Reductions in music programs at West Feliciana schools hit hard

Reductions in music programs at West Feliciana schools hit hard
Photo property of NBC33

POSTED: Thursday, May 16, 2013 - 10:01pm

UPDATED: Friday, May 17, 2013 - 1:33pm

Hundreds of students in West Feliciana schools will be forced to say good-bye to teachers as the school year winds down; but some of those teachers won’t be coming back next year because their spots have been eliminated.

Thanks to a reduction in funding music programs and physical education programs will see some of the largest cuts.

"Music has been such a big part of my experience as a parent in West Feliciana that I just can't see the school without it," exclaimed parent Nicole Jones.

A self-described 'band mom' Nicole Jones' three girls have all grown up and thrived in the West Feliciana music programs; that's why she was horrified to hear those same classes are going to start seeing cuts.

"seeing kids get together and put a piece of music together is one of the greatest joys in life, as a parent, to watch,” reflected Jones, “the elementary teachers taught them to love music. Taught them to love to sing, and I would hate to see kids growing up in West Feliciana without having that taught to them."

But the cuts are something Superintendent Hollis Milton said can't be avoided.

"What we wanted to do was focus on protecting student academic achievement. So our choral programs at the elementary and middle levels have been cut. We're also reconstituting P.E," Milton explained.

The district is down $1.5 million in funding. In order to make up for the deficit some teachers choose early retirement and other small cuts were made. But Milton explained that it wasn't enough to make up for all of the lost money, and tough decisions had to be made.

"Last week was the most difficult part of my career. To let people who have committed themselves, and worked so hard for our district, to have to give them that type of information is very, very difficult. And we're going to try and do everything we can to ease that pain for them and help them heal," said Milton.

In a small community like West Feliciana, Jones said kids and parents alike are already starting to feel the pain of losing programs and teachers they feel are vital.

"Some of these people have taught in our parish for 20 years, 10 years. And it's really hard to see them leaving, for any reason. But to be in the situation that we are now is just heartbreaking," shared Jones.

And though Jones' girls won't be on the receiving end of the teacher reductions, she still worries about the resounding effects the cuts will have.

"We're not going to have the drive, we're not going to have the people in place to teach our children to love music, to love to sing, to love to dance, to love to create, and to me, that's a big part of the learning process," Jones said.

Milton explained that the forced layoffs and deficit are due to several factors, including a five- year freeze in state funding and losing a few students to other districts or to the voucher program.

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