SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio – As the new school year approaches, district officials have no plans to change block schedules for all classes at Shaker High, including the Marching Band.
Shaker School Superintendent David Glasner this week responded to concerns that a group of a dozen parents, boosters and band members, past and present, raised during the board meeting of July 13 education.
“We will monitor the new block calendar format, see how it works and determine if any changes and improvements are needed,” Glasner said on Monday (July 19th).
Shaker features the largest high school marching band in the state, with around 375 members in recent years, although some of the speakers at the meeting say those numbers are on the decline due to the marching band’s abandonment or transfer to private schools.
“The ‘AB’ block hours don’t translate well in the performing arts, and they mess up the schedules of the students (participants),” said Kelly Berick, also director of dance at Akron Firestone High School, warning that the change in Shaker could “degrade the whole fanfare experience.”
Glasner said block programming, in which students meet for longer class periods and fewer times per week, was introduced at Shaker High School last year, in part in response to the health emergency in statewide coronavirus.
But the establishment of a block schedule at the high school, with its some 1,600 students, had been discussed previously.
“And the feedback has been positive,” Glasner noted as the district begins a full year of classroom instruction, hoping to emerge from the pandemic once and for all. “(Shaker High School Principal Eric) Juli has done a good job working with the group principals on this topic.”
At the same time, Glasner, who took office as superintendent in July 2019, and his administration have worked hard to eliminate the district’s long-standing practice of having different ‘leads’ and leveling its curriculum and course offerings. .
“As part of our strategic plans, we already knew we needed to review levels and tracks across the district in order to become more inclusive and racially integrated,” Glasner said. “And the pandemic really forced us to move faster on this, making sure it happened with smaller groups of students. “
Scott Stephens, executive director of communications and engagement for the Shaker School District, noted that there had been video updates with Glasner and on Facebook on the reduction and elimination of trails and levels.
Many believe the group has been on the other side for years already, in terms of diversity and educational equity in place.
“Don’t spoil what has been exemplary for decades,” said Irene Meyerhoefer, band host, asking the school board to consider a modified block schedule for band members.
Glasner added that block planning also offers more course options and better integration with the district’s International Baccalaureate (“IB”) program, which develops skills in six areas: mother tongue, a second language, social studies, science, mathematics and the arts.
Noting that it’s not just about music, Atossa Alavi said participating in the group gives all students a chance to shine.
“The fact that we have the largest group in the state is its own glaring metric in and of itself,” Alavi said. “It’s a huge and diverse group of kids. “
Glasner said the district wanted to continue to “view the Shaker Group program as a shining example” of what can be accomplished when students from different socio-economic, ethnic and ethnic backgrounds come together.
“We totally agree that the diversity and participation in the band – and the music in general – is one of the things that makes it so special,” said Glasner.
He added that the declines in attendance numbers for the group can be attributed at least in part to the decline in enrollment seen in many public school districts.
Glasner and Stephens took issue with claims by supporters of the group that the district would not be fully staffing or funding its music department, although longtime group manager Tom Deep, reassigned to Woodbury Elementary (5th and 6th years) in recent years, has now retired and his post there will not be filled directly.
Back in high school, there are three band directors, as well as student conductors, who will be retained. This was one of the concerns raised by the band’s former parent, Sharyn Lowenkamp.
“We will also continue to look to student leadership,” Glasner said.
And as it stands, the district has incorporated the group’s practice into the bouldering program for one day a week, on the pitch during the football season, “for essentially the same length of time” as in recent years. Glasner said.
There will be separate group rehearsals, such as the drum line, at other times of the week.
When it comes to all-in-one practice, some group boosters feel that this is not enough time to repeat the numbers, take the time and go over the routines and walk formations.
“I’m not sure a team would be happy to meet one day a week,” another booster noted at the meeting.
Responding to some of the concerns expressed by Annie Richmond about the group’s “drop-off” at Shaker Heights Middle School, Glasner pointed to an announcement sent earlier on July 13 by new principal Michelle Hughes.
“I recently met our Director of Program and Teaching, Dr Moore, and our Conductor, Mr Pocaro, who will work with the Woodbury Conductors to create orchestral ensembles and in concert in seventh grade, ”Hughes wrote. .
“Mr. Pocaro has already carefully created Eighth Grade Symphony and Concert Orchestra sections and we will soon begin to work as a team to program learners into their assigned ensembles,” Hughes continued.
“We are committed to providing a great group experience for our college students, and I look forward to continuing the collaboration with all of our college families,” added Hughes.
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