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Facing the Music

Ohanian Comment: Doesn't this make you want to scream? This kind of atrocity is repeated in small rural districts across the country and illustrates the wisdom of a principle I was fortunate to learn very early in my teaching: No matter how good the rule is, you'd better provide room for exceptions.

It was just like the plot of a Hollywood movie.

Cindy Jardine helped pilot a violin program at a tiny middle school with few musical offerings. Both gifted and struggling students signed up. Within two years, their grades and behavior improved.

Jardine launched the program by showing a scene from "Music of the Heart" in which a high school violin class plays Carnegie Hall. Jardine's students asked whether they could perform in New York if they practiced hard enough.

Five years later, they made the trip. They visited Carnegie Hall and performed at the Statue of Liberty and St. Paul's Cathedral.

But when they returned from the tour last month, they learned the Butte County School District was axing the violin program.

That's not the ending Hollywood would have scripted, but it's the reality imposed by the No Child Left Behind Act.

Under the law, next year all teachers must be "highly qualified," meaning they're certified to teach their subject. School districts aren't reimbursed for teachers who aren't certified, meaning those salaries come out of their general funds. And students attending class with a noncertified teacher are absent as far as the law is concerned, meaning districts also lose state funding that's based on student attendance.

Jardine, the violin teacher, isn't certified.

"Not only would we pay her salary, but we lose the money for those kids," Butte County Superintendent Scott Rogers said. "So it's a double hit."

The problem is especially acute in rural school districts, which don't have enough students to employ a full-time teacher for every subject.

"Let's say you had 13 band students," Rogers said. "Who is going to come to Arco to take a job where you only have enough kids to do two periods of band? They want to come for a full-time job."

In the past, districts could hire a teacher certified in one subject but able to teach others. A science teacher who's also a musician could teach four periods of science and two of band, for example.

But now that teacher would need dual certification. Without it, districts would have to cut the teacher to part time and hire a part-time certified band teacher or face the financial burden of keeping an uncertified teacher.

As districts struggle to meet the goals now required by law, electives such as Butte County High School's violin program are the first to go.

"You don't get on the failing schools list because you don't have a violin program," Rogers said.

Even the irony of the predicament harkens to Hollywood.

A violin program that boosted children's grades is being squeezed out by a law trying to improve education. Jardine, who's taught violin for 35 years, is a liability to the district because the law says she's not "highly qualified."

But she has seen the program's impact and aims to keep it going on her own time. She said she doesn't fault the school district, which has always supported the program.

The district bused the group to the Salt Lake City airport for its New York trip and even paid for the driver's hotel when the return flight got delayed, she said.

Most of the students in this year's program were part of the original class and want to continue studying violin with Jardine.

Junior Kellimarie Knighton, who is aiming for an honors diploma, said playing violin helps her relieve the stress of her packed schedule.

Eighth-grader Tawnya Hughes, who's been playing for four years, said the program motivates her to do better in school. Students can't participate in the program if their grades slip, Jardine said.

Plus, the violin class exposes Tawnya to new people and gives her a mental boost.

"I get happy after class and pumped up for my other classes," she said.

Here is another version of the story, from KIDK television, Pocatello:

Violin Program

Arco -

A violin program in the Butte County School District has students playing the tunes of Mozart. But there tunes have changed after the school district decided to abandon the program because of the No Child Left Behind Act.

"I showed it to the kids and said the sky is the limit, let's work hard and see where we go, says Cindy Jardine."

Cindy Jardine the violin teacher for students in the Butte County school district kicked off the violin program five years ago by showing her class a scene from "Music Of The Heart" in which a high school violin class plays at Carnegie Ha

"We got to perform at the Statue of Liberty and Saint Paul's Cathedral, exclaimed Jardine."

"She's really great, she's like a mom, she's always there, says Greg Fullmer a student."

According to the No Child Left Behind Act... she can't teach violin because she's not a certified music teacher.

"I don't thing they're thinking about the ramifications it has in rural areas, says Jardine."

Jardine believes she's more than qualified to teach the class and argues the federal government is only thinking about large cities when coming up with its policies.

"In this school district we're not able to bring somebody in for every subject to this rural community, she explained."

"Its inspired me to move on, major in music in college, says Fullmer."

"It helps with school because it helps set our priorities, says Janni Shalee Jardine's daughter and student."

Jardine plans on continuing the program... giving private lessons.

"I exchange eggs and potatoes, I try to never turn anyone who can't afford it, says Jardine."

Janni Jardine a student and the daughter of Cindy says... its still going to be hard without funding.

"Its going to be hard because/ she has so many students she's going to have a hard time to fit us all in, explains Janni."

Newswatch 3 talked to Scott Rogers the superintendent who says the district is just following rules set by the federal government.

Rogers says... the district does have a certified music teacher and that they're currently working on offering orchestra out of the high school.

— Nicole Stricker
Idaho Falls Post Register & KIDK television


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