Wednesday evening June 10th around 70 concerned staff, citizens, and board members gathered at Around the Corner to receive updates regarding the new performing arts wing of the high school.  Spearheaded by the performing arts department and representatives of the Lakewood City Schools Administration, the crowd was filled in on the status of the new Performing Arts Wing.

First there was a briefing from Jim Reitenbach, Executive Director Operations & Construction who explained that the State of Ohio has 50% of the decision-making power considering that they are providing 50% funding; furthermore, there are three “pots” of monies that any project draws from. Consequently, there is a large disparity between what the new wing needs- specifically regarding the acoustic treatments of the new rooms- and what the State of Ohio has budgeted for the project. The state follows a manual for a school that is 1400-1800 students in size; however, that number does not reflect our school performing arts program and the actual numbers of students served.

To encapsulate the problem, the acoustic treatments need to be planned into this phase of the project and the funds just aren’t there, neither for the consultants needed nor for the actual project. The State of Ohio budgeted 10K for the services of an acoustician; however, the actual cost of was significantly higher. This cost was born by the  performing arts department the firm of Talaske Sound Thinking from Chicago one was retained by the raising of $63K in one week so that a professional could accurately determine what is needed.

Acoustics are important in these spaces for three reasons:

  • to prevent “sonic bleed”- sound coming through the walls or ceiling, disrupting practices, rehearsals or studies;
  • to protect the hearing of students and staff from exorbitant decibel levels; and
  • to promote the ear-training of student musicians; to be able to hear all of the instruments or voices for improves pitch accuracy, harmonic blending, etc.

At the time of this meeting, Talaske is providing the plan and supervision of the plan for the acoustical treatment of the performing arts wing. The estimates of cost for gypsum board etc have come from the Lakewood Administration and Construction Company in preparation for the next step. The music staff asked the community for a vote of confidence and support in potentially raising the necessary funds to complete the project; the estimated figure to do so is around $324,000. 

This target figure of $324,000 incorporates:

  • the “best” acoustical treatment, including multiple layers of gypsum board on the ceiling to provide the safest and cleanest sonic environment.
  • $91K for conservative wall treatment; 93K for wall treatment which he recommends.
  • $211K for the ceilings alone.
  • and $22K for 2 motorized garment storage systems for the uniforms and costumes. Much like ones utilized by a dry-cleaners, it is efficient to use because the clothes come to you and it makes excellent use of otherwise unusable space.   (There could be additional cost for specialty items that make the best us of the space.)

Jim Reitenbach noted that project could actually come in *under* this amount, but it’s always better to aim for the high mark and come under budget than to need more monies later. We also received assurances from  Reitenbach that any “overage” money- monies raised for the building and perhaps not needed- would stay in the Performing Arts budget and could be used at their discretion; those funds would NOT go back into the general fund.

A question was raised about the possibility to renting the Performing Arts areas to community groups, and this possibility remains a viable one. It was mentioned that in time, the space could be rented out to community groups on the evenings and weekends and could potentially be a revenue-producing venue for the Music Department- much like the Civic is for the schools.  However, to be a top-tier space, the acoustics must be solid.

During the meeting, the community present voiced it’s resounding support and with “vote” unanimously “agreed” to explore fundraising for the Performing Arts Wing. There were no dissenting voices. There was a suggestion to create a separate fundraising entity separate from the Lakewood Music Boosters, and that that entity would need to be bonded and insured. At that time, the Co-Presidents of Lakewood Music Boosters Tracey Logan and Rachel Pavey took the floor and offered an immediate vote of the executive board (a quorum of executive board members is necessary and was present) to create an ad-hoc sub-committee of Lakewood Music Boosters to spearhead the fundraising efforts, since LMBO is already bonded, insured, and has the necessary infrastructure that will eliminate unnecessary delays.

Shortly after, the floor was opened for discussion of the staffing changes in the district. As district employees, the attending staff could only share the schedule changes and the ripple effects that will impact the schools and community.

Two elementary music specialists retired at the end of the 2015 school year. Per BOE practices, the Superintendent Jeff Patterson  determined that only one position should be filled and that one position would be eliminated and those job duties absorbed by the remaining staff. While the whole staff is certified for K-12 music, this puts many music educators out of their fields of specialty- ie, vocal music, band, or orchestra.

Furthermore, the elementary and middle school staff are being asked to cover the CHAMPS and Bridges programs- self-contained special-needs classrooms. None of the music staff have certifications in special needs nor do they have music therapy certifications. Last school year a teacher was asked to cover a CHAMPS class and the district called in a Board Certified Music Therapist to consult and supervise.

Due to the extra classes, increased travel time, and planning necessary to get up to speed in these special needs classes, the middle school vocal and instrumental departments will no longer be able to offer extra-curricular music groups. The teachers have been offering the following ensembles WITHOUT PAYMENT for their time.

Potential programming ramifications include: Losing middle school extra curricular music groups: 

  • Harding Singers,
  • Harding Singers Too,
  • Garfield Music Crew,
  • Garfield Drama Club [2 productions per year],
  • Strolling Strings [at both middle schools],
  • both middle school jazz bands,
  • Vive L’Garfield, the Capellas)
  • OMEA Middle School Solo and Ensemble Contest
  • OMEA Middle School Large Group Adjudicated Events
  • Sending students to OMEA District 4 Honors Festival (Band, choir and/or orchestra)
  • Greater Cleveland Middle School Solo and Ensemble Contest
  • Students switching to color instruments
  • Music Before the Parks
  • Elementary School Choirs
  • Elementary Choral Festival
  • Light Up Lakewood

This would trickle down to effect:

  • Vive L’Four
  • Fortes Chamber Choir
  • The Lakewood Project
  • High School Jazz Band
  • Marching Band

The case was made by the music staff that without these “feeder” programs, we will not have well-trained, dedicated and proficient student musicians at the High School level that we currently have. Furthermore, many of these extracurricular ensembles enrich our community with concerts, at public events, and media events.

The meeting wrapped with speakers from the community advocating for music specialists and music therapists for special needs students and a call to action to attend the School Board Meeting on June 15th at Hayes Elementary School. The community was urged to write statements directed at the whole board and last no longer than 3 minutes each.

The information for the meeting is as follows:

Lakewood Board of Education being held on Monday, June 15, 2015, at 5:30 p.m. at Hayes Elementary School, 16401 Delaware Avenue, Lakewood, Ohio 44107.

The Board will move immediately to Executive Session in the Hayes’ Main Office Conference Room and will return to public session at 7:00 p.m. in the Hayes’ Cafetorium.

The Board will then take action on the agenda items that were discussed at the June 1 meeting.

Please note that the meeting will now be held in Hayes’ Cafetorium instead of the Board Auditorium as previously noticed.

The community was also urged to send emails and letters of support to the School Board. Their contact information can be found here.