Hundreds of MNSD Parents, Students Defend Music, Art Programs

Marple Newtown School District parents, students, and community members attended Tuesday's school board meeting to urge school board directors to reconsider any potential cuts slated in the 2013-14 school budget.

NEWTOWN SQUARE–Hundreds of Marple Newtown School District parents, students, and members of the community attended Tuesday night's Marple Newtown School Board meeting ready to fight for any potential cuts that may be made in the 2013-14 school budget. 

Nearly 25 parents, students, alumni and parents with graduated students spoke before the school board with concerns on the future of the district's programs–particularly in the arts and music departments as well as the schools' libraries.

But before public comments began, school board director Jim Lanzalotto addressed the crowd and shared the same sentiments as school board director John McDevitt shared in a Letter to the Editor published Tuesday on Marple Newtown Patch.

Lanzalotto stated,  "There's been a lot of stuff that's been floating around...You need to know there has not been any public discussions about any specific budget issues. They have not been held and they have not been discussed. There's been a lot of assumptions made which I can understand and I can see how that's what you heard based on individual meetings, so I'm here to say that we really haven't discussed the budget yet."

From The Students

High school senior Evan Ronen, student council representative for the school board and vice president of his class, vouched on behalf of the students involved in the music and arts programs at the school.

"All I ask is that you try to avoid any cuts as much as you can just because I know so many students who are a part of Marple where the sole reason that they can succeed in school and the sole reason that they enjoy the school is because there are programs and because of their music programs," addressed Ronen to the school board members. "The younger the children start in music and art, the more they're able to master it."

Miles Flett, a high school junior involved in the jazz band and soccer, shared he came into high school not knowing what to do. 

"It turned out, music was it. The social group is one of the easiest to fit into and it has made my high school experience one of the most enjoyable and I'm able to balance out soccer and other athletics with it very easily. It definitely makes going to school much easier and much more enjoyable."

From The Alumni

The last time Joseph Howanski–a 2012 Marple Newtown graduate and a current engineering student at the Honors College at Drexel University–spoke before a large crowd was during graduation as one of the student speakers. On Tuesday night, it was before the school board on behalf of current students.

"I am a proud alumnus of Marple Newtown High School and Paxon Hollow Middle School. I feel that all of my experiences at Marple Newtown have more than adequately prepared me for where I am now," said Howanski. "My time spent at the programs in Marple Newtown have been by far one of the most beneficial experiences I have had. And not helping me not only socially and academically but have also helped me develop leadership and time management skills, which have been fundamental in my experiences at the collegiate level."

Maria Vetter, who grew up in the school district, works as an education consultant and stated she represents children in seven different counties at a law firm based out of Conshohocken.

"I've seen what cutting the arts does to school districts," said Vetter. "And I don't want that happen to my school district. A lot of families come to me for guidance on where to move if they don't like the district that they're in. I want to be proud to recommend Marple Newtown where they can move here for the services, the programs, and a good education. That's what I want to be proud of my community for."

From The Parents

Chris Trainer, a 12-year resident of Broomall, shared a heartfelt testimony with tears in his eyes about his young daughter and her love for music and art. 

"When I tell her during the week that her special that day is music or your special is art–when it comes to music, she jumps out of bed, she gets up as fast as possible, gets herself ready so she can get to school so she can see Mr. Peters," said Trainer. "She loves Mr. Peters. She loves music. She loves art. I love the smile that comes to my daughter's face every time she comes home and shows me her art work or tells me what song she learned. I want to keep seeing her smile everyday. You've got to keep these programs. You have to."

Trainer said after reviewing the budget, he realized an increase in the budget results in a cup of coffee per week. 

"'I'll give you as many cups of coffee as you want. These kids, they need these programs," said Trainer. 

Dawn Mitchell said, as a reporter covering the William Penn School District, she understood the budget process as well as the other factors of the budget process including the state cutting funding to school districts, the rising healthcare costs and the increase in special education needs. However, cutting away the arts and music programs "is not the answer," said Mitchell. 

"Any cuts to the core curriculum would be extremely devastating especially in an inaugural year of the Keystone exams," said Mitchell. "Good grades in Marple Newtown are weighted differently than in some schools because of our excellent curriculum. A 1.7 percent increase is a reasonable amount. If you don't offer them [teachers] a fair contract, we will attract mediocre teachers and become a mediocre school district. We are Marple Newtown. I take pride in that."

From The Parents of Graduated Students

Though she is a Marple Newtown graduate, have parents who met in 1944 as Marple Newtown teachers, and have two sons who also wen through the school system, Nancy Holliday spoke as her current status of a former parent of the school district.

"One thing else that I can tell you, as somebody who has been a teacher, is that all of these programs support the basic skills and education that the kids need to succeed in life," said Holliday who shared her one son went through the special education program offered in the district. "They are not just fun. They are not just frills. They are extremely important to the development of their citizen, their intelligence, their problem-solving skills, and their discipline."

Holliday said her other son, a 2005 graduate, participated in the Marple Newtown High School Band which developed and honed his music skills to where he is now. Her son is now a guitar player and drummer at the Fort Sill 77th Army Band in Oklahoma and recently opened for Brad Paisley. 

From The Parents Who Work in Town

Marc Giosa, a local real estate agent and business owner in town, said he has sold approximately 94 homes in the Marple Newtown area this year and said he is seeing more clients thinking about moving to a better school district.

"I would imagine a lot of the people here, bought this area because of the schools," said Giosa, also a Marple Newtown parent. "I agree that the tax increase is minimal and I think we do have the lowest millage rate in the county, and the taxes don't really affect the majority of the people. Right now, I'm dealing with over 43 clients that want to move into Marple. Of those 43, 21 of them in the last month have changed their opinion and they want to move to another area. They're telling me that they would rather go somewhere else with a better school district. I would appeal to everyone on the board that they please keep in mind that and keep everything they can in the school district."


Have something else to add? Share them in the comments section below.

adam November 28, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Well said Michelle.
KMJ November 28, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Thank you for all the students, parents, community members who showed up at the meeting. What a wonderful turnout. And thanks to those individuals who spoke to the board. THANK YOU! Let's hope the Board hears what the public is said about our children and their future in this district! Please keep in mind there are more discussions ahead.
Dawn November 28, 2012 at 04:58 PM
I regret not bringing attention last night to the tremendous energy, passion and knowledge that Loomis Elementary music teacher Mr. Peters brings to his young students. He introduces a variety of music from around the world and truly engages them in the process. My daughter would come home from school singing. He is one of the greatest assets the district has at the elementary level.
Pat November 29, 2012 at 12:24 PM
Great to hear there was a good turnout and everyone was civil! Let's hope when the board comes back with a minimal tax increase to support all of these programs, it stays civil.
middleman November 29, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Let's hope they can keep the programs with no increase!! Call me crazy, but wasn't this all because one board member spoke out of line? Per Mr. Lanzalotto's comments prior to opening up to the public, the budget has not even been addressed yet. That particular person should keep comments to themself, and this would never have been an issue! 8 board members (who volunteer), along with the administration (who are paid) all look bad from one person... how's the saying go, "one bad apple"? In speaking with a few of the board members, it doesn't seem as if band & art were ever in danger... now everyone stop worrying & go spend some money to get this economy rolling!!


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