Scheduling change could put Norwich music programs in jeopardy

NORWICH – It was standing room only at Monday night’s Norwich City School board meeting as approximately 60 parents, students and educators gathered in the high school cafeteria.

In fact, due to the large number of people wishing to address the board, president Heather Fredenburg made a motion to extend the half-hour time slot typically assigned for public comment to an hour. The main topic of discussion? A proposed scheduling change – from the current five block semestered schedule to a four block schedule – that many in attendance felt would have a significant and decidedly negative impact on the district’s music program.

In addition, the district is losing a pair of music educators – David Kirsch at Perry Browne and Lansing Dimon at the high school – as well as orchestral director Mark Sands’ reassignment from his current position at the elementary, middle and high schools to a full-time position at Perry Browne. Current middle school music educator Jamie Carrier would take over both the middle school and high school band programs.

Quoting former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, NHS Choral Director Mary Mayo said, “Music education is not a nice program if we can afford it. It’s an essential program we can’t afford not to have.”

According to Mayo, the district is not required to offer AP classes, music and art classes or electives. Those programs are offered because the district’s educators recognize their value in creating an outstanding academic program for students, she said.

“Our music program is strong and well respected around the area. One very important reason is due to our current five bell schedule,” said Mayo. “This configuration allows the students to schedule their advanced and AP courses along with electives and music better than ever before.”

When Mayo first joined the NCSD in 1990, a traditional schedule meant classes met every day for a shorter period of time, with choir and band scheduled on alternating days. A few years later, the district moved to a four block semestered schedule. While music classes doubled instructional time, said Mayo, enrollment was slashed in half. The modified, five block semestered schedule currently in use added flexibility, and has enabled students to participate in advanced and AP classes, music ensembles and electives with fewer scheduling conflicts than ever before, she added.

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