BIS Music Program Future Unclear

Parents and children wearing "Save BIS Music" packed the school board meeting.

After nearly two and a half hours of discussion at their standing-room-only meeting, the Burlingame Elementary School District Board of Trustees decided against making a definitive plan for this year's music program at , opting to explore a narrowed down list of solutions.

Once more information is gathered, they plan on making a final decision in the coming weeks, with changes implemented during the second trimester of the year and with the goal of finding a more permanent solution for the 2013-2014 school year.

“Coming to some hard decision would not be a wise decision at this point,” said Board President Michael Barber late into the meeting. “Just minimalizing disruption is really key.”

Music staffing at BIS was reduced for the 2012-2013 school year, leaving one teacher for classes at BIS and also some programming at the elementary schools. In order to provide music to as many students as possible, 6th grade Concert Band, Guitar and Choir were kept in the curriculum during the school day, as they are open to all students.

Intermediate Jazz Band and Advanced Jazz Band, which have historically met during the school day, were moved to zero period twice a week, with 7th/8th grade Concert Band meeting twice a week, either at zero period or after school Tuesday, and 6th grade Jazz Band meeting after school Tuesday, as well.

All Jazz Band members are required to participate in Concert Band, so while Jazz Band students continue to meet many days a week, it is split between two styles of music, and Concert Band-only players are reduced to twice a week classes.

While parents argued to return Jazz Band to the school day, the issue with placing even one class currently assigned to zero period back in the schedule is the resulting choice students with only one elective may have to make. For example, a student who participates in band during zero period and takes Italian as an elective would have to choose between the two if his music class was placed back in the school day.

“Having Concert Band 7/8 zero period was meant to accommodate students so they could take foreign language, as well,” said Superintendent Maggie MacIsaac.

Another issue is the impact schedule changes would have on all students—not just music students. If classes are bumped around, even kids in alternative electives may find a scheduling conflict, resulting in perhaps being unable to take an advanced math or language arts class.

“If the only students affected were the students in music…it would be much easier,” said Trustee Davina Drabkin.

After hearing from many band parents, students and the band director at Burlingame High School, who emphasized frequency of practice was key to mastery, the board came up with three options for the remainder of the school year.

Trustee Davina Drabkin suggested hiring an additional music teacher for zero period, so two Jazz Band classes could meet concurrently. Zero period teachers receive a stipend from the funds provided by the Burlingame Community for Education Foundation.

A second suggestion, offered by a parent, was that for the time being, Intermediate/Advanced Jazz Band meets during lunch. She argued that children passionate about their instruments would happily eat in five minutes if it meant a chance to play.

The third option under consideration is placing Advanced Jazz Band back in the school day, or perhaps an intermediate/advanced combination and Concert Band five days a week at zero period.

Although the board will attempt to implement the least disruptive solution for the year until a better plan can be reached for next year, members admitted when planning for this year, they may have overlooked the problems staff cuts at BIS would have on the music program.

“We’ve created a very complex problem,” said Trustee Greg Land.

The board plans to convene a group of parents and educators to create a solution for music programming in the coming school year.


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Andrew Peceimer September 13, 2012 at 04:47 PM
What attempts have been made to get volunteers to help with the teaching? I bet with the terrible econonmy we could find someone to help in return for the chance to put it on their resume.
Stacie Chan (Editor) September 13, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Interesting 3 options.. I hope there is a viable solution soon. Music education, in addition to academic subjects, is critical to educating the "whole child."


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