PORTLAND – Is your child satisfied with the music education he or she receives in the city’s public schools?

Are the music facilities in your child’s school good enough to support high-quality music instruction?

The school district is surveying parents and students as part of an independent audit of music programs in elementary school through high school.

The review is part of the district’s overall effort to improve curriculum and instruction in every subject and make better-informed budget decisions, said David Galin, chief academic officer.

It follows several tough budget seasons, when emotional protests at public hearings staved off major spending cuts in music education. Now, the district faces a $4 million reduction in federal funding in the coming school year and the potential for significant budget cuts in every area.

“Going through these next few years, we’re going to have to make some difficult choices,” Galin said. “If a program benefits only five students, do we still want to offer it? Maybe, but we’re going to make those choices based on something.”

In recent months, similar audits have been done for special education, literacy, athletics and co-curricular programs.

Alyson Ciechomski, the music teacher at Longfellow and Reiche elementary schools, said she and many of her colleagues welcome the audit and hope it generates greater support for the arts.

“It can be a meaningful tool that can be used to strengthen student learning and teacher practice,” Ciechomski said. “It’s good to hear from an outside auditor and from parents to see what their perceptions are.

“You glean what you can and use it to make improvements. It may involve (spending) more money because of what we’re lacking.”

The district will spend about $1.3 million this year on music programs that employ 17 full-time teachers and serve students in kindergarten through high school.

Students in Portland’s 10 elementary schools have weekly music classes and youth bands. The three middle schools offer the equivalent of daily music classes for a year, as well as band programs.

High school music classes are electives. Portland High has 125 students in musical theater workshop, band, chorus or orchestra programs. Deering has 100 students in band, chorus and orchestra programs. Casco Bay High has 25 students in a musical theater intensive course.

School officials hired Tony Pietricola, a music education consultant in Grand Isle, Vt., to review the district’s music programs for a fee of $10,000, said Mary Capobianco, humanities curriculum coordinator.

Pietricola came to Portland in mid-December, when he toured the schools and interviewed music teachers, principals and Superintendent Jim Morse. He also developed two written surveys, one for music teachers and one for parents and students.

He’s now collecting completed surveys and writing a final report that’s expected to be finished by the end of February, Galin said. The school board is scheduled to discuss the report during a workshop meeting April 12.

The report will tally how many students are enrolled in various music programs and how much time they spend on the subject, Pietricola said. It also will address music education facilities, budgets, professional development, curriculum practices, student assessment and teaching techniques, among other things.

Galin said one of the biggest challenges facing music programs is the desire to offer equal programs in all schools with less money. The music audit will help the district consider the possibility of developing a magnet music program at one of the high schools, he said.

“One of the ways we know to strengthen the program is to put more resources into one place,” Galin said. “It’s very expensive to run full programs at both high schools. Can we keep offering everything everywhere? My professional belief is that we should work to have our high schools develop unique programs.”

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

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