May 28, 2019
Superintendent Scott Benwell
SD 64 112 Rainbow Road
Salt Spring Island, BC V8K 2K3
Dear Superintendent Benwell,
Re: Music Education across SD 64
We are writing as parents in SD 64 in order to advocate for music education in our district. Maintaining and growing our now flourishing music program is an investment not just in retaining, but in increasing future enrolment both at SIMS and GISS. In fact, an investment in SIMS Music will have an immediate impact, as it will likely keep children at the school whose parents have stated clearly that without the music program in place, they will be taking their children out of the school and out of district. The music program is a shining light at SIMS and as such must be maintained and supported.
In this light, we would like to begin by thanking you for confirming that the SIMS music program and music teacher FTE will be maintained at the same level it was last year: 0.4 FTE.
We are deeply concerned about the survival and success of the district music program and are glad to know that you are as well. We are therefore requesting that you ensure that the FTE accurately reflect the number of hours that the job requires. Simply put, a program built upon such a high number of volunteer hours is not sustainable. Any program that depends upon unpaid labour to such a degree will not be able to grow, flourish, and thrive over time and across the years from middle through high school. It should not be taken for granted that music teachers spend so many unpaid hours to keep the program thriving.
We are all aware of the tremendous and heartening groundswell of support among parents and the community at large for returning the program to what it was in past years, notably under the leadership of Bruce Creswick and Mitch Howard. And we are also thankful to the current teacher for working so hard to rebuild the music program into one that SIMS can again be proud of.
Rebuilding the SD 64 music program can only be done if we are able to offer adequate time for instruction, which means re-establishing the FTE that was previously in place at SIMS and ensuring that last year’s FTE remains in place at the high school.
We need, as before, a minimum of two rehearsals per week for students to make significant progress through the year. With only one rehearsal a week, what’s been learned can be forgotten by the next practice. Progress is slow and students can grow discouraged and drop out. With two rehearsals a week, progress is quicker and evident to all. The beginner players are able to get over the steep learning curve more quickly and start really enjoying themselves.
We have two recommendations to make for the health and future of music education within SD 64 on Salt Spring Island:
1. That the Music Teacher position at SIMS be allocated next year as a 0.6 FTE:
- 0.32 Band ensembles including Beginner Band, Senior Band, Beginner Jazz Band, Senior Jazz Band. This is the FTE that was in place for band in past years.
- 0.2 Music Exploratory (as it is now)
- 0.07 Choir
- 0.01 Prep time for Band, Music Exploratory and Choir
2. That the Music Teacher position at GISS be confirmed for next year at its current FTE of 0.7143
A stable, growing music program at SIMS will graduate more players into the GISS and GISPA music programs, enabling their bands and choirs to be maintained and, optimally, to grow. The health of the SIMS program will bolster GISS Music and GISPA, while enhancing the reputation for music education of the entire school district.
We are convinced that these steps will result in a holistic program that will benefit students, schools, the district, and the larger community. The students of course will benefit, gaining musical skills, life skills, social skills, discipline and good work habits. Academic achievement and graduation levels will rise as is demonstrated overwhelmingly by studies on the subject. A lively music department will provide alternative activities to excessive screen device use. School culture and morale will continue to improve. Parents will be less likely to seek other educational options for their children (home schooling or private schools), and student enrolment will increase, which benefits the district as a whole and every school within it. As well, there is tremendous community enthusiasm for the music program, as evidenced by the many donations and gifts that have poured into SIMS Music this year. We are certain that if SIMS Music is encouraged to thrive, it will lead to more valuable relationships between our schools and the community at large.
We would like to work together to see the recommendations above met and anticipate working with you in order to do so. We would like to discuss how this can proceed as soon as possible, perhaps by end of week as we would like to share the good news with our community perhaps via Driftwood interviews, which are scheduled for end of week, but certainly in time for the School Board meeting on June 12.
cc. Robert Pringle, School Board Chair
Keiko Taylor, SIMS Principal
Lyall Ruehlen, GISS Principal