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Menlo Park schools must face the music

Original post made on May 21, 2009

Changes are ahead for the music program in the Menlo Park City School District. The district's four music teachers are increasingly hard-pressed to serve the growing number of students, but there's no money in the budget to add more teachers next year, according to district officials.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, May 21, 2009, 12:10 PM

Comments (18)

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Posted by Argh!!
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 21, 2009 at 4:12 pm

Hey, but let's be sure the Menlo Park City Council approves some MORE HIGH DENSITY HOUSING so that we can cram even more kids into our over-stretched schools.

Lehman Brothers collapse ate up millions from the Menlo Park City School district, the California State Budget failings are going to yank millions more from our schools state-wide, and property taxes are down (I keep hearing this, although my property tax bill has not decreased!). But we have billions of extra dollars sitting around unused so we can build that idiotic High Speed Rail! Argh!!

Are the inmates still running the asylum?

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Posted by Bea Fruitful
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on May 22, 2009 at 4:17 pm

I think a bigger problem might be the people living in the very low density housing who have 4 or 5 kids. Is being able to afford a big family the new status symbol around here?

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Posted by Aghast !
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 22, 2009 at 5:51 pm

As of Fall 2008, there were more than 90+ Fourth graders kids signed up for band class, and 1 band teacher. It is not 80-vs 1 teacher. That was a understatement of the problem there. This is a group of 4th grader kids who are playing an instrument for the first time, and probably doesn't even know how to read music notation, not a highschool orchestra class where students had some training already. They need to learn the instruments properly to enjoy the benefit of music.

Apparently the band program has been running like this for years without the teacher or supervisors being bothered by its size. In Palo Alto schools, they get at most 25 kids in one class. After 25, they hire another teacher or assistant teacher. How did we get up to 90+ kids in one class without anyone doing something about it?

Do parents care about having music in school? Does school care? Music does not count toward the API score.

MAEF spent quite a bit to sponsor instrument purchase, but without proper management, the program is meaningless. The spring concerts are at best pulled along by those families who care and can afford private lessons for their students to "catch up" in the classes.

As parents we donate money to MAEF hoping our kids will have better programs that most others do not have. Music program is to enrich students' lives, not for the district to show off that they have a "excellent Elementary Music Program". Having instruments and the program but are not well managed or utilized, is a big waste of money and time. 45min twice a week, means that most kids are wasting 90 minutes of their time in that band class trying to compete for instructions with a mix of 90+kids playing trumpet, trombone , French horn, sax, clarinet, obe, flute, guitar, drums etc. They'd be lucky to get 5 minutes of instruction a week if the teacher manages to keep the class focus and not chatting among themselves ( it's in the multiroom, who would notice the extra noise?)

And, "Excellent"?how is it measured ? by the size of the class? It's at best a joke of the bay area for a music program. I'd rather save my donation to send my children to private instructions if they want to play instruments.

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Posted by Carol T.
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 22, 2009 at 6:55 pm

Music is most definitely an important aspect of every child's life, and in fact studies show that children with musical and artistic outlets fare better in academia.
There would be plenty of money to provide outstanding musical programs if some building adjustments were made at Oak Knoll School. The present plan is to cut down four ancient heritage trees on the upper grade program and in its place build a water-devouring soccer field. Anyone who has ever paid for tree-trimming - nevermind the cutting down of trees - knows what an expense that is.
I would suggest the playground remain in its present state, a model for other schools: three heritage oaks, a Joshua heritage tree, recently purchased state-of-the art children's climbing equipment, a softball field, and tennis court.
Take the money designated for the removal of the above, and put some of it toward a top-notch musical program for students.
As far as a soccer field is concerned, when the school's original plans were designed there was no soccer field nearby. Since that time, the City of Menlo Park has announced plans for a full-sized soccer field to be built at Kelly Park, and there has been talk about another possible soccer field at Burgess Park.
Save the trees, save tax-payers' money, and put into place a musical program envied by other school districts.

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Posted by Aghast !
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 22, 2009 at 9:29 pm

Just want to add that the 4th graders I mentioned are the Encinal students. I assume Oak Knoll's situation is similar.

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Posted by little stanford wanabee, big muzak Box
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 22, 2009 at 9:37 pm

Seems like the Mpscd board wants to have superlative sports programs, but music instruction?, that's a Palo Alto thing for those Brainy Asians. Ever notice how the Farm is renowned in recent years for its sports prominence in other than the Big 3, FBall,BBall,BeezBall, but a Music School it is not. Never will be. That's pretty much what Stanford undergrad admissions has leaned toward, student athletes, so not surprising that our local school board wants to train athletes rather than musicians.

