The HPSD Board’s Song and Dance
When I saw The Evening Sun had posted a story about possible cuts in the music program at Hanover’s schools, I could almost hear a shoe dropping. These kinds of rumors had floated for a while, something which the story says Superintendent Al Moyer acknowledged, and now we get the picture of what they want to do.
In short, elementary band and orchestra will go away, the high school marching band will be no more until the numbers improve, more focus will go into music education at the middle school and the drama productions will go from two each at the middle and high school each academic year to one each.
All of this will save the district about $17,000 per year, according to Moyer’s comments in the story. Now, I really like Al and know that the board has significant financial constraints on them because of contractual and retirement issues. But when they decide to gut arts programs which represent .06 percent of the budget – if my math is correct that’s the value of $17,000 in a $27 million budget – they deserve all the derision and anger that people can muster.
I don’t doubt that they need to find a way to save $17,000. I commend the board for holding the line on some increases in co-curricular salaries and a few salaries which do not fall under the union deal. I do sympathize with those people who do not get raises, but a lot of us have gone some years without raises so it’s not the end of the world.
But when you still need to cut $17,000 after those decisions, why trim it all from one area, especially when part of that area – specifically the drama programs – have done exceedingly well both in attendance and participation? I know this might not be entirely realistic, but why cut $17,000 from one area when there may be 17 areas that could trim their budgets by $1,000 each?
I understand why the board decided to set aside $1.4 million in a reserve fund to plan for future retirement increases, but why not set aside $1.399 million, make smaller cuts to the music and drama programs and find a way to save elsewhere which adds up to $17,000?
Some of the reaction I have seen online immediately goes after athletics, which I think is a common knee-jerk reaction. I have a unique position though – my daughter played a musical instrument in elementary school and participates in drama at the middle school, but I have a lifelong connection with athletics.
So I don’t think it’s an either/or scenario. When the budget gets tight, everyone needs to cut back a little bit. And a 50 percent reduction in opportunities on one side of the ledger to save a fraction of the budget just seems incredibly short-sighted. I don’t think cutting the junior high sports schedules in half would be a good move either, but maybe there could be an examination of how to trim their competition schedules a fraction and cut a fraction from the music and drama programs until the savings hits the magic number.
Hopefully the board and administration will make a bit of a U-turn on this. Or better explain their position and talk about how opportunities have been reduced across the board for all extracurricular activities. But I don’t really expect that, sadly.