SRVHS students, teachers fear arts cuts

District says cuts are due to enrollment issues

Cuts may be coming to the arts department at San Ramon Valley High School, a move that has some students, teachers and parent groups outraged.

According to Instrumental Music Director Cheryl Yee-Glass, Principal Joseph Ianora held a staff meeting on Tuesday in which potential class cuts and combinations were discussed. On the chopping block were the men's ensemble choir and intermediate theatre three class; instrumental music would be forced to combine its beginning jazz and award winning jazz ensemble courses.

"My students say it's like the difference between algebra one and pre calculus. Yes it's music and yes it's the same course, but it's different levels and talent," Glass said, adding that more of her seniors will study music in college next year than any class past. "It could mean that kids who have lesser ability will be overwhelmed and drop out and the more advanced band will lower in quality."

Yee went on to say that she feels demoralized and questioned the school's inclusion of other programs, such as a semester-long lifeguard certification course.

"There are many questions on this campus that I can't answer. Is the curriculum being driven by assessing the needs of the students or driven by fulfilling the contracts of the teachers?" she said. "I would feel better if I knew that the cuts would be even across the board in all departments."

But the arts cuts aren't set in stone and, according to Ianora, are largely due to a change in the size of student population. SRVHS will have approximately 40 fewer students next year -- bringing the school below 2,000 students for the first time in years -- and that decrease translates into fewer sections, or classes.

"We're very early in the game. This is all speculation until we get a (state) budget and enrollment numbers," he said. " We're given a specific allocation and we need to be staffed 28 to 1."

The change in student population could equate to the loss of approximately three teachers if the school did not reappropriate their courses, Ianora said, adding that he has not finished the school's master schedule.

"If there's a silver lining to this, while my high school is decreasing in enrollment, there are other high schools in the district that are increasing. While a teacher may not have fill time employment at this site, they may still have full time employment in the district because enrollment is growing overall," he said.

In a series of emails to a concerned SRVHS student, Assistant Superintendent Christine Williams wrote that most schools are being cautious with their staffing and said courses with higher enrollments will get higher priority.

"As we await the Governor's May budget revise next week and the legislators eventual passing of the budget, hopefully we will get better news," she wrote. "The high schools in the meantime are receiving the cut to their sections now rather than trying to cut them in August. If the budget news gets better, it is likely that these sections could be restored."

While this latest bout of fear may be confusion between enrollment issues and budget cuts, SRVHS students have been living with the threat of cut classes for three years. Members of instrumental music have been particularly vocal about what cuts and class combination would mean to them.

"Losing these music classes would be terrible…jazz ensemble this year has pushed me to become a better musician because I'm surrounded by the best musicians in our school," wrote Claire Rodgers, a junior who plays tenor saxophone. "The arts have changed all of our lives and without these programs, the school is denying their students the opportunity to develop within their niche."

To that end, Claire and her fellow musicians have elected representatives from the three arts programs to be spokespeople for a Save The Arts movement. She has also started a t-shirt fundraiser and is working on a letter writing campaign.

"We're starting small and hoping we wont have to organize more serious events. However, if our actions don't change the school's view on this issue, all of the arts students will escalate in our attempts to save our programs," she wrote.

District officials said they are hopeful that Governor Jerry Brown's budget will look more favorably upon K-12 education than previously expected. The May Revise budget will be available on Monday, May 16 and a final budget will be enacted this summer.

"We all just have to play the waiting game and it stinks," said SRVUSD Community Relations Coordinator Terry Koehne.


Like this comment
Posted by Ellen Frasheski
a resident of Danville
on May 16, 2011 at 4:42 pm

Cheryl Yee-Glass is a first rate star teacher. My daughter was in SRVHS Jazz band back in 1997-1998 and what a wonderful musical experience she had. I would hate to see cuts to the music program whether instrumental or choral. They add so much for these young people. To think a semester Certification class in Life Guarding is more important than a music/art class is beyond understanding. I hope the SRVSD chooses wisely if eliminations take place. This same daughter was a Fine Arts Major in college, still appreciates music, sings, and is an artist. She had fine teachers at SRVHS who nurtured her well.

Like this comment
Posted by sharon
a resident of Danville
on May 16, 2011 at 8:09 pm

Bravo Mrs. Glass and Claire Rodgers! The arts departments at SRVHS are outstanding and provide something incredibly meaningful to students and enjoyable events for the entire community.

I hope the Danville Express keeps us posted on ways we can support these important programs. My kids and I attend the shows at the school regularly - these programs are something we can all enjoy.

Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Danville
on May 18, 2011 at 10:09 pm

Certain groups have been complaining about teacher salaries and benefits and advocating further cuts to education. The reality is that teachers work far longer hours than most employees in the private sector. In fact, their total work week time mirrors that of multi-million dollar salaried CEOs. Yet they are paid an average of 33% less than comparable private sector employees. While our nation is hard at work destroying its educational system, other nations such as China and India, are pouring resources into their educational systems. Our values are upside down.

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