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Mabton schools axe music program

In a bid to meet a budget shortfall of $200,000, the Mabton School Board yesterday decided to cut the high school music program for the 2009-10 school year.

The board held a meeting Wednesday over lunch at Sunnyside's Sunny Spot Restaurant, where Superintendent Sandra Pasiero-Davis told the board that canceling the music program would result in a savings of about $150,000.

The rest of the budget deficit will be met by withdrawing money from the reserve funds.

Prior to yesterday's meeting, Pasiero-Davis said a special meeting was needed because she missed the April board meeting due to illness and so was unable to present cuts to the band program.

The action taken yesterday will eliminate music teacher John Wilson from next school year's budget and cut all band and choir programs for students in grades seven through 12.

Pasiero-Davis told board members that something had to be cut, and since high school music is an elective, non-instructional core class it had to be on the chopping block. Another impetus, she said, is declining student participation in band and choir programs.

Though board members agreed to the music cut, they directed the school district to provide alternatives to students. One suggestion was making it a club activity under the supervision of an adult volunteer.

Pasiero-Davis said there may also be an ability to transport students to other school districts for music classes.

Board member David Rodriguez said he knows of parents in the district who play instruments and may be interested in helping out with a program.

In addition, Rodriguez said there are two Sunnyside High School students looking to coordinate a music program next year for their senior projects.

School board chair Elsa Sanchez emphasized that the band room and equipment should be preserved and not allowed to be taken over by other programs.

She noted the example of the now-defunct Viking baseball team, which has had its gear essentially divvied out among other programs.

Pasiero-Davis agreed and said her hope is to have the high school music program restored in time for the 2010-11 school year.

Losing the music program is bad news for the Mabton School District, but just a few weeks ago the situation looked much worse.

Pasiero-Davis said at one point the district thought it might be facing a $900,000 shortfall based on Governor Gregoire's preliminary budget.

Thanks to stimulus money and the legislature's decision to leave levy equalization funds in place, Mabton in some ways feels fortunate to only have a $200,000 budget shortfall.

Had the initial worst case scenario been realized, Pasiero-Davis said high school athletics would have felt the chopping block.

"Athletics are a very important partner in the academic pursuit for our students," Pasiero-Davis said prior to yesterday's meeting. "There is an academic criteria to participate in sports, and if we lose sports we lose that motivation."

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