LETTER: Still awaiting clarification from Onteora
The Onteora website states: “With Model 3 (the bookend plan), the district will use the 45 minutes as part of the classroom time for project based instruction. The district will add the option of 1-½ hours daily after-school for instrumental music ensembles and chorus (and other after school options) with after-school transportation provided to all students.” The other programs, which would be in direct conflict with the music ensembles, are sports, homework help, computer lab and Rosetta stone.
In Spring 2011, two weeks before the end of the school year, the new superintendent sent a letter to parents announcing that the in-school band, chorus and orchestra would be before school as of the beginning of the 2011-12 academic year.
The resulting outcry from parents, alumni and Onteora students, which was both rapid and clear, led the superintendent to postpone implementation of the plan and invite parents and teachers to be part of a joint decision making committee. The committee met once in the Fall of 2011 and almost unanimously let the superintendent know that this was a bad idea, and would hurt both the students and the music program. At that meeting, the superintendent announced that after hearing the information on the looming budget crisis, the plan would not go forward.
As one of the members of the shared decision making committee that met last fall, I was dismayed to see the hypothetical day for 4-6 grades that was presented at the Board of Education meeting (Feb. 7). The plan to take the ensemble music instruction out of the school day has not only been renewed, but made worse. Under the current plan, children will to be in school from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with possibly an additional hour for transportation. This is a two-hour increase to the school day, instead of just one. This will conflict with sports, homework help, computer lab and Rosetta stone, not to mention out-of school activities. I am shocked that the superintendent and the principals would, as educators, put this out as a viable option.
The Onteora website states that if the “bookend” plan is implemented, all those classes will be offered only as after-school options. This shows the plan to be hypothetical only in the sense that it is definitely attached to only one of the three possible reconfiguration models
There will a lot of change and turmoil next year no matter which model is chosen. When the plan was presented, it was stressed that there had been no definite decision to use this particular daily structure, that is was completely “hypothetical.”
All students can expect new teachers. And it is entirely possible that some of the teachers won’t be experienced in teaching whatever grades they are placed in. To add such a drastic change on top of a restructuring is foolhardy. It is bad for the students and bad for the Onteora music program.
I have asked the board, the superintendent and Principal Gabe Buono for clarification of why the “hypothetical” day is being presented as a definite plan. I have so far received only one response, from a trustee. I have yet to hear from the superintendent herself.
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