Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Artless In Southern California

Yesterday was our first day back at our junior high school. As with any public school, there have been changes over the summer, some that are good, and some that are... simply put... bad. The one change that grabbed my attention was the unexpected death of our school's art program.

Since the 1960s, our school has offered every 7th grader a semester course in the fine arts. After our full-time (and first-year) art teacher resigned her post in favor of a better-paying job over on the coast, an administrative decision was made to "close out" the position in favor of hiring yet another remedial math teacher.

As we work in a school that serves a mostly lower socio-economic clientele, I'm saddened to see this happen. For many of our pupils, the school's art program was their first (and sometimes only) exposure to the fine arts.

Sadly, even students who are proficient in math and reading will no longer get the benefits of a formal introduction to the world of art.

Both the drama and music teachers will now have mixed teaching assignments: three classes of remedial English each day with only two periods of drama and music.

Rumor has it that next year both the drama and music programs will be ended.

Interestingly, no administrators have ever been laid-off in the 14 years that I have been employed by our district. Quite the contrary, as the number of folks employed in our district's administrative center has substantially increased. Numerous classroom teachers, on the other hand, have been downsized out of their jobs. At our school, for example, there are five fewer teachers employed than when I began teaching in 1991 even though student enrollment has actually increased by approximately 75 students.

Update: (PM) I've learned some additional distressing news. In the interest of reducing teacher payroll expenses even further, our school has also ended its "Shop" program. The former shop teacher has been transferred into a vacant pre-algebra position.

Update II: (PM) In our district, school counselors are considered "management." personnel. Our one counselor's position has now been eliminated, but in true Middletown Elementary School District fashion the counselor was transferred from our campus (where she worked with kids) to a full-time position at the district office. She won't be working with any students, but she will get the opportunity to shuffle lots of papers. It goes without saying that this means the newly-minted educrat is going to need to hire a secretary...
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