McMurray Elementary School changes to music program draws ire

Published May 21, 2014 at 6:00 am (Updated May 23, 2014 at 10:02 am)

The changes will take effect with the start of the 2014-15 school year. Even though the district contends notice was sent to the parents through email blasts, a letter and an invitation to a meeting to discuss the changes, several parents attended the school board meeting May 19 to express their displeasure and to say they had not heard of the changes until recently.

Alison D’Addiecco, 102 Highland Drive, said neighboring Upper St. Clair School District tried a similar switch, making certain music programs an extra-curricular activity, and have noticed a significant drop in the number of students in the high school band.

When D’Addiecco told the board parents would “be watching” what the board planned to do, her comments were met with applause from the audience.

When parent Robert Marshall, 107 Willoughby Ct., asked if the changes were “a done deal,” superintendent Jeannine French said the changes were an ongoing process in an effort to improve the test scores of students in the core subjects, particularly among fourth-graders. Of the 12 music teachers in the district, five teachers were serving 1,000 students in the middle school, while the remainder worked as teachers for the district’s remaining 3,200 students.

Until the changes were made, students at McMurray Elementary were pulled from core subject classes to attend music, reducing the number of hours each student received in basic subject instruction.

Marshall said he would like to see better communication from the district to the parents.

Even though French said numerous letters and emails were sent, she said the district must do a better job of communicating.

In other action, the board:

• Approved creation of a 10-member math team for grades kindergarten through sixth grade.

• Approved a tentative agreement between the district and the union representing the cafeteria employees. The agreement will go back to the employees for a vote.

• Held the first reading on new textbooks. All proposed books are available for review by the public at the administration building. Call the district to arrange an appointment. Final approval is expected at the June 30 meeting.

• Authorized the district’s solicitor to investigate the issuance of a $7 million bond to be combined with $6.3 million in the district’s reserve fund to pay for a multitude of projects needed in district buildings. The cost of the proposed capital fund projects is an estimated $13-$16 million.

• Passed the tentative 2014-15 budget at $56,540,958, plus the tentative technology budget of $1,038,552, the tentative curriculum budget of $375,319, and the tentative capital projects budget of $6,747,550. The final budget will be adopted June 30.

• Accepted the retirement of Robert Freado, principal of the middle school, effective June 30, along with the resignation of David Clagett III, social studies teacher at the high school.

• Approved a vast variety of extra-duty personnel for the coming school year. However, Milton Barney’s name was deleted from the list as high school marching band director and as director of the high school marching band camp. Board member Jamison Hardy made the motion to delete Barney’s name, and when asked following the meeting as to why he requested the exclusion, Hardy declined to comment citing personnel issues.

• Accepted donations of numerous technology items at Bower Hill, Pleasant Valley and McMurray elementary schools from the Peters Township PTA Area Council.

• Increased the high school athletics fee from $90 to $100 per sport with a $250 maximum per year. The other fees remain the same for the upcoming school year.

• Authorized the administration to advertise for bids to replace the high school band uniforms.

• Authorized the administration to solicit proposals for district solicitor services.

• Announced the only regular board meeting in June will be held June 30, when the final budget and possible tax increase will be approved.

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