Rcms Band, Chorus Won't Fall Silent

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by Frank Larby

Rim Country Middle School principal

The Aug. 22 edition of the Roundup carried a letter to the editor concerning the band and chorus programs offered at Rim Country Middle School. I would like to take this opportunity to respond to the author of the letter, D.L. Mason, and to our community.

At the outset, I would like to agree with D.L. Mason that participation in band and chorus programs can have a positive impact on the lives of students. As a principal, speech and debate teacher, and past chairman of a fine arts department, I, too, have witnessed the benefits of participating in band, chorus, drama, speech, art and the other activities that make up a school's program.

In an Aug. 16 letter to parents, I stated that "As a band partner myself, I share their belief that music education can lead to improved academic achievement for children."

Our community and D.L. Mason can be assured that the administration of their middle school has experience with and believes in the active presence of fine arts in public schools.

While agreeing in principle with the author, I would like to explain how this issue was handled. D.L. Mason states that "The seventh- and eighth-grade band and chorus classes did not have the required 32 to 36 students signed up for each class. Consequently the classes were canceled. No seventh- or eighth-grade band or chorus class."

From the information presented in the letter, I will presume that this letter was written in the early days of this issue, around Aug. 14. In my Aug. 16 letter to parents, I stated that "there will be band and chorus, although we are presently determining where the classes will be in the school day."

At no time was there a plan or an intention to discontinue band and chorus classes at our school. While band and chorus would definitely be offered, it could have been placed at a different period in the day based on the number of students enrolled.

Finding a resolution to this issue was my primary task during the early days of school. Among the actions cited to parents were:

I met with RCMS band teacher Mike Buskirk to discuss the programs and to discuss how we can retain more students at the seventh- and eighth-grade level in band.

Several music teachers met on Aug. 16 with myself, the superintendent, and the elementary principals to discuss music issues throughout the school district.

RCMS music teachers have actively recruited students to enroll in band and chorus.

I have announced over the PA that we want as many students in band and chorus as possible.

In addition to these actions and a letter sent home to parents via e-mail and students, a letter of explanation was given to the governing board on Aug. 14.

By Friday, Aug. 17, the issue had been resolved. The RCMS librarian has agreed to teach two exploratory sections to keep overall exploratory class numbers balanced. More students have been recruited for band and chorus classes. In fact, in some cases, we now have more students enrolled in these classes than ever before. By Monday, Aug. 21, all parents who had called the school regarding band and chorus issues had been notified of the program's status.

I would like to thank D.L. Mason for feeling a sense of pride for what our students have accomplished. We are pleased that the outcome of this issue is to have more students enrolled in the program, and in a format that will benefit the kids. I encourage D.L. Mason, any parent or community member to call our school or to come in when an issue presents itself, as I always appreciate being able to talk with them about school issues. As for this issue, it is time to strike up the band and watch for our next performance!

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