Remarks given at the July 7, 2015 Regular TPS School Board of Education meeting in support of agenda item G-6.
With your permission Madam President:
My name is Jose Luis Hernandez. I am founding director of Sistema Tulsa. I would like to begin by thanking the School Board for allowing me the opportunity to comment on the Memorandum of Understanding that is being recommended today, which outlines a partnership between the Boston Avenue United Methodist Church and the Tulsa Public Schools in support of Sistema Tulsa.
Sistema Tulsa is a brand new after-school music program with an educational impact focus that will launch on September 9th of this year. On its first and pilot year, it will serve up to 80 students representing three Elementary schools—Burroughs, Chouteau, and Lee. These students will participate in the program daily, receive free tuition, instruments, and instruction from quality teachers, some of which are music teachers in the district.
Our program envisions music education as a tool for human development and social transformation among underserved communities. From the Boston Avenue perspective, it is also an opportunity to provide our fellow citizens with access to what we believe can be best described as an "affluence of the spirit."
Our model is adapted from El Sistema, an international arts learning movement now present in 35 countries and in over 90 communities in the United States. The model supports a philosophy of education based on moderating learning experiences within high-functioning, aspiring, and nurturing communities. Research shows that students participating in musical ensembles with Sistema program around the US are improving their academic achievement, developing empathy towards others, fostering integration among their peers, and persevering through the discipline and focus that the practice of music requires.
A few weeks ago, our Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Deborah Gist, sent out a survey to the Tulsa community so that they could help us discern the most critical needs for education in our district. "What is the purpose of K-12 public education in Tulsa?" she asked. 80% respondents said, and I quote, “To help students fulfill their potential and have choices in life.”
I see Sistema Tulsa as playing a part in response to that need.
Sistema Tulsa affirms that the intensive study of music framed as part of a social or community experience can help participants develop critical habits of mind that will allow them to be persistent in spite of adversity, produce accurate work, work well with others, and think about their future in a positive light.
We will measure positive gains over time with the help of researchers from the Center for Music in Education in Boston and the OSU Center for Family Resilience.
For the past several months we have been working with Principals, PTA presidents, music teachers, and other leaders to shape the purpose and pedagogy of our program. We’ve transferred the most relevant practices and ideas from El Sistema in light of our working context. The process has been very rewarding. It has allowed us to plant the seeds for a truly community led program that can also aspire to be a model for partnerships-in-education.
On behalf our program, its advisory committee and funders; our students, families, and staff. We thank the district for all of the support given to this cause. I also would like to thank Rochelle Klein who helped us lead the effort to bring this MOU to the Board today. Also, the district Fine Arts and Music Coordinators deserve our recognition, as well as the lead Elementary ILD Director for supporting our work.I know that we will do a good work together and will look forward to receiving the School Board’s feedback and input as we sustain and grow this program over time. We are delighted to formally begin this partnership. Thank you very much.