By Gavin Paterniti
The fight to keep music and arts alive in the Jamestown Public School system continues.
The Suzuki music program, an early childhood method of teaching musical instruments, has been present in Jamestown's elementary schools for the past 37 years. After the spring 2012 retirement of Nina Karbacka, who brought the Suzuki method to Jamestown in 1976, a decision by the Jamestown Board of Education had to be made regarding the future of the program.
The board's decision was to cut the program, which will allow already participating students to move through to completion but will not allow future students to be accepted. The decision was met by disapproval during the board's recent meeting on Sept. 25, when concerned parents Tom and Ronit Mecham voiced their displeasure.
The Mechams attended another recent board meeting with their sons, Aaron and Boaz, and 10 parents, teachers and children currently enrolled in the Suzuki program. They also brought along a petition to have Suzuki reinstated to its former capacity.
"We started this petition to see if there was any interest in the community (in bringing the program back) and a lot of people didn't even know that it had gone," said Tom Mecham, who spoke first on behalf of the group. "They were quite surprised that, from their viewpoint, (the cut back) had been done in secret."
Mecham continued with a listing of the benefits of learning music at a young age, which were reinforced by parent Terri Garcia and former music teacher, Catharine Regis-Green.
"I support the reinstatement of the Suzuki program because I think that it addresses the musical needs, academic needs and social needs (of children)," Regis-Green said. "Just as we learn to speak, before we learn to read and write, children are more ear-oriented in how they learn. So, that early ear training is very important and that carries over into academics."
The petition, which was created by the Mechams, has gathered 500 online and hand-signed signatures. Of these, 440 were submitted to the board on Tuesday and 60 were gathered while the meeting was in session. The new signatures will be submitted later.
After the board heard from all of the group's speakers, the four children present were given the opportunity to showcase their skills learned through the Suzuki program, performing a traditional piece called "Lightly Row."
Daniel Kathman, Jamestown Public Schools superintendent, will respond to the petition sometime this week.