With school cuts looming, Randolph residents show how arts changed their lives

Several residents, including many Randolph High School grads, spoke up at a town council meeting to try to blunt proposed cuts to the arts at Randolph Public Schools. The schools funds groups like the Randolph High School Marching Band, shown performing during a past Parents Night. Wicked Local file photo by Tom McGinty.

RANDOLPH HERALD – Randolph residents came out in force in support of keeping Randolph Public Schools music, arts, and physical education programs fully funded at the town council meeting June 15.

“During my time at RHS, I’ve learned that without art, music, or PE, I wouldn’t have been inspired to pursue my current track of study in Graphic Design at UMass/Boston,” said Jeanne Dang, Randolph High School Class of 2017, during the Community Input portion of the meeting. “There are so many ways to create art – crafting, designing or even writing.

“As a student, to hear that we are losing art, it means that we are limiting the possibilities of potential artists and art majors through lack of exposure. The study of (art) is just as important to any artistic career as studying math is important to engineers and scientists. Art is inspirational, expressive, and it drives us to use our creativity to achieve success.”

Students and musicians spoke to councilors about the action by school officials to send 26 reduction in force (RIF) notices and nine non-renewal notices to all the art, music and physical education teachers, as well as to five social workers and six K-8 guidance counselors. School Superintendent Thea Stovell, who has pointed out that she had to send them out in keeping with union and contract guidelines regarding timing of layoffs, said she hopes to rehire as many as possible.

John Shiu, director of the String Ensemble at Bridgewater State University, a Boston Pops musician who lives in Randolph, gave some examples of young artists.

The door to the Donovan School’s Music Room, 2017, image by Sharon Swain

“My neighbor’s family of eight being led by the youngest in yoga exercises that she learned from Randolph Public Schools, another neighbor’s RPS child’s artwork being proudly displayed in their kitchen window, and performing with Micah Christian, lead singer of Sons of Serendip, at the Boston Pops, a product of RPS,” he said at the town council meeting. “These examples are the direct result from the dedication, loyalty, hard work, and blood, sweat and tears that these RPS teachers put into these students.

“If we take away the trumpets, take away the paint brushes, and the basketballs from the children of the Randolph Public School System, then what do we want the children in the most diverse school district in Massachusetts to be holding to express their voices?”

A 2019 graduate expressed the importance of the Randolph program.

“I graduated last year and in looking back, I often question if I would’ve been able to make it to graduation without the programs that are currently in danger of being cut,” Rochelle Guerrier said. “My senior year proved to be one of my toughest years not only academically but also mentally and I can say with confidence that on many occasions, band was the only reason why I got out of bed to go to school.

“As someone training to go into therapeutic practice, I’ve already learned that being able to provide the emotional support that teenagers require is not something you can just read in a manual and perfect in a couple of months; you have to train for years before being able to deal with all the possible scenarios that you may encounter at any time.”

Emily Tran, a 2017 Randolph High School graduate, learned to love the arts at a young age. She now is a senior studying illustration at Lesley University.

“My love for art stemmed mostly from my elementary and middle school teachers encouraging me to continue improving my art despite my own self-doubt,” she said. “Art quickly became my way to cope with what was happening in my life, whether it be from stress, depression or anxiety, and during this time of fear and uncertainty, the students of Randolph need music, art, and PE more than ever to express themselves and cope with their emotions in a healthy manner with what is happening in the world currently.”

Jasmine Ngo, a recent Randolph High School graduate, learned what it was like to be flexible.

A dance show held at the Donovan School, 2014, image by Sharon Swain

“I had been in the Randolph music program since I was in the fourth grade,” she said. “In elementary school, I planned to be in the chorus and band programs. Unfortunately, my parents weren’t able to rent or buy a flute for me, but no financial instability can prevent someone from singing. So, I decided to continue my passion for music with the chorus.

“Including both chorus and band in the Randolph music program is essential to students like me – it gives students choices and the opportunity to fulfill their interests in music.

“My combined love for math, science, and stage performances inspired me to know what I want to do in the future – become a TV meteorologist. Students need these programs to help with their character development and feel comfortable when being set out into the real world after high school.”

Isabella Nguyen, a rising senior at Randolph High School, explained how being part of the band boosted her confidence.

“Within the four years I’ve been with the high school band, I remember being afraid of the tall high schoolers as a small eighth-grade girl,” she said. “But within a couple days I realized there was nothing to be afraid of because the people in the band actually cared about each other. It was an environment where everyone was cared for whether or not you were an eighth-grader or a section leader senior.

“This is what the band was. It wasn’t just a group of kids playing their instruments in a room. It was a group of students that genuinely cared about each other and genuinely wanted to support each other. This is what music does for people – it provides a connection to kids and makes them feel a very strong bond with each other.”

District 1 town councilor Ken Clifton addressed the issue.

“During my remarks at the Peace Vigil honoring the life of Mr. George Floyd, I stated that if we really want justice for Mr. Floyd that we need to work together to address the educational divide and other societal inequities,” he said. “I spoke from my conscience then and I speak from my conscience now. So as a community we are defunding our schools and depriving our children by eliminating arts, music, physical education and other critical areas, I am extremely concerned.”

By Bob Michelson

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Members of Support the Students of Randolph advocacy group have organized in its mission to support the eliminated teachers and staff, the whole education of Randolph’s students, with a goal of reversing the decisions of the district.  To learn more about Support the Students of Randolph’s advocacy initiatives, visit the Facebook group at facebook.com/groups/SupportTheStudentsOfRPS/ or visit its website at supportrandolphstudents.com.

Public relations and media administration services provided to the Support the Students of Randolph initiative as a Michelle McGrath PR advocacy project.

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