Arts, music classes unlikely to end, officials say Some have suggested cutting hours for nonacademic subjects

September 26, 1997|By Erin Texeira | Erin Texeira,SUN STAFF

Two Howard County school board members said last night that hours for music and arts instruction in middle schools probably wouldn't be eliminated.

"I don't agree that music is as important as math or science, but no one is proposing that we cut it," said Stephen C. Bounds, a school board member. "There is no, none, nada effort to eliminate music or to adversely impact it."

The comments came during a break in a public hearing last night on a controversial middle school evaluation issued last year. More than 300 people attended.

Among the issues raised by the evaluation was how to create more time in the school day for such core academic courses as math and reading.

Some school officials have suggested reducing time spent on nonacademic subjects.

At the hearing, which came during the second half of the board's regularly scheduled meeting, parents, teachers and students spoke out in support of preserving music and band classes as part of so-called related arts instruction.

Such subjects -- home economics and physical education, for example -- are electives.

Almost 80 residents signed up to speak, and the crowd spilled over into the hall at Department of Education headquarters.

"We know you are looking at ways to add more time to the middle school schedule for academic classes," said Jeffrey Steinberg, an eighth-grader who is a band member at Wilde Lake Middle School.

"We are asking that band, orchestra and chorus be given their own time in the middle school schedule. Band during school allows all students an opportunity to play, not just kids who can afford private lessons," he said.

Music teacher Rebecca A. Braukus of Elkridge Landing Middle School said, "Let's work to be fair to all subjects, all teachers and, most importantly, all students."

More than 150 members of Howard County Parents for School Music began gearing up for last night's hearing by writing letters and planning testimony this month.

At the Sept. 11 board meeting, Superintendent Michael E. Hickey issued a list of priorities in response to the middle school evaluation, but the list contained no mention of related arts or music.

Hickey has indicated that he might support reducing classroom time for nonacademic subjects in middle schools to make more time for core courses.

"We were dismayed to read Dr. Hickey's priorities for implementation of change in which music and the arts were omitted from the list of core subjects," said Karen Douglas, who heads Parents for School Music.

"We believe that music is an academic subject equally worthy of consideration as we reform our middle schools."

Bounds, pointing to Hickey's seat alongside board members' seats in the Department of Education meeting room, said, "No one from this seat over votes. Only board members vote. Don't forget that."

Sandra H. French, the board chairman, said, "Please, there is no plan to eliminate or reduce related arts, so if you have that in your testimony, hold your tongue. We're not going to do that."

The 180-page evaluation of Howard middle schools, conducted by a 16-member citizens' committee and two university professors hired as consultants, was issued in October. Educators responded to it in May.

For many years, education officials have tended to view middle schools as a gentle transition from elementary school to high school.

But a growing number of parents and teachers appear to want middle schools to spend more time preparing students for the academic requirements of high school.

At the hearing, parents and teachers also addressed other issues raised in the evaluation, including discipline, academic standards, inclusion and grouping.

Pub Date: 9/26/97

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