FAIRFIELD — A 4-3 vote Thursday by Fairfield-Suisun School District trustees to follow staff recommendations for funding music and other programs with $1.3 million in additional state funds disappointed supporters of more money for music instruction.
“It was just steamrolled through,” parent Pete Shaw said of the vote.
The decision followed Shaw and several other music program supporters asking trustees to use the state money, available because of Proposition 30′s passage, to restore music programs cut three years ago in elementary schools in the district.
But a majority of trustees voted to increase the school district reserve by $550,000 and support for music and other performing arts, along with physical education instruction, by $268,000 in elementary schools. The rest of the $1.3 million will be spent for maintenance and custodial work, along with guidance and counseling.
Trustee Pat Shamansky sought to triple funds for performing arts – including music – along with P.E, to $804,000 but board President Perry Polk said no trustee seconded Shamansky’s motion. Parent Shaw said he heard trustee Judi Honeychurch say she seconded the motion. But the 4-3 board vote was on following the staff recommendation and trustees never took a vote on whether to triple funding.
“It was a mess,” Shaw said.
Steve Taylor, a retired band teacher at Fairfield High School who taught music for 36 years in the school district, said tripling the funds would have made a huge difference for music instruction.
“I’m disappointed that the outcome could not have been different because of a technicality,” Taylor said of trustees never voting on Shamansky’s motion.
Trustees Polk, David Isom, Kathleen Marianno and John Silva voted to follow the staff recommendation while David Gaut, Judi Honeychurch and Patrica Shamansky voted “no.” Gaut recalled that three years ago when funds for music were cut that “some of us were near tears.”
Polk supported what he called “one small step” the first year to increase music spending and other funds as the staff recommended.
Additional state money is promising, the board president said. But he added, “We’re not in a secure financial position right now.”
“I’m a little hesitant to jump in too deeply right now,” Polk said.
Silva said boosts in spending beyond the staff recommendation would win a lot of praise for trustees.
“But where would we be next year and the year after that?” asked Silva, who said fiscal caution called for the smaller spending increase he supported.
The board vote came after speakers, including two Rodriguez High School students, cited the importance of music instruction. Noah Shaw, 16, told trustees that “music is my sport” and said he was one of the lucky ones to benefit from the school district’s music programs.
“Music is about more than just about playing notes on a page,” Shaw said. “It is my second home.”
It’s where we become better students and learn responsibility and community, he added.
Dan Peckham, a music teacher for 10 years at Green Valley Middle School, called the loss of public music education in elementary schools “an educational injustice.”
Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.