“Advocacy and Awareness Presentation for Administration for Post-Pandemic Recovery”
Bellingham Public Schools Music Program
Bellingham Public Schools
The advocacy initiative that I completed was a thorough presentation to the school committee and school administration on the impacts of the pandemic on the music program. Specifically, I demonstrated how our music program in the state of Massachusetts was impacted more than any other academic area or program and the challenges that safety protocols, remote learning, hybrid learning, recruitment and retention presented. At a public School Committee meeting, I presented information about our music program pre-pandemic, during the pandemic, and what support and challenges we were currently still facing.
The main objective of this advocacy initiative was to bring awareness and educate the administration and School Committee on the impact of the pandemic on our district-wide music program, grades K-12. As the K-12 Fine Arts Department Coordinator, I feel my role is to connect the music program through all schools in our district and emphasize vertical alignment and district goals. Although our school administrators and School Committee were very aware of pandemic teaching challenges, this was the first time they were presented information with specifics on how it impacted every school, the vertical growth of the program, individual courses and ensembles, staffing challenges and funding.
The target audience was our School Committee and School Administrators – specifically building principals. This meeting was also a public broadcast so it was available to the entire community via local cable and Zoom.
I presented this advocacy presentation in November of 2021.
Overview of Planning and Execution
To create this advocacy presentation, I consulted with all members of our music teaching faculty as well as the Superintendent of Schools. I created the presentation with several hours of work, and the presentation was given during an evening School Committee meeting.
Tools and Resources
I used enrollment data, course enrollment, previous enrollment and ensemble information. I included professional development initiatives that our music faculty had completed. I also included pictures of students and faculty members.
Marketing and Promotion
After completing this presentation, I shared it will my colleagues on the Massachusetts Instrumental and Choral Conductors Association Executive Board. They asked me to create a presentation for our Summer Institute, a professional development event for music teachers in Massachusetts. I worked with James Stephens and Neil Larrivee to create an Advocacy Session and I showed my presentation as an example for other music teachers in Massachusetts.
FREE! Just my time – and we know our time is valuable but it was worth it to bring awareness and education to the administration in my district. This presentation helped re-frame conversations with administration about scheduling, course selection, support for summer music programs, support for budget and funding and supported ESSR grants that we received for the music program.
The challenges I face are similar to the challenges that every music educator faces in their own districts – to bring awareness to the importance of high-quality music education that is accessible to all students. This is an ongoing challenge and one that changes as our school communities change, our faculty changes, our administration changes and our School Committee changes. Advocacy needs to be an ongoing initiative to strengthen our music programs and hopefully avoid emergency response advocacy.
I believe my advocacy initiative was effective. I received a very supportive and positive response from School Committee members. They appreciated and gave thanks to the music faculty who had gone above and beyond during the pandemic. I think it also re-framed the public perception at public events when they may see some ensembles with smaller numbers than in years past. They can reflect that these enrollment numbers are a product of the pandemic and not a reflection on the teaching or quality of the program. Already, our beginning band and choir numbers have rebounded to pre-pandemic levels. We have not lost any staff positions even with some smaller class sizes. Our high school principal has committed to maintaining a supportive master schedule, even with smaller class sizes for the next few years.
As mentioned above, I think it brought awareness to the challenges we faced during the pandemic and more specifically, what our students went through during this difficult time. It recognized the hard work and perseverance of students and our music booster group, the Bellingham Friends of Music.
Advice for others?
Use my presentation as a template and spend some time on your own advocacy presentation. It is worth the time and effort and also will bring validation and recognition to your staff team on all their hard work.