Parents tell school board, ‘More for the arts’

Before parents said a word at last Thursday’s Board of Education meeting, you knew they wanted more resources for the arts. The multipurpose room of Juan Cabrillo Elementary School was filled with the music of the school’s student orchestra. And after the orchestra performed “Pollywoddle Doodle,” “Can Can,” “Pink Panther,” and “Rock Around the Clock,” half the audience left.

Heather Anderson, outgoing president of the Juan Cabrillo PTSA, brought home the point even more. She noted that out of the $100,000 the organization raised for the classroom, $14,000 had been budgeted for art instruction once a month and $10,000 for singing and music theory instruction once a week. Referring to the recent visit of animator Faith Hubley to Malibu schools, Anderson noted: “This is exactly the art experience we are committed to bring to our students.” Pointing around the room festooned with Diego Rivera- and Frida Kahlo-like murals created by students, she said, “Art should be part of every student’s life.”

Anderson made requests for next year. Gratefully acknowledging the board’s $5,000 grant for a fourth- and fifth-grade music teacher, Anderson asked if a similar contribution could be made for the 1999-2000 school year. “As you can tell, this district takes the arts very seriously,” she said. “Don’t let our children slip through the gaps.”

The board’s District’s Fine Arts Advisory Committee, mandated to assess how current district fine arts programs match up to national standards of arts education, asked for broader measures. Besides recommending that the district hire additional staff, the committee urged the board to adopt a “fine arts facilities policy” in order to ensure the health and safety of students enrolled in fine arts classes. Committee Chair Zina Josephs of Malibu, referring to the committee’s 70-page report, noted that classrooms are too small, highly educated staff move furniture and there is inadequate safe storage. Much to Malibu board representative Todd Hess’ frustration, the three pages of committee recommendations came without a price tag. “Has the DAC attempted to cost these requests?” he asked. “Although this is helpful, we will be fortunate if we have any money this year. Requests for people and classrooms come to $2.5 million. I’m concerned that you realize the difference between theory and reality.”

“No, because we didn’t know how much you have,” Josephs replied. “You can understand that we wanted to show you what we need. We understand that you have to tell us how much you have.”

Other board members were more encouraging. “There are safety issues we have to deal with,” Brenda Gottfried said. “We have to find pockets of money.” Dorothy Chapman thought the requests would be appropriate for Proposition X, the 1994 city/county legislation allowing levy of a parcel tax. The board’s next meeting, June 3, will include a public hearing and adoption of a resolution to increase the tax. “We must be concerned for the future, not just one year,” she said.

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In other action, the board unanimously approved the purchase of 14 additional modular school classrooms, two units each of which will go to Juan Cabrillo and Webster elementary schools.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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