LRHSD tells The Tribune it does not plan to cut arts and music programming after students and graduates raise concerns about severe loss of aid


Amber Murray, a Lenape Regional High School District (LRHSD) alumna and recent graduate of Temple University, said she is now a performer and “was already a paid performer at 23 years old,” and she urged LRHSD The Board of Education continues to fund arts programs in the district.Photo by Nick Weisman

Amber Murray, a Lenape Regional High School District (LRHSD) alumna and recent graduate of Temple University, said she is now a performer and “was already a paid performer at 23 years old,” and she urged LRHSD The Board of Education continues to fund arts programs in the district.Photo by Nick Weisman

SHAMONG – Lenape Regional High School District (LRHSD) tells Pine Barrens Tribune This week, “despite another significant and unexpected cut in state aid for next school year” of $4.69 million, “we do not plan to eliminate music or other arts programs in the 2024-25 school year budget,” which is now before the Executive Committee 3 After preliminary approval by the LRHSD Board of Education on March 20, the County Supervisor’s Office will conduct a review.

In a warning to students and staff, LRHSD Superintendent Dr. Carol Birnbohm warned, “Now, in a year of unprecedented reductions in state aid, this canyon-sized hole requires us to reevaluate several students and graduates of the district’s music and arts programs attended the March 20 board meeting who were concerned about such programs has been put on hold and urged to retain the projects.

A female junior at Seneca High School in the district told the board that “innovation and creativity are increasingly valued,” but it “often falls victim to funding cuts.” She claimed that her research found that 88 percent of New Jersey’s public schools currently offer at least one arts course, while 12 percent do not.

“The decision to cut these programs not only deprives students of a well-rounded education, but also jeopardizes the very essence of human expression and cultural richness,” the student declared, referring to budget cuts to Cal Arts programs. “We should pause and think about the long-term consequences of this decision.”

She declared that the arts were “more than just an extracurricular activity” but “the lifeblood of creativity, critical thinking and cultural enrichment.”

She insists that students learn to “express themselves, embrace ambiguity and develop character” through participation in visual arts, music, drama and dance, and that arts programs “play a key role in developing intelligence, empathy and confidence”.

The student called on the board to “prioritize preserving” such programs, including pursuing potential funding opportunities.

A second student, a junior at Shawnee High School, “is here today to speak on behalf of Shawnee’s music and arts programs,” telling the board, “We all believe it is absolutely necessary to continue to strengthen arts and music programs in our schools , even though they are about to lose their funding.

As an active band participant, the junior believes that “many students see music as an outlet for any anxieties they may have” and that it promotes “a sense of cultural belonging,” in addition to allowing them Develop “the confidence to challenge any obstacles along the way.”

The student said he “believes” music “is the same as any other academic subject and helps to improve students in other subject areas” and he believes the subject should be at the same level as “the main subjects”.

“For example, when musicians analyze music, we think of it as containing and perpetuating the qualities of literature—the notes are words, the form shapes the message, and the dynamics dramatize the movement of the piece, just like the characters in the book,” he says . “When I play music with an orchestra, I’m telling a character’s story or resolving a conflict. Why is this important? Because music teaches you how to learn a new language. It teaches you patience and discipline, and most importantly Yes, it teaches you the importance of belonging and working with your peers to contribute to the common good, which are very important life skills.

The student claimed it would be “totally disturbing” to students across the district “if it were removed,” and took issue with any emphasis on football over music.

Amber Murray, an LRHSD alumna and recent Temple University graduate, describes herself as a performer now, “already a paid performer at 23,” recalling that while attending the district’s Lena After being cast in a high school play, she knew “(acting) was something I wanted to continue doing.”

After landing the lead role in Lenape’s 2017 play Annie, she told her mother, “This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.” After high school, Mowry explained, she studied domestically and internationally, including at the Royal Theater of Dramatic Arts in London. Study dramatic arts at the Academy and “the birthplace of Shakespeare”.

“If it wasn’t for art in high school, I wouldn’t have had this experience,” she enthuses. “This is truly a vital place. Art is not just about performance, it’s about collaboration – every rehearsal I’ve been to has been the result of multiple people working together, both the musicians on hand and the originals of the music. The composer works together, with the conductor, with the second chair violinist, with anyone else…”

She called this a “deprivation” for those who have not had the opportunity to experience theatre, and claimed that she “sincerely implores everyone to keep the arts in our schools because they are so vital to the world around us.”

