Audience pleads to save SAD 58 art program

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SALEM PLANTATION – Teachers, parents, students and taxpayers turned out in force Thursday night to beg school board directors not to cut in half the high school art program.

Hand-drawn “Save Art” posters papered the hallway and doors at Mt. Abram High School on the way to the meeting location, and more than 40 people filled chairs in the school library – more than doubling the usual numbers of board meeting attendees.

Superintendent Quenten Clark opened the meeting with a short description of the district’s latest loss of funding – this time in the form of thousands of gallons of heating oil and diesel fuel the district pre-bought last year from a local company, P.P.Com, now in a dispute with Irving Oil Co. When he was done speaking, everyone in the room seemed to take the board’s worries about next year’s budget seriously. But many also stood to make emotional pleas for the board not to cut Sally Bean’s full-time position as high school art teacher to half-time.

Art teachers from the elementary and middle schools said their art students would founder without the chance to take art all four years in high school. They said many of the students in the middle school art classes might well end up working in the arts – in advertising, architecture, education or fine arts, they said. One student shakily read a letter from a friend, Christa Davenport, describing the benefits the art program has had on high school students. Davenport also asked directors to try to imagine their own feelings, if they were told after “living on one salary for 22 years, next year you’ll have to live on half that.”

A father, standing to explain his reasons for supporting the program, paused to compose himself. All the students at the meeting described the ways in which Bean’s classes helped them deal with the stresses of high school. Most of the students did not describe themselves as artists.

By late Thursday evening, a decision about the program had not been reached.

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