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School auditoriums, a Big song and dance?

Original post made by Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park, on Sep 19, 2013

The last board vote on Mountain View Whisman middle school plans was 3 Yea, 2 Nay. Here is the short story on why I will again vote against the plans, which have reserved $6.5 million for each school’s new performing arts auditorium.

The teaching staff at Graham supported a balance between new performing arts space and new technology support. So do I. The percentages in the Crittenden staff reports were not quite as clear, but they also support increased performing arts space and technology. So do I.

The problem I think started occurring when the Board, given the first vote on these projects ($50 million), was never given the options of what kinds of performing arts space – and at what fraction of the entire middle school budget.

Performing arts hardware now account for one third of the entire middle school facilities plans! 1/3. That is a pretty big song and dance, even for one who publicly supported the arts during the 2012 campaign. 1/4. That is the fraction of money that is reserved for the ‘big ticket’ auditoriums. These are extremely close in size and complexity to the two high school auditoriums, which we now rent when needed.

The size and complexity of these high-school sized auditoriums means they will take two dedicated “theatre managers,” just like the high schools. $200 thousand a year in expenses. They will also take significant energy to heat and cool. They will need significant parking when used during the times the sports centers are also used.

We have had to give up a remodel for a replacement MultiUse at Graham and a new student PE locker room at Crittenden. There is no money for solar systems, or green energy use certification, or (my favorite) Fire Sprinkler Systems for classroom buildings.

The parent most involved helping Graham’s staff with the staging of musical plays over the last decade, and the one parent called to work with the architects – at a recent public Board meeting – questioned support for these large, costly structures.

What we overspend on song and dance, we will not have to invest in general technology, science, and math. I remind all taxpayers, and my fellow Board members, it is a zero sum game. You cannot dance around the math!

SN is a new MVWSD Trustee

Comments (5)

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Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 19, 2013 at 5:41 pm

Give 'em hell Steven! The district should be focusing 100% on STEM-related infrastructure. Nothing more, nothing less.

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Posted by Observer2
a resident of another community
on Sep 19, 2013 at 5:54 pm

I agree that type of expense is excessive for middle school.

As for the Solar projects--consider doing that with a private investor. They put in the system and sell back electricity at at discount. It won't save as much off the P G&E bill as would owned hardware, but it is still going to be some savings, and more when the rates rise over time.

This seems like something you could introduce that might get some support from other board members.

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Posted by Economist
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Sep 19, 2013 at 6:00 pm

Why do the middle school staffs have a say in any of this, or even the school district admistration. The leaders of local industry and technology should be guiding the direction on new facilities with an eye to the future skills in demand. What we have here is window dressing for the bureaucrats and teachers unions. What a wasted opportunity and a waste of money.

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Posted by incognito
a resident of Waverly Park
on Sep 19, 2013 at 7:40 pm

Actually, Graham DOES need a theatre or performing arts center. The Multi-Purpose Room is too small to accommodate the instrumental music program. However FWIW it's working out quite nicely that instrumental music used LAHS Theater and Vocal Music & Dance uses a local church for their respective concerts.

What the middle schools do NOT need is a full-time theatre manager, unless that's a credentialed teacher who is providing courses in drama, stagecraft, etc. If MVWSD really means it when they chant "it's all about the students" then they know that students need the programs and services that are currently being cut (art and music) instead of newer buildings.

Graham (not sure about Crittenden) could benefit from a modest performing arts center. The science teachers as wel as local STEM leaders should be consulted about capital improvements in those areas. Please don't let the superintendent and the architect decide what teachers need, as is too often the case.

@Economist, the teachers shouldn't have any say about the facilities in which they provide instruction to 150 students/day....haha that's funny. Yeah, what do teachers know about teaching?! (rolling eyeballs)

@Observer 2, is solar energy even on the table for MVWSD? That's the FIRST thing that MVLA added to their campuses, so that they could start saving money ASAP.

Like this comment
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Sep 20, 2013 at 8:06 pm

I ended up voting YES to the 'Phase I only' projects. Solar energy - although sensible by the grants and rebates the High Schools got, actually didn't have much support in MVWSD pre-bond voter polling. The Observer 2 comments may make sense (and I wish I could get 2 more Trustees to vote LEED Silver like the City and High Schools use).

Does anyone in the high schools theatre program know if the theatre managers need to be "credentialed". I love the arts - but we do not anymore have a dedicated "basic digital technology" teacher and curriculum. Learn spreadsheets, word-processing, and minimum web-page design yourself. [Ask your favorite middle school for a Technology Class Syllabus]

I cringed at the architects already starting to offer cost-saving-cuts to the number of sinks the science teachers asked for and might be getting! (will pay for control room for theater?) This is not NYU or a performing arts magnet high school IMO. The number of local STEMS jobs to local performing arts jobs? Sometimes the appropriate song is like being Stoned, "You can't always get what you want to." The community (this community) has paid for two lovely performance auditoriums at our two high schools. To rent these (20 times per year) - is 1/5 the cost of just a theater manager. {+ or -]

Teachers (IMO) always have to be consulted (as a group and through their department groups) and I think the MVWSD Administration (yes Goldman) is doing a wonderful job of organizing this (unless I personally am contacted by the Teachers Union to dissuade me of this impression!).

I'm an elected official, and I always post under my real name to avoid Brown Act problems.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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