“Television and media are something that almost everyone enjoys every day,” Murray said. “If arts and music were not supported, how many people would lose out on an important part of their daily lives, whether it’s a song on the radio or reruns of their favorite soap opera after a long day?”

Birnbohm told those who have “spoken wonderfully about the things you love about our schools, put that stuff in an email and send it to the governor right now!”

this Pine Barrens Tribune, After the meeting, LRHSD was asked if music and arts programs would be put on hold, given that the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) has informed the district of funding cuts.

“Since the beginning of (Revised School Funding Formula) S2, our goal has been to preserve most of the elements that make LRHSD a vibrant school district that supports the success of every student,” the district said in a statement. “Despite another significant and unexpected cut in state aid for the coming school year, we do not plan to eliminate music or other arts programs. These programs generally have student-to-faculty ratios consistent with our scheduling efficiency model and generally meet the necessary graduation requirements requirements. Additionally, participating in the arts provides extraordinary opportunities for student development. One student was motivated at a board meeting after learning about cost-saving measures and cuts in New Jersey and other districts across the country. Promote music and art.

This newspaper also asked the district about the specific proposed cuts, as the superintendent alluded to, and was told, “At this time, the district is unable to provide specific details on proposed cost-saving measures to ensure the 2024/2025 balance.” Budget, as the budget is not final until reviewed and approved by the County Administrator. According to the budget timeline, we anticipate a final budget will be presented at the April Board of Education meeting.

“We are committed to continuing to advocate districtwide for the restoration of state aid pending review and approval.”

this Pine Barrens Tribune, Last week, reports emerged of local lawmakers sponsoring, co-sponsoring or joining various legislation that would provide restorative aid to LRHSD and some 139 other districts slated to receive reduced aid in fiscal 2025 under Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy Budget.

When asked if there was any update, Brian L. “The only bill that has moved forward in the past two months is a bill that would allow districts to lose funding for a later budget, but that budget just passed the Assembly Education Committee,” responded Brian Woods.

Like other districts, LRHSD has until the end of April to adopt a final budget. But the Legislature must make a decision on the state budget by July, so any separate relief bill would have to pass by the end of April.

Rich DiCriscio, chief of staff for local 8th District Democratic Assemblywoman Andrea Katz, told the newspaper that a bill is being “appropriated tomorrow” and “I suspect it will be added to the board list for a full vote before Parliament”. April 15,” but that’s not certain and another bill “could be revised before the weeks are out.”

“Congresswoman Katz’s bill to allow certain school districts that have lost state school aid to submit budgets after the FY 2025 appropriations bill is enacted will also be voted on by the full Assembly next week,” DiCriscio added.

Dr. Megan Jones, president of the Lenape District Education Association, declared, “The impact of these layoffs on our workforce must be recognized – every job lost means a livelihood is disrupted.”

“Every day, members not knowing whether their position will be eliminated puts undue stress on our staff,” she said. “For example, I personally received over 90 emails and numerous text messages and was regularly stopped in our halls and in public by members who were worried about being cut or having their programs cut.”

Jones described that the “anxious” ones were not “tenured members” on the district staff but “veteran members with seven to 10 years of service,” and she “pleaded” the board to maintain “transparency throughout the process” and “as soon as possible Notifying affected employees of the cuts to positions and school programs” and stating that “time is of the essence” for them to “pursue other employment opportunities.”

The local union president called on locals to “continue taking action” and called on lawmakers to advocate for “fair and equitable funding.”

“Our students rely not only on restored state aid, but on redesigned funding packages that fully meet their needs,” Jones declared.

In response to Jones, who also said the organization is ready to collaborate, Birnbohm thanked the LDEA for expressing support for these initiatives and further stated: “I hope the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) will do the same, because I have not yet been in the Assembly or Have seen them at any Senate hearing.

“It would be great if we could get copies of their depositions,” the chief added. “We can promote that as well, and I think a united front would be incredible. When I say we have the strength of eight towns, NJEA is bigger than us, and if they can provide support, that would be great.



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