CONCORD -- Instrumental music will be back in elementary school after a years-long absence.
The Mt. Diablo school board unanimously approved reinstatement of fifth-grade instrumental music, a program cut in 2009.
Superintendent Nellie Meyer said the effort to add fifth-grade instruction to the 2014-2015 school year resulted from a strong message from the community, and from the board.
"This is what they wanted," she said, adding that music engages students and prevents dropouts.
The re-established program will be funded with $296,534 from the general fund. Meyer said she and the board were also looking next at funding for fourth-grade instruction, and that the district's LCAP (Local Control Accountability Plan) has that program added back in for the 2015-2016 school year.
The unanimous decision brought cheers and applause from teachers and local community supporters at the May 28 meeting. Public comments included emotional thank you's, personal testimonies about lifelong relationships built while studying music as a young student, and proclamations about diversity, inclusiveness and the sheer, participatory joy that people had discovered while playing and performing music.
Joan Miller, president of the Mount Diablo Music Education Foundation, a nonprofit specifically founded after the 2009 cuts to preserve music education for the school district community, thanked the board and said she was "looking forward to reinstating fourth grade, too."
Echoing Miller's enthusiasm, Northgate High School instrumental music director Greg Brown said, "I'm thrilled that the district administration and the school board see the importance of music education and its role in educating the whole child."
Instrumental music director Joseph Scott, of Clayton Valley Charter High School, said his program receives young instrumentalists through the Mt. Diablo school district "feeder pipelines" from Pine Hollow and Diablo View middle schools.
"This decision to reinstate instrumental music at the elementary school level is an incredibly important and positive step taken by the MDUSD board," he noted. "It will have a profound impact on the community, our schools, and the lives of our children."
To prepare for the restoration of the fifth-grade program, a districtwide committee of educators, administrators, teachers and music education foundation members will be formed immediately. They will analyze elementary music programs, recommend a model that best supports the district's program, and assist with the selection of curricular materials.
In other action, the board approved a district reorganization proposed by the superintendent, establishing or changing the job titles and clarifying the responsibilities of nine director positions.
"This was designed to change the structure to support the campuses with a more direct line of supervision and school support," Meyer said.
In a memo detailing the changes and available to the public on the district website, Meyer explained that it is not uncommon for a large school district to project an atmosphere of "disconnect" between students, schools, and the central office.
"This is the structure by which we will see direct, responsive, clear lines of authority and support," her report concluded.
The restructuring establishes three assistant superintendents who will supervise principals and serve as points of contact for the community. New or newly-defined executive director positions with clarified purpose and proposed salary ranges abolished or replaced a number of executive level positions.
Comparing the previous model's $1.88 million to the restructured total, at $1.8 million, Meyer noted the absence of an approximate $100,000 addition for the director of special education (likely raising the new model's total to $1.9 million) and said the goal was to keep the costs equal.
The meeting included extended discussion about regulations relating to nondiscriminatory guidelines and students' rights and protections relating to gender identity. Revised policies, along with a contract with the psychologists' union, were approved.