Support for arts needed, School Board member says

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Thank you for your excellent editorial (“It’s essential to support students in sports & the arts”) in Saturday’s newspaper.

It hits a subject that I’ve been trying for years to draw attention to.

The St. John School Board allocates tens of thousands of tax dollars a year to support its athletics programs but spends virtually nothing on music, drama or the arts.

There is strong evidence that skills learned in music carry over to other classes as well, helping students learn and improve test scores. Science, engineering, technology and math are important, but society does not live by STEM alone.

A few years ago I initiated a series of grants through the VH-1 Save the Music Campaign which, with the support of the Superintendent, which has brought more than $200,000 worth of instruments to public schools. Most of them are traditional band instruments but we also have pianos, violins and cellos.

Still, except for the salaries of our team of music educators, it’s all from private funds.

As I said at the recent School Board meeting, I have no issue with helping athletics. I voted in favor of spending $45,000 to buy new equipment for the East St. John field house. But we must remember that there are also hundreds of potential writers, actors, directors, set designers, artists and sculptors who need the opportunity to develop their skills too.

Athletics produces college scholarships, but so do the arts. We are already sending students to college on music scholarships. A member of the Class of 2018 is going to study drama with help from the ESJ Alumni Association, but all of her skills were learned in outside amateur theatricals.

The equation is being balanced. Our Superintendent is on board. Hopefully some day arts will have a place in the education budget equal to what we spend on football.

It may come more quickly with your support.

— Russ Wise, St. John School Board