While not on the agenda, a potential cut in the public school system’s music education program was the main topic during the Ketchikan School Board’s public comment period Wednesday.
The district budget lists all the programs and costs, some required and others optional, in order of priority. Optional items are underneath the mandatory programs, and in the middle of the budget is a red line. Items below that line are not funded – at least not right now.
Music for elementary schools is below the line. And although School Superintendent Robert Boyle has said, and said again during the meeting that he fully expects the district in the end will be able to fund music, its placement in the budget was a concern for music supporters in the community.
“Arts incorporated into education is an imperative,” said Kathleen Light, executive director of the Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council. “It develops well-rounded, and creative problem-solving adults.”
Light said she started playing music in elementary school, and that skill has shaped who she is.
Jeff Karlson, a Ketchikan High School graduate who now has a master’s degree in classical trumpet, also lauded elementary music education programs. He said the skills students learn through music go far beyond just music.
“I learned teamwork, critical thinking, dedication, discipline, culture, history, physics, philosophy, just to name a few things I took away from music directly,” he said.
Youth mental health clinician Kacea Pollard-Johnson said that music can provide valuable social and emotional benefits.
“Elementary music gives kids who maybe aren’t the best athletes, or the best at book smarts, gives them a place to belong, it gives them a place to learn a skill, to be part of a team, to problem solve, and that’s what makes happy, healthy adults,” she said. “And that’s what our communities need.”
Three other community members also spoke strongly in favor of maintaining elementary music programs. In response, School Board Member Colleen Scanlon said one reason she wanted to be on the board was to fight for arts programs in the schools.
“If I have anything to say about it, we’re not going to be cutting any music or art, but I’m just one voice on this entire board,” she said.
Scanlon and Board President Michelle O’Brien encouraged the public to bring their school budget concerns to the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly, as well. The Assembly provides a local contribution for education on top of state funding.
Also Wednesday, the School Board approved a contract with Safe Havens Institute to review the security of school buildings, hired David Jones as principal of Houghtaling Elementary School and retained Bob Marshall as principal of Ketchikan Charter School.