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Save the music

February 15, 2012
By JENNA LOUGHLIN - EDITOR ( , Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

WESTFIELD - Preserve Westfield's music program.

That was the message from New York State School Music Association's, or NYSSMA's, Zone 1 Representative Michael Robertson.

Robertson spoke to the Westfield Academy and Central School's Board of Education meeting on Monday, Jan. 23 during public comment and complimented the district's continued excellence in music education.

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Photo by Jenna Loughlin
New York State School Music Association’s Zone 1 Representative Michael Robertson asked the Westfield Academy and Central School Board of Education on Monday, Jan. 31 to preserve the district’s absolute treasure of a (music) program.”

"I wanted to make sure you're aware that it's known throughout our region and really, thanks to Mr. (Kent) Knappenberger, throughout the state that your program is just lauded and admired everywhere," Robertson said. "The quantity of students that you have participating in your program and the quality of education they receive from your outstanding music teachers is just staggering."

Robertson also implored the board to continue its funding of Westfield's music department as it creates its budget for the coming school year.

"I hope that you will do everything you can to consider the preservation of this absolute gem, this absolute treasure of a program," he said.

Robertson shared one of the best moments he said he has had in the four years he has been a representative with the board. When students go to the solo festival to audition for various All-States, each solo festival sheet comes across his desk. Robertson remembered a moment two and a half years ago when then Westfield student Nathan Kitchen played a level 6 bassoon solo and received a 100, meaning he would qualify for Conference All-State.

"Very, very fine young man," Robertson said. " One of the just sterling examples of the well-rounded students that are here at Westfield."

Robertson placed the sheet into Westfield's folder and waited to see Westfield music teacher Helen Ihasz's reaction when she saw it. When she did, Robertson said Ihasz broke down crying with happiness and everything she said was "him," "us," "our program," "Nathan."

"The word I never came into it until she said, 'I am so proud of him,'" Robertson said. "These are your music teacher's. They're all like this."

Robertson went on to call Westfield's music program "phenomenal" and said he considers Knappenberger a personal hero. He also brought up how many students are selected to Conference All-State is the greatest example of a music program's effectiveness, noting Westfield had four selected last year. Robertson compared that number to other, larger schools in the area such as Grand Island, Clarence, Orchard Park and Sweet Home all of which had only three students selected.

"That's just what you do here," he said. "You stand up to the so-called big boys and stand toe-to-toe with them.

"I hope that you'll give every possible consideration to again preserving this marvelous, marvelous program," Robertson said.

"I think that it is a really special thing to hear that kind of stuff about our kids," board member Jeffrey Greabell said. "I'd like to thank you for taking your time to come down and share with us tonight. It is very meaningful as far as I'm concerned."

In other business, the recent debate regarding the second entrance available in the morning for parents. Initially, Interim Superintendent Margaret Sauer said she was concerned because when the last time she worked at WACS, the police had advised only having one point of entry. However, since that time, Sauer said a number of changes have been made regarding how the second entrance is used, such as monitoring and greatly limiting the amount of time people are permitted to come in and out.

Because of this, Sauer said she is personally convinced allowing the use of the second entrance is as safe as if everyone was using just the main entrance. Her reasons included the relief of some traffic during peak times, the monitoring and the limited basis it is used.

"I've very comfortable no with the safety," Sauer said.

Before voting on the consensus items, board member Steve Cockram questioned if the board should be recommending an 11th grade student with a first grade reading level receive a driver's license.

"I'm not sure why we as a district would recommend someone with a first grade reading level to get a license," he said.

Board member Mark Winslow assumed it was so the student could get a job and asked if Cockram was concerned about liability issues, to which Cockram said yes.

"The question is whether someone can read a road sign at a first grade level at the speed you're driving at," Cockram said. "And are we recommending this?"

"Apparently they did," Sauer said.

The consensus items, including the recommendation, were passed unanimously.

In other business, the board approved:

the 7th grade spaghetti dinner fundraiser on Feb. 15 or Feb. 23;

Elora Esce as an uncertified substitute teacher for the remainder of the current school year;

Heath Forster to the Supplemental Salary Schedule as Dean of Students effective Jan. 31;

Kimberly Marino-Alguire and Ashley Osterstuck as certified substitute teachers for the remainder of the current school year;

Patrick Quinseberry as a volunteer in the elementary school for the remainder of the current school year;

Everett Reardon as custodian effective Jan. 24

Marge Clement as a long-term substitute teacher of speech and hearing handicapped from Jan. 23 to June 22; and

Ed LeBarron as volunteer softball coach for the current school year.



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