clear that the vision the Buncombe County School Board has created is for students is for them to be well equipped and excited to step into adulthood with a strong foundation supporting any avenue they chose.  “Preparing Students for Their Tomorrow.”  Quite frankly, with the recent decisions to pull back support of the arts program, it is hard to see how the actions of the School Board are aligning with this vision. 

Not all the children passing through the music programs within Buncombe County Schools will move on to a professional career in the field.  In fact, I would be surprised if more than 25% of them study music collegially.  However, I can guarantee that every one of these young men and women will carry the lessons they learn in a music class throughout their lifetime.  Time and time again studies have shown that music improves brain functionality, teaches teamwork and leadership skills, and keeps kids active and engaged all the way through high school.  The National Association for Music Education states that schools with music programs have a 90.2% graduation rate and 93.9% attendance rate compared to 72.9% graduation and 84.9% attendance rate in schools without a music program.  With the 2017 Buncombe County graduation rate of 88.9%, strengthening the music education programs will help us continue to see our students sport their own caps and gowns.

Teachers of the arts eloquently carry a heavy load of responsibility with them every day.  Doing some rough math, it seems there are 3,600 band students in the county with only 13.5 teachers.  Additionally, there are 2,300 chorus students with 15 teachers and 517 orchestra students to six teachers.  These ratios are staggering and should not be overlooked.  We need to be providing more support for their efforts, not taking it away.

If Buncombe County Schools is genuinely committed to preparing its students for their tomorrow, we are asking that this decision is reversed.  Band Directors in this county are some of the most committed, influential and hardworking educators on your staff.  The young lives they touch now will create a better tomorrow for us all.  They are making a difference, and with your support, the impact they can make will be exponential.

Thank you for your consideration.

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