While much of the media, including The Buffalo News, was focused Wednesday on getting reaction to the school district's recently released 2012 graduation rates, a lot of other ground was covered during the board's Finance Committee and Executive Committee meetings Wednesday night.
Among them was an official report by Chief Financial Officer Barbara Smith regarding staff cuts to the district's instrumental music programs. The report was produced at the request of a board member after The News ran a story last week stating that, according to music teachers, 14 of 28 instrumental music programs in the Buffalo school district were being eliminated next school year and another four were being reduced.
Teachers had estimated that nine instrumental music positions would be cut as a result of school-based budgeting choices made by building principals who were using their discretionary dollars to shore up core subject areas at the expense of the arts. Some district administrators, however, suggested the teachers' facts and figures were off.
So on Thursday, I compared what the teachers calculated against what the official district report indicates. Here's what I found:
- The teachers' initial information regarding which schools were losing band programs was completely accurate (we ran a prior blog post about this).
- The teachers' estimate about how many teaching positions would be lost due to cutbacks was slightly inflated, however, because they didn't count schools like D'Youville Porter Campus School that actually added band program with a half-time music instructor.
- The district report noted that there were changes made in the last week that add back instrumental music positions that had originally been cut. Those add backs include McKinley HIgh School, which went from eliminating its band program completely to simply reducing it. City Honors School also expanded from having 1.5 instrumental music teachers to having 2 full-time positions.
With all the adjustments, the district will lose roughly 7 full-time instrumental music teachers, not nine. The district also pointed out that vocal music/general music, which is a state-mandated class requirement, will actually grow by roughly 2 full-time positions districtwide.
These numbers are unlikely to diminish public concerns about instrumental music cuts and may even become a mayoral campaign issue. Mayor Byron Brown has asked to receive a copy of the district's instrumental music staffing report.
Meanwhile, Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore debunked repeated assertions made by the superintendent that the cuts to school band programs were made by building principals in consultation with their site-based management teams, which would have included teachers, parents and other stakeholders.
He sent a letter to board members stating that he asked union delegates representing about 50 different schools if their site-based team was consulted as part of their school's site-based teams.
"Only one school's delgates indicated they had been involved," he wrote.
The overwhelming majority of delgates said they hadn't even seen their building's school-based budget plan for next school year.
Here is the district's official district breakdown, comparing music teacher positions from this school year to next: