by Tori Hamby
When Hopewell High School junior Lindsay Chapman found out earlier this month that her beloved choral program would be cut next year due to budget woes, she was devastated.
“I had to leave school early,” Lindsey said. “I was so upset that I couldn’t make it through the rest of the day.”
However, after Chapman and four fellow classmates – juniors Jamie Robson, Blanca Vega and Kayla Riek and senior Beatrice Urtecho – dried their tears, they decided they wouldn’t say goodbye to the program and chorus teacher Eric Simpson without a fight. Jamie quickly drafted a petition, which has collected more than 250 signatures, and asked other Hopewell students to join her in the girls’ crusade to save their favorite classes.
“We promised our English class that if they would all sign the petition, we would sing for them,” Kayla said. “After we sang, they realized how passionate we are about what we do.”
All Charlotte-Mecklenburg school administrators face tough decisions concerning course offerings and teacher cuts in the face of the school district’s $100.1 million budget gap. Hopewell Principal Louise Jones said in an email that the school is projected to lose 13 teaching positions funded through Average Daily Membership allotments and six positions from other programs – such as band, orchestra and JROTC – that are funded differently.
“I do not personally want to reduce or eliminate any course, but if you realize that a reduction of one teacher is six fewer course sections, and a reduction of 15 teachers means 90 fewer course selections over the year, you start to understand the task that is before us,” Jones said in the email.
But while the girls say they comprehend the difficulty of supporting a school on a reduced budget, they want to know why funding for chorus must be an “all-or-nothing” matter. The school currently offers two basic choral classes, as well as chamber and concert choirs.
“We would be happy if they just kept one chorus class and maybe shared that teacher with another school or had that teacher teach other classes,” Chapman said. “Mr. Simpson is also qualified to teach theater arts and dance classes.”
Chapman suggested the school follow Hough High School and Northwest School of the Arts’ example in their efforts to maintain their choral programs. The two schools share a teacher who instructs students at one school on ‘A’ days and the other on ‘B’ days.
Kerrin Chapman, Lindsay’s mother, added that Hopewell’s decision to eliminate chorus, along with North Mecklenburg High School’s cut of its choral program last year, greatly reduces student singing opportunities in the north Charlotte area and hurts those talented students who may not be able to afford a personal vocal coach to develop their voices.
No matter the outcome, Kerrin said administrators should realize the cut leaves students who want to pursue music as a career at a serious disadvantage. Her daughter aspires to work in the music technology field.
While the petition’s signatures, conversations with the principal and positive feedback from a “Save Hopewell Chorus” Facebook group – which has garnered 162 “likes” – has yet to yield action from school administration, the girls say they are not finished fighting for the program.