Parents, board members debate future of Fla. trip


Staff Writer

MARLBORO – Like a newly crowned Super Bowl MVP, Marlboro middle school jazz band and show choir students thought they were going to DisneyWorld.

A six-day trip to the Heritage Music Festival in Florida in the spring of 2007 may be in jeopardy after a recommendation to cancel the trip was made by Superintendent of Schools David Abbott.

Since the 2000-01 school year, seventh- and eighth-graders in the jazz bands and show choirs have traveled to Florida once every two years to participate in a music competition. In May 2003, the competition was held at a high school in Orlando, Fla., where the choirs and bands competed before a panel of judges.

Following their performance, the students received advice and a critique from the judges. The students also had the opportunity to play on the DisneyWorld Tomorrow Land stage and participate in a three-hour workshop with Disney musicians.

The students also had the opportunity to visit Epcot Center, the Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios, MGM Studios and downtown Disney.

Eleven teachers from each of Marl-boro’s two middle schools join the band and choir students on their trip. Pupils who do not make the trip receive instruction from substitute teachers for four days.

At the July 11 Board of Education meeting, Abbott said his recommendation to the board included overnight trips that would permit students to miss only one day of school.

Marlboro Memorial Middle School Principal Joanmarie Penney proposed a trip to Hershey Park, Pa., for the Music in the Park festival. The proposed trip is scheduled for May 4-6, ensuring that students would only miss one day of school.

Marlboro Middle School Principal Patricia Nieliwocki proposed a trip to Virginia from April 27-29, for the Heritage Music Festival.

During the public comment portion of the board meeting, Marlboro High School student Jon Bleier, who attended the Florida trip a few years ago, said all of his school work was made up within two days of his return to Marlboro.

One parent said the pupils do their homework on the bus ride to Florida.

Penney said doing homework on a bus does not replace the instructional time missed.

In regard to what the Disney trip means to the students, Bleier said the trip was the high point in his middle school experience. He said it taught him hard work pays off and called it a great experience students can not get anywhere else.

Lisa Abramson agreed with Bleier’s sentiments and said, “What they learned on that trip to Florida will last them a lifetime.”

Bonnie Miller said it would be a terrible disservice to the students if the trip was canceled.

Miller and many other parents who spoke at the meeting said they believe the number of students who participate in show choir and jazz band would be significantly reduced if the Florida trip was canceled.

Miller said if going on a trip motivates children to join a music program then she is in favor of it.

“Why would anyone want to take this away from our children?” she asked.

One parent who spoke during the meeting was concerned with the difference in the overnight trips proposed by the two principals. She said there should be equity between the schools and she does not believe a trip to Pennsylvania and a trip to Virginia are equal.

Penney said that after the Marlboro Memorial Middle School students won two gold ratings at the Heritage Music Festival it was time for a change. The principal said there are different oppor-tunities at the Music in the Park event at Hershey, Pa., that the children should experience.

Michael Lilonsky expressed his concern with the fact that the community voted to approve the school budget in order to continue excellent programs in Marlboro such as the trip to the music competition in Florida.

Board member Andrea Miller noted that the trip to Walt Disney World is not part of the school district’s budget or curriculum and said linking the passage of the budget and the trip together is unfair.

Miller said the board members understand that the Disney trip is a wonderful experience, however, she said the pupils who are left behind with substitute teachers for four days have to be considered as well.

Board members Isaac Levy, Joe Hsia and Joel Golub said they believe the board should allow the Florida trips to continue at both middle schools.

“The cost here is worth the price,” Levy said.

Board members Raymond Eng, Cynthia Green, Andrea Miller and Joe Waldman supported Abbott’s recommendation to eliminate the Florida trip.

Board members Terry Spilken and Murray Hoffman were not present at the July 11 meeting.

The school board was expected to vote on this matter on July 18.