No Decision Yet On Intermediate School Music

Interim schools chief says parent survey, input, to be sought on plan to bump music to before or after school

Interim Superintendent Stephanie Bilenker on Tuesday morning broke the district’s silence and said no decision has yet been made on bumping music instruction from the schedule next year.

However, the district is firm on doubling its math and language arts instruction at the expense of a support period currently built into the schedule. That support period has traditionally been used for the 280 music students in the middle school for instruction, Bilenker said.

Bilenker was clear that under the school scheduled being developed now, instruction in language arts and mathematics would increase to 80 minutes a day for sixth and seventh grade students and to 60 minutes for eighth grade students, but was unsure exactly how long each day students currently receive music instruction.

The district is proposing that music instruction for the next school year be moved to either a before-school or after-school period, extending the school day only for those students who wish to continue music instruction, Bilenker said.

Music instruction would continue to be a graded course, she said.

Music instruction — which includes chorus, band and orchestra — is currently run in two sessions during the school day, Bilenker said in a second interview later Tuesday.

Students receive small group or individual music instruction during a "lunch/study''period by cutting their lunch period in half: 20 minutes for lunch; 20 minutes for music, if they so choose, Bilenker said.

The second session is a twice weekly large group practice held during a 40-minute "academic support period,'' or, essentially, a study hall period. That period will be eliminated under the proposal being considered for next year, Bilenker said.

For students not already enrolled in music, that period will disappear, Bilenker said.

Bilenker said she has received numerous letters from parents protesting the proposal.

Many of those letters were the result of a solicitation of opinion on the district's plans that began with an email to district parents on Friday.

That email was sent to district parents and obtained by Wall Patch from Jim Boyle, of Orchard Crest Boulevard. It spilled the beans on the district's plans to bump music instruction from the regular school day and place it in a before-school period for those students who want to continue music instruction.

Boyle on Monday said since Friday he had received 38 responses — 35 of which opposed the plan — to the email address he set up to collect community response, wallopinion@gmail.com.

Bilenker said, however, that the 2012-13 school schedule is still in flux, and that parent input would be sought on a proposal that would place music instruction either on a before- or after-school period.

"Nothing has been firmed up,'' Bilenker said.

She said a parent survey was being developed that will appear on the district's website asking which of the two options — before or after school music instruction — would be preferable. The survey could be on the site as early as today, she said.

Transportation will be provided for music students, if parents decide

Wall Intermediate School has been identified as a "school in need of improvement'' by the state Department of Education.

Under the No Child Left Behind law, schools that for two years or more fail to make "adequate yearly progress'' as measured by standardized testing scores are given this designation, which requires the school to take steps to improve scores or face losing federal funding.

Polly May 23, 2012 at 10:52 AM
There is a survey up on the school website now. It is being offered to parents of 5,6,7 grade parents. I was hoping the administration would be open to suggestions from others as well.
Michael Ferrell May 23, 2012 at 12:31 PM
A survey before a decision is made, and before it is announced as a done deal to several parents is an attempt at communication. This once again is a quick knee jerk response to save face, and make it appear there is a desire to hear from parents. While the music program is what is galvanizing response and outcry, the real issue is simplely how do we improve our schools, specifically the math and english results. I believe we have some great teachers in Wall, but also some not so great teachers. Could some of the NJEA efforts to improve teachers and remove ineffective ones be leveraged (not that I fully support their reform program)? Could additional linkage in math across all other courses help to show practical applications, and uses of the skills, while adding practice? Could a more uniform writing approach be taken across all courses to augment english skills? I'm not sure if it completely true, but one high school english teacher has stated that the writing in other courses has ruined students by the time they hit her class. Immerse and infuse math and english into all courses consistently, adopt math textbooks and depend less on handouts so parents can more easily help their students, Should we invest in training for teachers that would give them innovative techniques that have worked in other districts? Longer time without other changes will most likely fail, and may actually lead to less student interest in the subjects
Parent May 23, 2012 at 12:33 PM
Maybe the new super will look at the board/school/parent relationship and see how strained it is and make some changes. With the current lack of communication the divide will only get bigger and the kids continue to suffer.
Guntoter66 May 23, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Excellent comments from all. It seems the writers have good grip on what's going on on our district & WIS. I feel that Mr. Simon MUST be brought in before any discussion, or decision is even considered, After all, this will become his issue to deal with. I think "Study Halls" serve very few students. That might be a good place to start. Finding out why WIS is considered " in need of improvement", should come first. Eliminating any program now is merely a "Band-Aid". Let's fix the cause, not the effect.
Kim May 24, 2012 at 08:38 PM
So if students are not performing up to expected levels what makes the board think that punishing music students and tossing in an extra period of academics will solve the problem?? What is rendering the teaching they have now ineffective?? My children all went through the Wall school system. I noticed that there was an ever evolving trend towards AP classes at the high school level. I have no problem with that although it seems that the higher level courses were only available to a small number of students based on prerequisite classes etc. Perhaps we should make sure that "Johnny" can read and add/subtract before we worry about advanced calculus.


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