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Posted by Traditionalist
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 22, 2009 at 10:30 pm

I think that music is "nice-to-have" program that my kids have enjoyed, but we do not seem to have money for the fundamentals. In the superintendent's April 22 e-mail on the budget he said that he was recommending flat funding for music, art, PE, and Spanish while REDUCING funding for science and math and INCREASING k-8 class sizes by an average of 2 students. I think that we have our priorities backwards. If we can't fund science, math, and regular classroom teachers, we should be cutting the enrichment programs altogether or turning them into after school programs with parent volunteers.

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Posted by momma
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 23, 2009 at 9:03 pm

[Posts removed for not being relevant to the discussion]

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Posted by Same ol', Same ol'
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 24, 2009 at 9:46 pm

Why is it, every time you mention something, anything, about schools one of the Oak Knoll neighbors have to go on and on about the new fields at Oak Knoll. This started as a very good, very informative blog on the music instruction, or lack there of, and turns into their talk of "save the trees". Unbelieveable, will it ever end???? Cut down the trees and make drum sticks out of them!

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Posted by same old invasive species
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 25, 2009 at 10:09 pm

Sharon Heights supposed resident, Carol taught for over 2 decades @ Oak Knoll. She cares about our sense of place, i.e. Oak Knoll, the former farm/nature sanctuary of Jane Lathrop Stanford's brother Ariel. It's well documented that Cedro Farm, as it was known since the 1880's, had special meaning to the Stanford family and generations beyond . It's a sad testimony to future local generations that so many MP transplants, now prominent district parents, could care less about a sense of stewardship of our community resources. They're so obsessed with "get ahead" and social recognition in their new found " Oak Knoll School community" that they lack any reverance for our historical resources.
Get the message, the music has stopped! To be replaced by monuments to the arrogance of our local school board, past and present.

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Posted by Way Off Base.
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 26, 2009 at 12:46 pm

So, in Invasive Species world, "education bad, remembering a farm that was in Oak Knoll's spot decades ago, good". I can't remember if the arguing has been over a school, or a nuclear dumping ground???? I have no words for the foolish debate going on with individuals like yourself.

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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 30, 2009 at 7:09 pm

I made a comment here last week but it was deleted for some reason.

I simply stated that our city manager, Glen Rojas, makes over $250k in salary and bonuses.

This is relevant because $1 spent here is $1 not spent there.

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Posted by Stay on point, please
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 30, 2009 at 9:51 pm

Steve, Maybe your comment was removed because it is NOT relevant to this topic. The school district and the City of Menlo Park are two entirely different entities. The city manager's salary has absolutely nothing to do with spending in the Menlo Park school district. If your issue is city salaries, you should start a new thread.

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Posted by momma
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 30, 2009 at 11:26 pm

Stay on point, MY post was deleted because after I read Steve's original post, I said the same thing you did. So if your post disappears, you'll know why.

The Almanac censors make me crazy sometimes.

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Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 31, 2009 at 6:25 pm

I get what Steve is talking about. (I don't expect falsie to understand)

When the local government culture is comfortable overpaying salaries (like Menlo Park), it is a culture that exists from the top on down.

The school district would rather cut music programs instead of cleaning house from the top on down and bringing high salaries back down to earth.

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Posted by momma
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 31, 2009 at 7:27 pm

Why not talk about the salaries in Atherton, then? Half the district schools are in Atherton. Makes as much sense!

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Posted by inquiring mind
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 1, 2009 at 4:53 pm

Joanna, Who is "falsie"? And wouldn't it be better to start a new thread if you want to have a discussion on city salaries? I think it's a valid and worthwhile topic. I might even weigh in. But first, please, tell me: Who is FALSIE?

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Posted by Carol T
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 10, 2009 at 1:22 pm

Thank you to "old invasive species" for your empathy into my way of thinking regarding the cutting down of ancient heritage trees at Oak Knoll School. Not only do these trees have a history, but they provide valuable homes to a multiple of bird species, clean the air, provide shade for the school's youngsters, and beauty for all to admire. From a teaching point of view, it's hard for me to understand how a school can call itself "green" when four massive, ancient heritage trees are slated for the chopping block in favor of a future soccer field, which I believe to be a dangerous entitling, self-serving message to children. How do we explain that? During the years I taught at Oak Knoll, it was gratifying to watch children admire the beauty around them while watching and learning about the trees' inhabitants. Those are lessons the children will carry with them always, and they could not have been taught without the majestic trees exisitng in their own school's backyard.
Carol T., retired 3rd grade Oak Knoll teacher

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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