Saturday, 4 June 2016

Latest letter to the VSB

Dear Trustees, Mr. Robinson and Ms. Brennan, (Donna- can you kindly be sure that the Superintendent actually sees this email?)

The Coalition for Music Education in BC was stunned to see, that even after the VSB received a small amount of additional funding from the Province, the district administration has not proposed to reinstate the band and strings program.

It is beyond our understanding how you are making a CHOICE to destroy music education in your elementary schools, how you are making a CHOICE to take instruments out of the hands of students, and how you have made a CHOICE over the past several years to do absolutely nothing of value or merit to try and find a sustainable solution for this highly valued program.

The one shining moment was when you hired Val Overgaard who created a lucid report with real solutions, but you chose to do nothing with these recommendations.

This year, you conducted a flawed survey regarding a user pay model that has received nothing but criticism and did not provide any helpful or valid information about whether there is a community appetite for this model. That survey was all kinds of wrong: the questions were leading, some of the most supportive and vocal schools were left off the online drop down list so parents actually couldn't participate, you left people no time to complete it, and the program was given no supportive context. You have effectively destroyed the band and strings program using the survey results and pitted it to a lack of interest from the community. If you think people haven't noticed that, guess again!

Time and time again, you deal with this program at the last minute, when a creative and sustainable solution cannot possibly emerge. This program has been on the chopping block for 7 years, and never has anyone from the VSB taken any measures or made any commitment to actually fixing it. At least, none of these efforts have been made public if you have made the attempt.

You are left with a community of incredibly frustrated parents, students, teachers, and voters. There is not one other district in Greater Vancouver killing their music programs. I am convinced at this point that you have no understanding of the value of this program. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people have explained the value, but you don't listen. You blame the funding, which obviously is a challenge, but the real problem here is that you find no way around the challenge. It doesn't matter whether you personally share those values, but it's your job as trustees and district leaders to provide the absolute best education possible to your students. Denying them the opportunity to play and learn music from specialist teachers is a disgrace. Students can learn math and science and just about all other subjects from generalist teachers. They CANNOT learn music this way. An even bigger disgrace is that you ignore powerful advocacy and attempt to convince advocates that you are fulfilling your requirements in music education. We are sick and tired of the lip service and self-serving claims that you are meeting the mark. You're not meeting the mark and you're not doing anything to fix it.

What a terrible shame that you have spent almost $500,000 of this revised proposal on office staff rather than trained teachers who are required to deliver a music program.

What I'd like to know now is what efforts will be taken to allow elementary students to learn an instrument? What other solutions are you exploring besides telling everyone that it's over, and they'll have to wait until high school? Not only is this decision an enormous insult to the elementary music programs, but it's an equally enormous insult to the secondary programs and teachers who will be left with students 2-3 years behind what they're capable of in their musical training.

Shame on this decision and all who have made it. We live in one of the richest cities in the world, yet our kids can't learn to play an instrument because our educational leaders cannot figure out how to make that possible. Christy Clark is not the only person to blame. It's about time the VSB stops playing the victim and starts getting some work done.

Christin Reardon MacLellan

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