Shamokin Area Furloughs Teachers, Cuts Music, Arts

Despite appearances by the high school marching band and the entire cast of the high school’s musical at the Shamokin Area School Board meeting, members voted to cut music and arts and furlough 22 teachers.

From a marching band to the high school cast of Beauty and the Beast, all in costume, it’s not what you’d normally see at a school board meeting, but for this one it’s fitting.

“These 18 to 22 school teachers that will be furloughed have dedicated themselves to the school district,” said one speaker.

Students, teachers and parents packed into the gym at Shamokin Area High School to fight for the music and arts programs.

School officials said the district has a proposed $29.6 million budget for the 2012-2013 school year and it needs to close a roughly $4 million shortfall.

Despite the spirited rally by students, the board voted to furlough 22 teachers and cut music and arts in grades kindergarten through eight.

“The music department is more than just a class for me, it is a way of expression,” said freshman Joseph Deptoula. “I think it’s something we need at our school, because we need kids that can express themselves.”

“Here’s one thing that these kids can be so proud of, marching in a band, singing in a band concert, meeting other people,” said parent Maxine Harvey.

There were outbursts of anger at the meeting as a board member exchanged words with a speaker, but the room fell quiet as one young speaker made a final, tearful plea to the board.

“Without these programs, school would not be fun,” said the third grader.

The board had initially voted to cut kindergarten but then in a second vote was able to save it.

A final budget needs to be in place by the end of June.

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