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Parents Blast Proposal To Drop Music at Intermediate School

No response from district officials on supposed plan

A group of parents is protesting what they say is the school district’s plan to extend math and language instruction another 60 minutes daily because of lagging test scores at the at the expense of music instruction.

Dozens of letters of protest are being delivered to Interim Superintendent Stephanie Bilenker blasting the district’s plan, according to Jim Boyle, of Orchard Crest Boulevard.

Boyle solicited the letters – nearly 40 by early Monday  -- in an email sent to district parents early Friday morning. A copy of the email was obtained by Wall Patch.

Boyle said he learned last week in separate meetings with Bilenker and Intermediate School Principal Gary Azzolini that the district planned next school year to extend math and language instruction to a double period because of low standardized test scores, which have placed the school on a state watch list.

As part of that plan, the time normally used for music instruction – band and chorus – would be eliminated from the school day. It would be moved to a 7 a.m., before-school-hours period and run on a non-graded basis, Boyle said.

Music students who wished to continue their music instruction would arrive at school on the same buses destined for the high school, Boyle said.

Superintendent Bilenker did not respond to a request for comment on Monday morning.

“This compromise will clearly affect student participation in music and consequently affect the quality of our music program which has recently been described as ‘one of the premier middle school music programs in New Jersey’,” the email soliciting response reads.

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.

It was unclear by 1 p.m.  Monday how, or whether, the school administration planned to address the letters. Bilenker had not responded by early afternoon.

It was also unclear what involvement the school board has in the district’s plans. Board President John Tavis did not return a call requesting comment Friday.

Wall Intermediate School has been identifed 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.

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