By Alyson Queen –
At the end of this school year, music teacher Leslie Bricker will be retiring from Broadview Public School just as it celebrates its centennial anniversary.
The much-loved instructor was a music specialist for the Early French Immersion (EFI) primary and junior grades, producing outstanding choral and musical events involving multiple grades during her nearly eight-year tenure. She also ran a vibrant extra-curricular program.
“She’s a well-loved teacher, it will certainly be a loss,” says Erica Braunovan, School Trustee for Zone 10 Somerset-Kitchissippi.
But with her goes the dedicated position to EFI music instruction for the early grades, part of a suite of staffing changes taking place. Next year, students in EFI Grades 1-3 will have math taught in English, meaning there is a greater need for English teachers and leaving a surplus of French teachers.
That also means that most homeroom primary teachers will teach music, drama, dance as well as visual arts to their class.
It’s a change that has disappointed many parents and also caused concern for the future of the music program at Broadview, which is known to be among the best in the city.
“I’m worried that things like the choir and other collaborative musical efforts are going to disappear,” says parent Albert Kaprielain.
The news was shared in a recent weekly update to parents.
Although many parents are sympathetic to the challenge of staffing decisions, they worry about how this particular choice will impact the students.
Principal Catherine Deschambeault knows that Broadview has a well-earned reputation for the arts and music, including through its student art showcase, Art Alive, and is committed to that continuing. She also points out that the intermediate level will not change, which is well known for its band program.
Knowing it will be new for some of the staff to be teaching arts and music, Principal Deschambeault says plenty of professional development opportunities will be made available.
The OCDSB requires that students have a certain allocation of arts education over the course of the week in their curriculum, and that will not change. School board spokeswoman, Sharlene Hunter, says many of the teachers share Leslie Bricker’s passion for the arts and “will bring together their talents, interests and passions to continue to bring exciting in-class and extracurricular arts activities to Broadview.” Parents, however, still have concerns.
“They aren’t going to take away a math teacher. Music should be on the same playing field. But it’s thought of as a frill,” says Molly van der Schee, a parent of two children at Broadview.
“You can’t pay lip service about music being important and then take away a teacher,” she says.
Some are questioning why a part-time teacher can’t be hired if other resources can be afforded.
Janyce MacGregor is a mother of three children, with one child attending Broadview already and another set to start grade one in the fall.
She has been an active volunteer with the choral program and like many others will be sorry to see Leslie Bricker retire.
“Anytime you have an incumbent music teacher there is a loss. But if you have a foundation built by somebody else, as is the case here, and you brought in a music specialist, I think you still might get exciting results.”
In a world of gadgets and screen time, music and art have become even more important for children’s development.
Kathy Armstrong, Artistic Director of Baobab Tree Drum Dance Community, is also writing a thesis at Carleton University on the value of participatory music for young people on their social, mental and physical health.
“Music is fundamental in developing leadership, community skills and even getting through some of the more difficult adolescent years. It also helps focus energy and attention.”
She worries that music has become expendable as more and more programs or positions begin to disappear.
For a teacher it means the world knowing you’ve had a positive impact, enriching your students’ lives. Leslie Bricker can certainly retire knowing that.
As for Broadview Public School, parents hope that options will continue to be considered for how to build on her legacy and keep such a vibrant primary music and arts program alive.
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