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Sun., Oct. 4
Serving the community of Ogdensburg, New York
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Proposed music cut raises sour notes in Potsdam


POTSDAM — Some residents expressed opposition to proposals by school officials to reduce the music program as a way to offset a projected budget deficit of $1.2 million.

Earlier this month, Superintendent Patrick M. Brady outlined a potential Potsdam Central School District budget that cuts 12 positions, including a music teacher through attrition, to trim the spending plan by nearly $1 million.

Mr. Brady said if music teacher Theresa A. Witmer is not replaced after her retirement at the end of the year, the district would drop from five full-time music teachers to four, excluding a part-time teacher. The cut may push early instrumental music education from fourth grade to fifth grade.

“It’s an unfortunate decision to make because we have a strong music program that’s well-respected,” Mr. Brady said. “Unfortunately, this is a trend across the state, where programs that are not mandated but are also important become targets for cuts.”

Resident Elizabeth H.A. Bollt addressed the Board of Education’s Finance Committee on Tuesday, saying she wanted a “well-rounded” education for her children.

“I hope that when you make decisions on cuts, you keep the arts and music. I think (Ms. Witmer) did an excellent job, and her position deserves to be replaced,” Ms. Bollt said. “But I understand you have the most difficult job in Potsdam right now.”

Former board member Sandra D. Morris said she thought the cuts unfairly targeted arts and music as opposed to other extracurricular activities.

“You still have not recommended any cuts to athletic programs, but you’re eliminating a music position,” Ms. Morris said. “It seems like we are making cuts based on who’s retiring.”

Mr. Brady said school officials had considered cuts to athletic programs, but found “there are not significant savings to cuts to athletic programs unless we are planning to reduce a significant number of opportunities for students.”

He also said no cuts were proposed to art programs and if Ms. Witmer’s post is not filled, school officials would work with the other music teachers to try to offset the loss.

His proposal also would eliminate one high school teacher from each of the four core subject areas (math, science, social studies and English), as well as a part-time position from the foreign language department. A physical education teacher, two elementary school teachers and a special education teacher who are retiring would not be replaced. A cafeteria monitor and cashier would be laid off.

“The lack of support in state aid, along with sharply rising costs, created some very difficult choices,” Mr. Brady said. “We have to make significant cuts to maintain the quality of our educational programs.”

Mr. Brady said those cuts would total $987,397 and leave the district with a deficit of slightly more than $200,000.

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