This comment came from Barbara Aran, a retired music teacher in Los Angeles:

She wrote:

This what I planned to say to the LAUSD Board on Tuesday December 17th, but couldn’t get in–this is what I would have said on that day:

My name is Barbara Aran. I am a retired LAUSD elementary teacher. Today I speak for the school communities of Wilshire Crest Elementary and Laurel Elementary schools.

Ladies and gentlemen:

Let’s describe an act of cowardice. An action taken as a clever sneak attack on the instrumental music program with no time to respond. The time line was as short as possible so that people would not know in advance.

Music instruments are being collected and removed from the students AT THIS VERY MOMENT AS I SPEAK TO YOU at these two schools with no prior notice to anyone in the school communities, or communication from the district or the arts branch. I found out about this situation on Friday because the two teachers at the schools are my friends and colleagues, and fellow chamber music performers, Ginny Atherton and Diane Lang.

Winter break starts next Monday, so it will be four weeks before anyone can respond to this outrage, a travesty against children, parents, teachers and the school communities. But particularly the injustice against children.

So I am asking for four actions from this board today:
An apology letter from the District to all stakeholders, including children, for how this has been handled—prior to the vacation.
Rescind this “very bad idea”
Expose WHO, WHY, WHEN, and HOW this decision was made (no one seems to know any of this—
Board resolution “no mid year changes for instrumental music, commitment for two semesters (full year) for instrumental music”. If only 3 semesters of arts per school, then schools should know that they can count on having it for the full year.

This devastating attack could not have been planned to be more emotionally devastating to the children and the school communities, to produce the maximum emotional distress.

Your actions or inactions today speak much louder than any meaningless words when you say that you support the arts and the music program.

These students are being deprived of an opportunity which they may not ever have again. They have done nothing wrong to deserve this treatment by adults. They will be devastated. Many are excited and buy into making music, an opportunity now lost, a broken contract with the parents, the students, the teachers and staff. Parents’ expectations for the education of their children are diminished. They expected the full education for their children, instrumental music not just vocal music. Note that the website for Wilshire Crest features a photograph of students playing music. Now this will be a lie.

This is an act of pure arrogance and shows a complete disrespect For the entire school communities of Wilshire Crest and Laurel elementary schools. It sets what kind of a model for the students? Educators are told to model behavior for the students. This is a shining example of how not to treat people. Furthermore, it erodes the ability of students, parents, teachers, and the rest of the school community to trust the authority of the district. Why should the students trust the adults if they are not trustworthy?

Lausd loans 54 instruments to each school and many parents rent or buy instruments in the expectation that their student will receive instruction at school. They make an investment in their children’s education. Parents who invested in this way expected that they would receive a full years instruction. Should they feel betrayed or just deceived? Established programs mean a lot to a school community. Additionally, schools buy instruments to supplement what the district provides, so the school also has an investment. At Wilshire Crest, this consists of percussion instruments and a complete set of Orff instruments, not a small investment. Who has control of the budget for each school? Isn’t the principal supposed to have authority over the budget? Why is this not transparent?

It is a pure act of cowardice to lack the common decency, at the very least, to send the parents, staff, principals and students notice and explanation for this action, leaving instead the blame to land on the shoulders of the music teacher who has done nothing wrong. Steve Zimmer is the board member for Laurel, and Marguerite LaMotte was for Wilshire Crest. Surely Ms. LaMotte, an advocate for the arts, would have been very upset for the students. In her memory, this should be corrected as much as possible before the winter break. (This situation is exactly why her seat on the board needs to be filled ASAP by appointment.)

On Monday December 9th, Diane Lang was informed of this action. Her assigned day at Laurel Street is Friday. On Friday (December 13) she went to the school but could not inform the principal who was in an all day meeting off campus. She did inform the students that they will need to bring instruments this coming Friday to be returned.

On Wednesday, December 11th Ginny was informed. Ginny’s assigned day is Tuesday; therefore the students and parents have been unaware of the situation until today, it was six days… The principal at Wilshire Crest, Ms. Taylor, was only informed of this via an email and a phone call on Monday December 9th, and she let Ginny know in an email that she had been blindsided by this. This morning, I received a phone call from Jocelyn Duarte, president of the Wilshire Crest Elementary PTA, she is also furious, and told me that I do indeed speak for the school community.

I also have an email forwarded from Eloise Porter (LACESMA) after Ginny and I spoke to her last night: I will read some parts of that:

“The elementary instrumental music program has never been an ‘introduction to instruments’ program, but rather a sequential learning experience building to elementary orchestra and on to middle and high school bands and orchestras. The School Board passed a resolution the establish the arts as a core subject. In addition, they asked Deasy to provide a budget to support restoration of the arts program to 2008-9 levels. This recent action is definitely NOT the way to do it. To destroy established instrumental programs in Title I schools in the middle of the school year seems especially egregious, unnecessary, and totally ineffective in delivering music education.”

So the school communities should know that they are playing roulette with the population count due to Norm Day, if that actually is the trigger—which is unknown due to complete lack of communication. Wouldn’t this be part of Title One? If this is part of a school’s budget, isn’t there a process which must be approved by school committees? and changes also?

There is no time to respond. The speed in this time line implies a sneak attack. Just prior to winter break, so cannot communicate directly to anyone in authority. Scrooge couldn’t have planned it better.

(Cockroaches run when the light shines)