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 KHS Choir Teacher Sings ‘Amazing Grace’ to Illustrate Need for Chorus Classes

May 16, 2007 - With the school board poised to cut as many as five positions in the Charles A. Beard Memorial School Corporation, any drama accompanying last night's school board meeting and the public hearing likely did not come as a surprise to most in attendance.

But who knew that there was also going to be live music? Last night's public hearing was held at the request of Jan Crouch, choral music teacher at Knightstown High School and Knightstown Intermediate School and one of five CAB employees notified that their positions may be eliminated for the 2007-2008 school year. Near the end of his hearing, Crouch stood at a microphone and sang eight familiar bars of music.

"Amazing grace, how sweet the sound … that saved a wretch like me." Not hitting a single sour note, Crouch told the board his performance had merely been "technically correct." He then sang the same eight bars again - with feeling.

"The difference between the first eight bars and the second eight bars was heart and soul," Crouch said after his second effort. He told school board members cutting his position and effectively eliminating the choral music department would be removing "the heart and soul" of CAB's music department.

Crouch was not without supporters last night. During the regular meeting that preceded Crouch's hearing, a current student and a former student spoke on behalf of the teacher and the importance of the choral music program.

Susanah Hatton, an 11-year-old fifth grader at KIS, presented the board with petitions she said had been signed by 590 local people opposed to cutting choral music and other art programs. "It's like half our community doesn't want this to happen," she told the board. "What I'm trying to say is don't take these programs away."

The board also heard from a former student of Crouch's. Nicholas Shaneyfelt, a 20-year-old 2004 KHS graduate, said Crouch had encouraged him during his years in Knightstown schools, providing the guidance that eventually led him to pursue a piano performance degree at Notre Dame University.

During the hearing, two others spoke against the elimination of Crouch's position. KHS senior Brianna Hoon told the board that choral music offers students valuable opportunities they would otherwise not have. She said it made her sad to think that younger students might be deprived of these experiences.

Claire Bradshaw, a parent who has had five children attend CAB schools, also encouraged the board not to cut Crouch's position. She said she believed "it's extremely important to keep what we have," and that if cuts need to be made, they should be made in other areas that would not result in the loss of programs for students.

CAB's attorney, Mike Wallman, told the board during closing remarks that the decision to recommend the elimination of the choral music teaching position was based on financial considerations. CAB Business Manager David Bundy and Superintendent David McGuire had earlier testified that a drop in student enrollment and a budgeting decision made in the fall of 2005 had resulted in less available funds.

Tom Cockerill, Crouch’s attorney, told the board they should consider whether recommended cuts will result in the elimination of entire departments, as he said would happen in this case. "You should consider crunching the numbers so as not to crunch the students," he said.

The board is expected to take a final vote on whether to cut Crouch's position and those of four other CAB employees during a special meeting scheduled for Friday, May 25. That meeting, which is open to the public, will be held at noon at CAB's central office building, 345 N. Adams St. Persons who wish to address the board at that meeting are asked to contact CAB at least 48 hours in advance so that they may be placed on the agenda.


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