Board action hits sour note

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MINOT – The grandmother of a Minot student took the School Committee to task Tuesday night for its decision to eliminate the music program at the Minot Consolidated School.

“It definitely is a violation of federal and state guidelines and is a violation of the right of each child in this school to a complete education,” Donna Berry said.

Stressing the importance and impact of an arts education on the development of every child, Berry added, “rather than eliminating a program that has been in place for almost eight years, we should be seeking ways to build upon that success.”

School Committee Chairwoman Lisa Sabatine said she wholeheartedly supported what Berry said, noting that Minot’s present music program consists of one half-time teacher.

“Minot students are behind the eight ball when they go on to Poland Regional High School. The board asked (Principal Margaret Pitts) to look into a comprehensive music program,” Sabatine said.

A comprehensive program that would be brought to townspeople for approval in a year or two, would include band and chorus as well as music education. But, Sabatine said, “if we put wishes in the budget, we may lose core, regular education teachers in the process.”

School Committee member Sue Callahan explained that, in trying to present a reasonable budget, the School Committee was faced with the choice of keeping the music program or adding a regular education teacher position.

“The integrity of the middle school program was at issue,” Callahan said.

Budget Committee member Karen Nichols said her recollection was that the choice was whether to keep the music program or to beef up the library program, staffing it with a certified librarian who would teach a graded course with emphasis on research techniques.

School Committee member Karen Whalen noted that the proposed budget is part of a long range plan to improve weak areas in the school’s offerings. Music would be temporarily eliminated, but a regular classroom teacher would be added and the library position upgraded.

Progress has been incremental and, Whalen pointed out, since Pitts has been principal, the art and computer programs and now the library program, have been substantially improved.

Berry said she would appeal to March town meeting voters, asking them to restore funding for the music program.

Sabatine offered to help her with necessary dollar figures and proper wording of an amendment.

“I’d like to see parents at town meeting who want to put the music program back in,” Callahan said.

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