McCook Public Schools may hire a teacher for art classes at the junior and senior high, the board of education authorizing the advertisement of the new position during a special board meeting Tuesday evening.
It was a recommendation from the board's programs committee (board members Diane Lyons and Scott Johnson and Superintendent Dave Schley) to advertise for an instructor to teach two exploratory art classes at the junior high and one class at the senior high (in addition to current teacher Steve Clapp's schedule). The new instructor will also teach existing after-school art clubs at McCook and Central elementaries and provide guidance, monitoring and/or lesson development for art projects already taught by classroom teachers at the two elementary schools.
Board member Maury Green pointed out that hiring a teacher for junior and senior high classes does not address requests from McCook Art Guild members that the school provide formal art instruction for elementary students, at an age when natural talent can be identified and encouraged. McCook Elementary Principal Lynda Baumbach explained that it was simply a matter of scheduling. "I don't know where the time is going to come from. What are you going to remove?" Baumbach said, stressing that she is "pro-art, not anti-art."
Baumbach said there are 22 classrooms at McCook Elementary, and fitting 22 art classes into the existing schedule would be "a nightmare." Reading and math classes take up 2 1/2 hours every day, and student achievement in those two subjects, in addition to science and social studies, is accountable to the Nebraska Department of Education. A regular day's schedule also includes lunch and recess, library, music, physical education, counseling and technology.
"What do we not do?" Baumbach asked. "We're going to have to make choices. Do we add 25-30 minutes to the school day?" Art guild member Norma Stevens pointed out that President Barack Obama is advocating a longer school day and a lengthened school year.
Baumbach said that most classroom teachers do their own art projects, most often on Friday afternoons, and Lyons said that the new teacher could provide guidance and/or curriculum and lesson design for those projects. Accountability -- whether teachers are teaching that curriculum and students are learning the curriculum -- would be up to Baumbach and the board, she said.
Board president Tom Bredvick said that many teachers utilize art in their regular classroom learning, even if it's "just a crust-level of art."
An art teacher would also be responsible for teaching 10 individual art classes at Central Elementary, where, teacher Mary Dueland said, the fifth grade schedule is less flexible than the fourth grade schedule.
A teacher would also be responsible for developing and teaching art classes at the junior high.
Ray Walter, a member of the McCook Art Guild and a former art teacher at Culbertson Public Schools, said that perhaps what is being overlooked is that art can be used to teach and enrich lessons in reading, math, social studies, etc., providing help particularly for students who learn best visually.
"Think of art as an enhancement of the learning of students in math, social studies, science and reading," Walter said.
Superintendent Dave Schley said the salary and benefits for a new teacher will be budgeted in the 2009-2010 school year; salary will depend ultimately upon a successful applicant's qualifications.
Schley said that a new curriculum and program would normally have been discussed and added through implementation of a strategic plan, strongly encouraging the board to develop "a big plan" to guide board decisions and the school district into the future.
Schley emphasized that although Lyons' motion is "to advertise for and hire" an art teacher, "if we don't believe we have attracted the right teacher -- the responsibilities are great here -- we may not hire someone."
The vote was unanimous to proceed with the advertising and possible hiring of an art teacher.