QSD exec defends growing music programs
The reports of the music program’s demise in the Quincy School District have been greatly exaggerated. Or at least, so believes Carole Carlton, head of special services at the Quincy School District.
Carlton’s remarks came on the heels of an article printed in the July 7 issue of the Quincy Valley Post-Register in which high school band teacher Chris Sherman detailed what he saw as shortcomings that might threaten the continuity of the music program.
For starters, Carlton defended the elementary level’s music teachers, from what she saw as disparaging comments from Sherman.
“We have excellent educators at the elementary level, to ensure that students get the music instruction that is expected,” Carlton said. Concerts at the elementary level are “pretty incredible” experiences, she added.
Sherman said that low numbers added to poor timing, with music being taught during recess, have conspired against the growth of the music program. Carlton said that teaching music during lunch-recess has created a “consternation among those of us who are passionate about the arts.”
“But we only have so much time during the day to do the core lessons, and we absolutely don’t want to shortchange the arts,” Carlton added. The district has tried to find a solution to that, teaching it early in the morning at first, before school started.
That didn’t work, Carlton said. The buses got to school early, just not early enough. So the search for a solution continues.
Sherman noted that numbers are dwindling in the music programs among the higher grades. Carlton said that’s not necessarily a reflection on the programs themselves.
At the junior high, students have a six-period day and one elective. So they get to choose their one elective out of Career and Tech, art, music, etc.
At the high school, students get more than one elective and have a seven-period day, but they also have more to choose from: Running Start, AVID, Career Tech, College in the High School, etc.
“These are all things that make it more of a challenge to have a program that can sustain a full seven-period day,” Carlton said. “I don’t think it’s impossible, but it’s hard. So my question would be, what has Mr. Sherman done to build a program at the high school? I can’t answer that.”
Sherman said that the numbers were so low in choir that there may not be a choir at the higher grades this fall.
Carlton, a longtime musician in school and college, said that building a program is a collaborative task, but that it hinges on the classroom teacher.
“They bring the love and inspiration for the program to the students,” she said. The perfect scenario, Carlton said, agreeing with Sherman, would be to have a choir teacher and a band teacher, but that’s not feasible right now.
However, she said. “When you have people leave, you open up positions and you hire the best person that you can from the pool that you get.” Quincy is a rural community, so getting a candidate who meets all the program’s needs might be tough, she said.
The heyday of the program in the 1980s and 1990s is still fresh in the memory of the longtime residents of the community. Quincy was rural back then, as well. Asked what had changed, Carlton said there are fewer teachers across all fields of education nowadays.
“We may look for that, but we may not find that,” she said of the district’s needs. She added that someone who comes to a rural district needs to expand his or her area of expertise. Both teachers at the junior high and high school levels in Quincy schools are band teachers teaching band and choir, a practice Sherman assailed, saying “you wouldn’t want your knee doctor doing your heart operation.”
Carlton said she understood that, but “we are a small school and to come in and teach a (single) subject; right now my understanding is he right now is not able to field full classes of anything but one band class. I think that raises some questions about how a person does or does not go about to build a music program.”
She added, “It’s a small district. If you want to go out and specialize in that degree, you probably want to work in a larger district, until and if we have someone retire or we’ll have another opening. But there’s no guarantee when we have another opening, that we will have a choir applicant.”
Lastly, she posed a question to the community.
“I ask myself, would the community prefer that we drop the program for lack of finding a choral instructor, or continue a music program and have them (the teachers) build on their area of expertise?”
She added, “I’m not here to slam Mr. Sherman at all, but I do have concerns about why the program has continued to go bad.”
— By Sebastian Moraga, email@example.com