I am disappointed to hear of the impending decision to reduce Mr. James Baum to a 0.9 FTE status. I urge you to reconsider your actions. Cutting his status lets down students and sets a very dangerous precedent for the future of quality education at Riverside-Brookfield High School. 

The major issue is that the precedent is being set that it is OK to apply unrealistic standards for arts education and to subsequently punish the teachers and students for it. It is a minor concern to not offer a class one semester because of low enrollment; it is a major problem to expect a very large number of students to be in every class, every term. 

Under this pretense, many classes will not run or will run poorly, and students will be deprived of the opportunities they deserve. When students play great music, they are not merely touching bows to strings or sticks to drums, they are soaring through the greatest heights of human achievement. 

Students are not simply learning about greatness, they are experiencing it in a visceral way that is deeper than words. This is invaluable to success in any field. 

While it is tempting to run a school like a business, the two concepts are fundamentally different. A business operates under the pass/fail scenario where it is either profiting enough or not. 

The challenges of a school, however, are much more complex. A successful school should produce critical thinkers, compassionate individuals and future leaders of society. In order to acquire all of those character traits, any student is going to need the fine arts because they teach tremendous life skills. 

By applying these unrealistic standards to arts education the school is failing in its mission to help shape society’s future leaders. 

If anyone doubts the importance of the fine arts, they need only to examine the last year of my life. Approximately one year ago, I became extremely ill when my body’s nervous system began to severely malfunction. 

I have experienced everything from fatigue to vertigo to difficulty standing and much more. Regaining my health has been a full-time job, but I am finally starting to feel better than ever. Even at the worst points of my illness I knew that this problem picked the wrong person to mess with. 

All of the discipline, determination and happiness I learned though the arts carried me through this tremendous obstacle. Most importantly, I knew that through hard work I could achieve great things. 

Keep offering students the best arts opportunities possible, you cannot have quality education without quality arts education. The teachers are the best and they deserve it. The students are the best and they deserve it. 

Nils Higdon

Chicago