September 16, 2006
By ROBERT A. FRAHM, Courant Staff Writer
The band will play on.
Hartford's Bulkeley High School will keep a small instrumental band for a handful of students after administrators abruptly changed course and said Friday they have reconsidered a plan that would have dropped most music classes at the school.
Earlier in the week, Bulkeley officials - citing dwindling enrollments - told students that all band and choral classes, except for one course in drumming, would be dropped. But they modified their decision after meeting with the superintendent of schools Friday.
"Frankly, I was not aware of what had occurred," said interim Superintendent Jacqueline J. Jacoby.
After learning late Thursday of Bulkeley's decision to drop most music classes, Jacoby called in Bulkeley Principal Miriam M. Taylor and the school system's arts director, June Bernabucci, to discuss ways to salvage the music classes.
"Had I been aware of it earlier, it never would have happened. ... I was unhappy," said Jacoby. "I firmly believe music and arts are integral to educational programs for all students and sometimes serve as real motivators for high school students to stay in school."
According to Taylor, Bulkeley's lone music teacher, Roger Farnsworth, has been reassigned to Burr School, a pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade school, but will be replaced with a part-time teacher who will run the band and drumming classes. The drumming class has 17 students, and the band class about 10 or 11, she said.
However, the fate of other music classes was not clear.
Although Taylor said two small choral classes, serving about a dozen students, and a piano class would be dropped, Jacoby said other options will be reviewed.
"I'm not happy with that decision," she said. "It may be we need to combine classes with other schools. It's a very small group of students, but the resolution isn't necessarily to drop [the courses]. ... If it means shared staffing, whatever it means, I will not close out those programs."
The news that the band would continue pleased Harold Ortiz, a Bulkeley senior who plays flute, piano and drums. "I'm very happy, excited," he said Friday morning. "I can't wait to get started."
Officials said there has been diminishing interest in music programs at Hartford's high schools, but some students also have been unable to fit music courses into their schedules because of extra time required for basic courses such as reading and mathematics.
Taylor said she hoped eventually to restore strong music programs at Bulkeley but said that will require strengthening music classes at the elementary and middle schools. She also said schedules are tight because schools are under pressure to emphasize basic academics under the federal school reform law known as the No Child Left Behind Act.
"When they identify schools in need of improvement under No Child Left Behind, they're not asking how many kids are playing in the band," she said. "They're looking at my scores in reading and math."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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