June 15, 2017
Calvin J. Watts, EdD
Superintendent of Schools
Kent School District
12033 SE 256th St #A200
Kent, WA 98030
I am pleased with the opportunity to reach out to you, though I wish it were under better circumstances. As a parent and voter in the Kent School District, it was with great concern that I learned that Millcreek Middle School has made significant cuts to their music program.
Certainly you are aware of the significant body of research on the impact of music education on both academic and behavioral development, so I will not belabor that point. Rather, my primary concern is the disproportionate impact these cuts will have on the underserved members of our community and the manner that these cuts were made and communicated to the community.
I have personally heard you speak about the rich diversity in our district. One of the core values of Kent School District is equity–“that all students have equal access to quality staff, courses, activities, services, and resources.” Cuts, like those made at Millcreek, disproportionately affect those members of our community who have the fewest options. Our family is well-resourced. We can afford to pay for private lessons, know how to apply for and get a transfer to a different school, and have the time, energy and money to find successful music education opportunities for our children, regardless of what our public school is doing. But a significant portion of the Millcreek population aren’t as well-resourced. These cuts prevent our students from having equal access.
To date, no communication has come from Millcreek to parents about either the cuts to the program or the problems that led administrators to make those cuts. All of the communication has been through students, who have been informed that should they continue in music education, they would need to re-take 7th grade band or orchestra. If there was in fact a problem of low enrollment in music classes, that should have been communicated months ago, and well before any cuts were made to the program.
This lack of transparency is not new. There has been a culture of disrespect towards music education during our student’s entire association with Millcreek. In sixth grade, parents are not formally involved in middle school registration. No information was provided to parents about music opportunities, and students made their elective selections at school, on their own. Then, when our student initially registered for band, she was not placed into band class, and it took significant lobbying on our part to get that changed. We were told on multiple occasions that not only was there not a guidance counselor available to even take our calls, but also that the band section was completely full, which was untrue. Eventually she was placed in band where she has continued to grow as a flautist and has also learned to play the alto saxophone.
Now, we discover that 8th grade band (and orchestra, as well as all choir classes) have been cut. Early morning jazz band is also ending. Our daughter was offered a spot in KTA for next year and doesn’t want to do it because she was told that she couldn’t take Geometry or any band class, because of “master scheduling” issues. After several tries, we have been told that she will be allowed to take Geometry, but not band (which, again, is a retake of 7th grade band, not the more advanced course that she needs).
We have been told that students need to take a beginning computers course instead of music, in case they fail classes in high school. The huge expectancy effect of this course of action notwithstanding, students who are engaged in music education are unlikely to be failing any, let alone two classes in high school. Further, as Millcreek (and the rest of KSD) are one-to-one schools, a beginning computers class is a waste of time and taxpayer money. We seem to forget that our children interact with technology on a more frequent basis, and from a younger age than any of us. My child, along with most of her peers, does not need to waste her time learning the basics of computer use. She would be much better served academically by an appropriate music education elective instead.
Finally, there is no better way to “successfully [prepare] all students for their future” than a robust music education. Students who have access to quality music education are more likely to stay engaged in their education, will do better academically, will have fewer behavioral problems, are more likely to graduate, and are more likely to continue on to college or vocational training.
Again, I appreciate the work you are doing in our District. I hope that by reaching out you might be able to help reinstate the full music program at Millcreek, and ensure that it is appropriately supported by staff and administration. I am available to discuss this issue further at your convenience. I plan to post a copy of this letter to my personal website and am willing to share your response there as well.
Robert P. Allred, PhD
Millcreek Parent, Licensed Psychologist, Registered Voter
cc: Sheri Sutliff
Cite this article as:
Robert Allred, "An Open Letter to Dr. Watts," in Robert P. Allred, PhD, June 21, 2017, http://doctorallred.com/2017/06/an-open-letter-to-dr-watts/.
Allred, R.P. (June 21, 2017). An Open Letter to Dr. Watts [Weblog post]. Robert P. Allred, PhD. Retrieved November 17, 2017 from http://doctorallred.com/2017/06/an-open-letter-to-dr-watts/