By Daniel E. McGonigle
The Caledonia Argus
“I’m just starting my third year here and from the beginning of the time since I got here I’m always asked about the music program,” said superintendent Ben Barton.
Barton, who advocated that the Caledonia school board consider adding a music teacher at the elementary level, noted the impact of not having such a position.
“We’ve seen a decline in the program, especially the band program,” he said. “You’re seeing limited numbers.”
With some of the steps the board has taken toward getting their fiscal house in order, Barton felt now was the time the board could consider adding such a position.
The district has found that running in between the two buildings and asking the current staffing levels to take on additional work, has meant a decrease in that early one-to-one lesson time.
“If you aren’t able to teach your kid to play the trombone and work with them on a one-to-one basis, then he or she gets frustrated and doesn’t stick with it,” Barton said. “That has an impact on our program down the road.”
While Barton knows that the factors in making this decision are fluid and that things could change for the district on a moments notice, he did think that the district could work towards making this position a permanent part of a student’s education as it had been in the past.
“This is a somewhat risky move for us,” Barton said. “But I’m asking that the board strongly consider that we take this risk.”
Board chair Michelle Werner said she doesn’t want to see them add the position, only to take it away in a year or two because of budget concerns.
“I can’t think of any reason we wouldn’t do it except for money,” Barton said. “It got reduced, I’m guessing for financial reasons and I think we’ve seen the results of that.”
“I think our biggest concern is can we sustain it,” board member Jean Meyer said.
“Just like in our athletic programs, people expect high quality out of the programs we offer,” Barton said. “The focus would be on the fifth and sixth grade lessons because if those students have success early they tend to stick with the instrument. I think it is a reasonable expectation that we would see more students go out for band. If you’ve been to any parade that we march in you notice our numbers are pretty slim.”
The board moved to hire a half-time music teacher and voted to do so anonymously.
When asked how quickly the district could add such a position, Barton replied, “We’re an equal opportunity employer. We’ll advertise the position as open until filled. I apologize bringing this so late in the game like this, but I’ll sleep better at night knowing I brought it forward.”
Barton hopes to have the position filled as soon as possible.