Today's guest post is by Maggie Fischer, founder and president of the Music Advocates of Carroll County in Maryland. They are a grassroots organization that is dedicated to supporting music education in our schools.
We have a terrific Board of Education. But you know what? They can't know everything all the time. How can we expect them to support music education if we don't tell them what support is needed?
When we founded our organization (Music Advocates of Carroll County), we wanted to create an open dialog with the members of our Board of Education. We also wanted to establish ourselves as professional, positive and willing to work within the system. We knew that we needed to speak the language of the school system, which values data and research in their decision-making. We also knew that we had to present the data in a way that supported the music teachers and didn't make them feel we were throwing them under the bus!
The MACC core team decided to create data binders and meet with individual board members to present our findings. There was a lot of data that could be misinterpreted without an explanation. Two of the five elected members of the BOE met with us for lunch one afternoon (YUM!) and we presented the "State of Music Ed" in our county. We delivered additional binders to the other members, as well as to the superintendent and supervisor for fine arts.
We had a great conversation with the two board members, who were surprised by some of the data. For instance, they did not know that one of our high schools did not offer band or orchestra for a full year. It was also a surprise that 50% of our students who play an instrument in elementary school quit by the time they reach high school. These two issues became immediate action items following our meeting. (And yes! That high school now offers band and orchestra for the full year. They did a terrific job advocating!)
I have to say, making the binders was a very positive move. The binders are easy to update with new information, and we were able to put a face to our organization. The BOE knows us, and I think they also know that we are positive and supportive.
Want to make binders for your community? Check out the binder MACC created with step by step instructions to create your own! This article can be found under the Advocacy section in the Resources tab.
Maggie Fischer is a founder and the current president of the Music Advocates of Carroll County (MACC), a grassroots organization in her home state of Maryland. A life-long music lover, she became an arts advocate after meeting her husband, Joe, who is the director of bands at River Hill High School. The music program has become their second family, and Maggie has seen many students' lives transformed by their involvement in the arts. She continues to write, speak and advocate for music education so that all students will have access to a balanced education.