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Monday, June 1, 2009 | The San Diego Unified School District has placed the Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) Department on a list of possible eliminations as a part of the district’s cost cutting measures. While I understand that these are difficult times and the district faces extreme financial pressures, I do not advocate the elimination of the VAPA Department for several reasons. First, it is the only curricular department on the list of proposed cuts. The visual and performing arts are a standards-based subject mandated by California Education Code, meaning the requirements for what students are taught and expected to know in the arts are rigorous and sequential. Without the support of a district-level department, teaching the arts in accordance with California Education Code becomes daunting if nearly impossible.

The VAPA Department is primarily charged with training classroom teachers to provide standards based instruction and providing itinerant instrumental music teachers to schools throughout the district. They help coordinate the dozens of arts organizations that provide assembly programs and other educationally based arts experiences for students at little or no cost to the district. The arts organizations have stated that without the department, they will be unable to provide programs in many schools. This will represent a loss of several million dollars of leveraged support for programs that these organizations raise each year on the district’s behalf. While some parents will be able to find alternatives for their children, the students who will be hardest hit are those in the most underserved areas of the District represented by Board President Shelia Jackson and Vice President Richard Barrera.

Following a four-day email campaign by concerned parents and community members Barrera and John Lee Evans have made statements to members of the San Diego Regional Arts and Culture Coalition that they support the arts and will not vote to eliminate the department. These are in addition to already stated support from Katherine Nakamura and John DeBeck. The District and Board need to show the leadership required to address the financial crisis and support teachers while ensuring that essential departments are not eliminated. For information about writing the school board go to http://victoriajsaunders.com/WriteaLetter.aspx

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