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Course Changes at RMS

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Course Changes at RMS

Dear RMS Families, 

Earlier this week, Principal Barlow shared the news that there would be two class changes for the 2024-25 school year; Woodshop will replace Movement, and Photography will replace Theatre.

Movement and Theatre are classes that I am very familiar with from my time as a leader in an arts-focused school. I saw first-hand how all the art courses met different student needs, and I had high hopes and expectations that it would do the same here at Richfield Middle School.

Unfortunately, over the past two years, we simply were not able to engage as many students as we would like with these two classes. 

Our district prides itself on listening to students. We intentionally seek out opportunities to engage and listen to what our students want or need in their education and make adjustments based, in part, on their feedback. It is part of what has led to our growing success at Richfield High School and it is having a positive impact at RMS as well.

Listening to students does not mean listening to a select few. It means listening to all students. 

For the past two years, the Richfield Middle School staff have conducted a student survey to gauge interest in course offerings and place students in electives for the following school year. Sixth and seventh grade students complete the survey during the school day. 

This year, the team at RMS added two possible new electives to the ranking options (Photography and Woodshop). These were selected after hearing from many students and families about what they felt was missing from the options provided, and following the successful pilot of an after school photography program through the Best Buy Teen Tech Center. 

Here are the results of the student survey (570 completed surveys):

 

FACS

STEAM

Visual Arts

PE (semester)

New Option:
Woodworking

New Option:
Photography

Theatre

Movement

1st Choice

200

56

58

38

45

35

22

8

2nd Choice

98

91

87

77

68

45

41

17

3rd Choice

83

93

75

71

63

72

36

22

Total 

381

240

220

186

176

152

99

47

In addition to the semester electives listed above, some students also prioritized yearlong electives for next year, including Band, Choir, Spanish and a yearlong PE class.

For comparison, here are the totals for the past two years (students selecting each course as a first, second or third choice):

 

FACS

STEAM

Visual Arts

PE (semester)

Woodworking

Photography

Theatre

Movement

2024-25

381

240

220

186

176

152

99

47

2023-24

358

281

294

147

NA

NA

110

36

I know that removing any class can be a painful change for some students and families. But I also know that we have a responsibility to provide as many options as we can for students to explore their diverse interests and to learn new skills. We are very excited about the two new class choices, as are many students. 

Woodworking (Industrial Technology): This program is specifically designed to meet the needs of middle school students who are undergoing rapid physical, emotional, social and intellectual growth. The course will provide active, hands-on learning that emphasizes technical skills, problem-solving, creativity and cooperation. Students will get to build different projects and incorporate mathematics during this semester-long course. 

Photography: Students will learn the basics of photography as a fine art. This includes composition, lighting, Photoshop and Lightroom. During this course, students will learn the art of photographic storytelling, photographic journalism, project layout, career paths and more.

I want to close by acknowledging the feelings some students and families have right now about this transition and how it is impacting them. We hear you. We understand the impact this has on your child. I know the after school theatre program is not the same as a school-day course. But I also know that, as a school, we need to do more to engage all of our students. Diversifying our classes is the best way to do that.

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to write to me personally. Your voice matters, too. I have read every email and I will be responding to each of you personally. 

Sincerely,

Superintendent Unowsky

P.S. I also want to clear up a few misconceptions that have been passed along on social media. Please take a minute to review the Q & A section below. 


Questions & Answers

Is this about budget cuts? What about the referendum we just passed? You should have more school funding now.

This is a cost-neutral decision. We are not eliminating classes, just offering different options. It is our goal to ensure we are meeting as many of the needs and interests of our students as possible. It is normal for secondary and post-secondary schools to review and modify course offerings on a regular basis.

How can you expect a strong after school drama program without a Theatre teacher? Nobody will do this for free.

Our after school drama program has seen excellent growth in recent years and we are excited to continue offering it, building on the solid foundation that is now in place. 

Faculty who take on co-curricular assignments at the middle school and high school receive a base stipend of $5,526, which is prorated based on multiple factors and negotiated with Education Richfield. For the upcoming 2024-25 school year, this base stipend will be increased to $5,747. Additional funding for costumes, sets and other needs is generated from activity fees and/or booster/community support.

For drama-related activities at the middle school, here are the 2023-24 stipend percentages (from the 2023-25 Teacher Master Agreement):

Role

Percentage of Base Stipend

Amount

RMS Full-Length Play: Director

.5

$2,763

RMS Full-Length Play: Set Construction

.2

$1,105

RMS Costumer

.2

$1,105

RMS Musical: Director

.6

$3,316

RMS Musical: Vocal Instructor

.35

$1,934

RMS Musical: Set Designer

.25

$1,382

RMS Musical: Choreographer

.25

$1,382

RMS One-Act: Director

.3

$1,658

RMS One-Act: Music Director

.29

$1,603

RMS One-Act: Set Construction

.15

$829

RMS Auditorium Manager (12-month)

.95

$5,250

RMS Asst. Director of Stage and Sound

.35

$1,934

RMS Technical Stage Manager

.075

$414

Total Allocation

 

$24,675

 

Theatre reaches and supports students in many ways beyond just academically. How can you cut a class that supports the social-emotional growth of students?

We understand the value of theatre, the arts and of supporting the whole student, which is why we offer a wide range of classes and after school activities. We strive to provide a variety of options in arts and athletics - both of which provide countless benefits to students beyond the classroom. This includes teamwork, problem-solving, creativity, positive peer engagement and more.  

How are students placed in elective classes at middle school?

Starting in the 2021-22 school year, a survey was administered to sixth and seventh grade students, asking them to rank their elective preferences for the following school year (2022-23). RMS staff work hard to provide students with their top choices as much as possible, although sometimes student schedules make this difficult. Incoming sixth grade students are assigned to electives their first year, although they do have the option to select Band or Choir. 

Prior to the 2022-23 school year, students were assigned to electives (called exploratory classes) each year based on their schedules and what was available. 

Read More

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Please read this statement from Superintendent Unowsky regarding the recent course changes.