How much should board support music

Kyle Nicoll speaks to the Howard-Winneshiek School Board on behalf of the music program.

Two teachers and two students spoke to the Howard-Winneshiek Board of Education at the monthly meeting on March 26. They gave reasons to keep the part-time aide, Kim Lehmkuhl.

Lehmkuhl currently helps with classes for choir, secretarial duties for both choir and band, is a study hall teacher and accompanies for the various concerts and plays, among other duties.

The board is considering cutting her position as part of a proposed budget cut of $500,000. Choral instructor Karen LeFebvre spoke in Lehmkuhl’s defense during open forum.

She explained choral students are to practice solo and with others. With all of the classes LeFebvre teaches, she is unable to have alone time with 28 students during their study halls. This is where Ms. Lehmkuhl steps in. She also said, “I can’t play piano and direct. I need a paid accompanist. We need to keep the half-time assistant. Let’s keep our program strong.”

Although graduating this year, seniors Eric Iverson and Kyle Nicoll can see the importance of retaining the choral assistant position.

Iverson started off by asking if board members had listened to the radio as they came to the meeting. “Musicians get their education from music teachers and aides.” He went on to say, “Ms. Lehmkuhl spends time organizing things that Mr. Dobbs [band instructor] and Mrs. LeFebvre can’t do. She is a great asset to the music program. If Ms. Lehmkuhl is fired, that would leave just one person teaching 100 plus students lessons.”

Nicoll added, “For three-and-a-half years, I’ve had the joy to participate in this choir. Music is the universal language. Both teachers put in a lot of time and I appreciate it.”

Lehmkuhl then spoke for the retention of her position. “I work as an aide and I don’t want you to cut it. I am passionate about my job. Since 2001, 28 of the 36 valedictorian and salutatorians have been involved with music.” She said music teaches teamwork, responsibility, tolerance and leadership. “It strengthens students emotionally.”

The board was to vote on this issue at the April 2 budget hearing.

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