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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, October 18, 2002

Board supports bands in schools

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

The state Board of Education assured a packed crowd of band teachers and students last night that music programs will not be eliminated from the middle-school curriculum because of a recently approved policy to increase science education.

Dozens of students, parents and teachers with signs flocked to the board's meeting at Stevenson Middle School to express their concerns about the policy. The policy, approved by the board last month, will require sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders to take science classes each year.

The existing policy makes science mandatory in only the sixth and seventh grades. The change, which will take effect during the 2004-05 school year, has generated controversy among band teachers at middle schools who who fear that their elective course would be squeezed out because of the new requirement.

King Intermediate band teacher Larry Trela said last night that many public schools are on a six-period day and students would have the sole option of taking one elective course each semester. To allow students to take more electives, such as the year-round band course, such a school would need to extend its school day to seven periods, which he said many administrators and teachers may not be willing to do.

"We're not against science," Trela said. "But if the schools decide 'we don't want a seventh period,' band will go down. We won't have an eighth-grade band and then we won't have a high school band."

'Ilima Intermediate eighth-grader Tierra Craven-Pacolba said band is important in that it helps keep children out of trouble. She plays trumpet in the school's band.

"No offense to science, but at the end of the day science is just science. But band will go with us forever," Craven-Pacolba said. "Some students like band not just because of the music, but for the life lessons it teaches."

The board approved the policy because of years of low test scores in national standardized tests. In 2000, nearly two-thirds of Hawai'i's eighth-graders scored below basic proficiency in science and nearly half of the state's fourth-graders scored below basic levels.

Board member Denise Matsumoto told the crowd last night that it was never the board's intent to boost science education at the expense of music. Matsumoto said the board will create a work group to develop a plan to accommodate both science and elective courses, such as band and industrial arts.

"We can't say we're not going to teach science. That's just a given," Matsumoto said. "We do recognize that with middle schools, as well as high schools, the day is not long enough for students."

Matsumoto, chairwoman of the committee that developed the policy, promised the crowd that "we're going to make this work, and it won't be at the sake of music or any elective as well."

Pearl City High band instructor Kent Sato said he was pleased that the board is willing to work with the schools to resolve the problem. He said during the decision-making process, band teachers were not kept up to date on the status of the policy.

"We know we're not going to get rid of science," Sato said. "But we want to make sure that there's a very strong guarantee that space in the day will be saved for us. That's all that we were asking for from the beginning."