With the help of teachers, students and community members, Winona Area Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Annette K. Freiheit put the district’s music program under the microscope in a series of meetings this fall.
The Music Study Group sought to analyze the program in a collaborative fashion and provide recommendations to the school board. An overview of the process as well as the recommendations were presented by Freiheit at the school board meeting on Jan. 21.
“I really enjoyed the process,” Freiheit said. “It was very interesting, and I learned a lot. I love music. I’m just not maybe musical in my own sense. But I’m excited for the future and using what we’ve learned to continue improving our music programs.”
Freiheit and Director of Learning and Teaching Karla Winter hope to use the process in other departments in terms of their curriculum review cycle.
One of the recommendations for action has already started: educating and empowering music teachers to work with Director of Finance Kristy Millering on their general budget and capital outlay budget. This includes items such as routine maintenance, cleaning choir robes and band uniforms, curriculum needs, instrument replacement and upgrades to needed technology.
Freiheit said that Millering is recognizing the “multitude of needs” for the music department and is building budget codes to better align with those needs. She will continue to work closely with music teachers to continue building the budget, which will include creating an inventory of things like instruments and developing a 10-year replacement cycle.
“There are a lot of things that go into music education,” Freiheit said. “It’s not just the scores they need to have for performance. It’s also instrument repair and cleaning. The elementary curriculum uses a subscription to an online text.
“There is a lot of work that has been started in that area.”
The group also recommended the department continue to seek community partnerships, funding or grants for Artists in Residence programs and after school arts enrichment programs. Instructional time will need to be addressed as standards have increased from 60-90 minute each week, so staffing levels will have to be evaluated.
Freiheit also said the middle school music teachers will work with administrators to address concerns about shifts to a 7-period day at the middle school.
The group also wondered if there is a way to provide transportation to students who cannot attend evening performances because that is a barrier. Freiheit also said the group couldn’t tackle everything on its agenda, particularly strategies to address inclusivity and diversity in the program and including student voice.
The discussions have only gotten started, Freiheit said, and she hopes these discussions will start the district on a path to improve the music program for all students.
“Some of the recommendations may not be as pragmatic for implementation as other recommendations are at this time,” Freiheit said. “We were able to get this far at this time, but some are going to take more work.
“We have a high quality staff who have a great passion for music and the community, and I just see us moving forward.”
The group included music teachers Paula Braaten, Lori Carlson, Tim Gleason, Benjamin Grev, Jaime Hanratty, Myron Haug, Andrew Jones, Melanie Sheridan and Dr. Travis Sletta; students Caidan Hoarn and Ava Ringlien and community members Jennifer Al-Saeed, Cynthia Smith, John Meier, Jonelle Moore and Bruce Ramsdell. In addition to Freiheit and Winter, Dr. Sarah Knudsen participated in the study group.