At a Jan. 4 school board meeting, Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph told trustees that it's a district-wide priority to expand electives — hiring new teachers if necessary — and shell out more cash to keep instruments in good repair at both middle schools. Although he didn't cite an exact dollar amount, the average cost of each new teacher is close to $100,000.
The district's art and music programs are kept afloat through a mix of funding from the Mountain View Education Foundation, the city of Mountain View and the nonprofit Community School of Music and Arts (CSMA), which provides weekly art and music lessons at all of the elementary schools. District residents also pitch in — money collected from the Measure B parcel tax brings in a total of $691,452 each year, which pays for six music teachers and two art teachers.
The outside funding has been critical to sustain fine arts programs in the district since 1978, said education services coordinator Tara Vikjord. That was when Proposition 13 passed and reduced the funding available for arts, music, language programs, counselors, nurses and libraries — pretty much anything other than core academic programs. Through a city-financed initiative in 1982, CSMA stepped in to fill the gap, hiring art teachers and creating an art curriculum for the district's elementary schools. A similar program was added in 1993 for music, and both are offered as weekly lessons that don't rely on PTA funding to stay afloat.
CSMA managed programs and donations of instruments to schools until 2012 when the district took over, Vikjord said. The district provides over 400 instruments to fifth-grade students including violas, clarinets, cellos, flutes and French horns each year.
"Music instrument distribution night is just a phenomenal experience to see," Vikjord said.
At the same Jan. 4 meeting, board members threw their support behind a new middle school schedule that would give a majority of students two elective periods, which means more opportunities to sign up for art and music classes. Rudolph said district staff want to use the opportunity to bring a broad range of extracurricular activities to Crittenden and Graham — whether it be band, theater, art or music — and that student demand will guide who the district hires and how much it will ultimately cost.
"We're going to be committed to support it," Rudolph told trustees at the meeting.
The district meets the state's visual and performing arts standards, which were adopted in 2001 and are in the process of being revised in early 2019. An outside review of the district's programs in 2015 gave the district top marks for providing a "broad curriculum" of art, music and performing arts, though it noted that students with disabilities and English learners are forced to give up those opportunities in order to take mandatory remedial courses.
The expected increase in funding is also aimed at making sure school administrators at Crittenden and Graham don't feel forced to blow discretionary money on repairing and maintaining instruments when those funds could have gone towards academic programs, Rudolph told the Voice.
"We don't want schools to sit there and take away money from instructional costs to buy a violin or a saxophone for $1,000," he said.
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