WAPS Board: It is time to show leadership on 4th-grade orchestra


From: Bryan Mechell

The media coverage being generated by the Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) Board rejection of the $21,000 GoFundMe donation to help reinstate fourth-grade orchestra for the 2019-2020 school year is, quite frankly, embarrassing.

As a member of a nonprofit board for a musical organization, I get it — budgets are challenging and sometimes hard choices need to be made especially when it comes to music. But this is a problem of the board’s own making. Fourth-grade orchestra shouldn’t have been cut in the first place and it is time for the board to show leadership, take responsibility for this situation, and do better.

The response and engagement from the community on this issue over the past few months — exemplified by numerous testimonials from community members who have been positively touched by music that not only have raised their voices but generously reached into their pockets to support this cause — has been overwhelming. I am one of those voices, having started my early musical journey in the fourth-grade orchestra at Goodview Elementary 25 years ago, learning from some of the same music educators who spoke at last week’s board meeting. That early experience helped shape many of my peers and myself into the people we are today.

The justifications raised by four members of the board for rejecting the community’s generous donation (e.g., paraphrasing and summarizing: we already passed a budget and it was a lot of work; we don’t want to set a precedent; we don’t want strings attached; we don’t feel comfortable with the community telling us what to do; we need to take a holistic view to budget cuts) are the kinds of talking points one might expect to hear in a Congressional committee hearing on C-SPAN.

At the end of the day, the message from the board majority appears to be that it is more interested in maintaining the budget it labored over rather than doing the minimal extra work it might take to accept a creative and readily available solution. Unbelievable.

I am so thankful to the Winona community members and those on the board who are championing this cause and dedicating their time to making a difference. The community expects the board to take constructive, positive action on this issue and get something done at the next meeting. Oh, and by the way, the $21,600 is still sitting in the GoFundMe account. The School Board should accept it.


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