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Following cuts, band director quits

State Sen. Christine Rolfes met with a small group of students June 5 to discuss impending cuts to programs in the North Kitsap School District.                         - Kipp Robertson / Herald
State Sen. Christine Rolfes met with a small group of students June 5 to discuss impending cuts to programs in the North Kitsap School District.
— image credit: Kipp Robertson / Herald

POULSBO — If cuts to arts programs hadn't happened the way they did for 2013-14, North Kitsap Band Director Susan Peters would not be quitting.

Band and choir are expected to be reduced by two classes each next year. And so Peters resigned this week. She is going to Shanghai, China to work at the Shanghai Livingston American School.

Peters said she turned down four job offers prior to the job in China. The job, she said, would have to be “extraordinary” to take the place of her position at North Kitsap High School.

Program directors were told about one month ago that the programs would be reduced, Peters said. The final program outlook will be based on enrollment.

The North Kitsap School Board voted May 9 to cut 27.30 teaching positions from the district for 2013-14. Those teaching reductions included 10.8 positions at the high schools.

The cuts come as the district looks to close a $3 million budget deficit.

Teaching positions for band and choir are expected to be reduced to .6 full-time equivalent each, removing two classes from each program.

Because of the reduction in the teaching positions, there will not be separate classes for percussion, for example. Music class sizes will increase, which is going to cut into the quality of education, Peters said.

“No matter how I teach, if I can’t teach the way I have been teaching, the quality of the program will not be the same,” she said.

“The quality of teaching in music is impacted by size just as anything else,” she said.

Peters currently teaches five band classes, and marching band after school.

North Kitsap sophomore Katherine Shafer is worried a reduction to music programs will make NKSD students less competitive for scholarships. Shafer has five sisters. She plans to attend college, but would like scholarships to relieve the financial burden from her parents.

“You look at the kids getting scholarships and they excel,” Shafer said. She said if her programs get cut, but those in other districts do not, she will miss out on scholarship opportunities.

Along with band, Shafer is on the track and field team — she competed in the 800 Meter race at State this season and placed 11th in prelims — and plays for the soccer team. Her opportunities to receive scholarships in sports are not as high, she said.

“Unless you’re the top in State in track or soccer, you’re not going to go anywhere with that,” she said.

Shafer was one of more than 15 band and choir students who attended a meeting with state Sen. Christine Rolfes June 5.

Rolfes said North Kitsap and South Kitsap school districts are having to make more cuts than many other districts. However, proposed cuts will not be as severe once the state Legislature adopts its budget, she said. The cuts right now reflect the “worst case scenario,” she said.

Rolfes could not say whether any arts programs may be restored.

Rolfes told students to lobby for their programs. Students rallied outside the district office May 20 during a meeting between representatives of programs on the chopping block, and Rolfes and Reps. Drew Hansen and Sherry Appleton.

Rolfes suggested students contact administrators individually and explain why the programs are important.

Band and choir are not the only programs that could be cut. American Sign Language and language classes, AP classes, and art classes are also feeling the pressure, according to district documents. The proposed education program for next year shows Career and Technical Education programs taking many cuts.

North Kitsap student Emily Neer, a drum major and member of the Jazz Choir and wind symphony, said the music programs are the reason she still attends North Kitsap. Neer’s family has discussed moving for better work opportunities. If the programs are cut, “there’s really nothing keeping us here,” she said.

As for Peters, she will be the head of her new school’s fine arts department and teach instrumental music for students in grades 9-12. She said 29 languages are spoken at the school in Shanghai.

“Music is supposed to be a universal language,” she said. “I’m going to find out if I can truly teach it.”

 

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