Concerns over new policy at JH limiting fine arts

English teacher Mr. McElwee submits resignation to board

By Jason Musselman
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Visitor comments and petitions from students at Monday night’s Stark County 100 school board meeting focused on a new curriculum policy that many parents and students were unaware of. The policy limits junior high students’ choices of fine arts (music, chorus, and art) to just two of the three options, but allows the parents/students to decide.

The prior plan allowed for all three offerings, however, if band and chorus were chosen then only 6 weeks of art was given on a rotating schedule. Students were sent home with a notice and a short deadline to decide, according to Crystal West, who expressed her opinions during the visitor comment section.

“To ask them to forgo one area for up to three years will have long term effect,” said West. “I firmly believe in my children to stand up for what you believe in.”

Tiffany McCauley also addressed the board with the same concerns and how feedback was not solicited before the change.
Vice President of the Board, Ann Orwig, who was serving as chair of the meeting in the absence of Robert Groter, addressed the concerns as chair of the education committee.

Orwig stated the committee met on Nov. 9 and one of the informational items at that meeting was the change in fine arts offerings – no action from the board was needed, although it was in the written report to board members.

“Generally we haven’t involved [the board] in offerings for students or the master schedule,” said Orwig.

The decision was made by administrators and teachers involved after looking at multiple other scenarios, added Orwig.

Two main problems led to the change; first, there are only 24 seats in the art classroom and only one teacher, and second, chorus instructors are unhappy with losing their students for 6 weeks at a time for art. They feel the constant contact and practice is crucial to learning and improvement, reported Orwig.

The new plan allows for four options: band and chorus, band with art and current events, chorus with art and current events, art and current events.

Current events is a new class that will be added to help alleviate the overcrowding issue. The class will be taught by high school teachers. All fine arts will now follow an A/B schedule, meaning chorus might be on Monday, Wednesday and alternating Fridays, while art is on Tuesday, Thursday and alternating Fridays for half the year and then replaced with current event for the other half. This new plan actually offers the equivalent of 9 weeks of art instead of the current 6 weeks.

The education committee agreed to hold a meeting and invite all parties and the public to listen in while the new policy is reviewed and new ideas formulated. Orwig warned the board that other options may have a price tag to them.

In other business, Junior High and High School Principal Bill Lamb reported that 84 students participated in the walkout on March 14, but staff organized and allowed them to go to the cafeteria instead of outside. Lamb reported the students “behaved remarkably well” and were “passionate and were able to express thoughts and concerns.” Superintendent Jerry Klooster added it was a “solemn and productive discussion.”

The board recognized Jack Colgan on winning the regional spelling bee to advance to the Peoria Journal Star Spelling Bee this Friday. The bee will then be televised on WEEK Channel 25 on Saturday.

Midwest Bus was awarded a three year lease for two 65 passenger buses at $10,987.15 per bus per year. Also awarded were the football field mowing contract (to Forstroms for $30 per hour) and the field lining contract (to Shirley Striping for $1,500 per year, not including paint).

The board approved the administrators’ summer school plans, which call for two teachers for four weeks in both the high school and elementary school, but currently there is no need in the junior high.

Electric power was approved for a new concession stand being built near the track and baseball diamond, in Toulon. The building is being constructed by the Toulon Civic Association on city property, but the board agreed to allow the continued use of power from a nearby meter.

Social work hours at the elementary school will increase from three days a week to five, after the board approved the $16,200 increase per year. The same individual will be at the SCES all five days.

Finally, after executive session the board announced and accepted the resignation of Thomas McElwee, the current high school English teacher, co-director of the musical, and scholastic bowl coach. McElwee has reportedly accepted an offer closer to his hometown.

Additionally approved was Pat Keane as volunteer high school baseball coach, a “reduction in force” resolution that eliminated Sami Evans as the EL interventionist because of a reduced need, and the resignation of bus driver Don Charvet earliler this month.

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