RANDOLPH, NJ - Hundreds of Randolph residents attended Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting to protest changes to the middle school music schedule.
Randolph High School Band Parents Association, Randolph String Parents Association and Randolph High School Choir and Theater Booster Association stated in an email and facebook post last week that “the Randolph School District administration is planning on massive changes to the Middle School Music Department for the 2017-2018 school year. These changes are terribly damaging to the scheduling, staffing, and educational philosophy of the entire Randolph Music Department.”
Board of Education President Al Matos responded saying the board and administration were still in the very early stages of the annual schedule review: “Please know that the Randolph BoE has no plan or desire to diminish the music program in Randolph.... No schedule changes have been determined in any of the districts departments and a review of programs and schedules occurs throughout the district, not just with middle school music.”
Matos addressed the public during the meeting and reiterated the desire to educate the whole student, with a strong music program being part of that goal.
During committee reports, Christine Aulenbach, chair of the Education Committee, explained the minimal discussion of scheduling in their committee meeting.
“I just want to clarify for the board, that we did not discuss the middle school schedule at all at this particular meeting,” she said. Aulenbach added that she asked a question regarding schedules in general, but “since it was not on the agenda, we did not go further into that.”
She also invited members of the public to attend the next Education Committee meeting on March 14.
Despite the board’s assurance that no action would be taken, parents and residents shared their opinions in hopes to influence the future process.
As Senior Vice President for Research and Development at New Jersey Institute of Technology, resident Donald Sebastian believes he has seen the steady decline in the skill set of K-12 students throughout the state.
“Study after study shows that music education and the participation in performing ensembles develops the left brain-right brain connectivity that’s so fundamental to abstract thinking and this type of problem solving,” Sebastian said. “The College Entrance Examination Board found that students involved in public school music programs scored 170 points higher on the SATs than students with no such program participation.”
“Randolph Township, sadly, has no charming town center, doesn’t have an anchor employer, is not particularly convenient to mass transportation to bring us to where we do in fact work. The reputation of our school factor is the strongest factor we have in competing with other upscale communities for new homebuyers,” he concluded.
The crowd of parents, students and residents applauded and cheered for each speaker.
“The board president recently stated that the board has no plan or desire to diminish the music program,” began Martina McElroy, member of the Band Parents Association. “A third less instructional time diminishes the music program. Non-specialists teaching developing musicians diminishes the music program. Partial ensemble rehearsal diminishes the music program.”
“Any change which will significantly decrease the number of hours of instruction or remove the opportunity for students to meet with specialists on their instruments will be a detriment to all future Randolph students,” Martina said.
Former Board Member Jeffrey Braverman called for these discussion to be made “very open, not behind closed doors.”
“This is at least the second or third time this discussion has happened in about eight years. Each time it happens we come back saying it’s the wrong thing to do, and now it’s happening again,” Braverman reminded the board. “Something of this magnitude should be working with the parents, with the booster clubs, with the students, with the teachers.”
“We should learn from our previous problems… when we changed the student times,” he warned. “We need to do this very open, not behind closed doors.”