The principal and music directors from an Iowa high school will be hobnobbing in Los Angeles this week with the Grammy Award nominees.
As part of a program of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences started this year, Valley High School in West Des Moines has been chosen as having the best high school music program in the nation.
Phil Peters, the chairman of the music program at the 2,300-student school, said he believes his school is being honored in part because of some of its special music projects. For instance, the music department regularly commissions and students perform new works by composers. And in the past couple of years, the school has put on operas, which, as Mr. Peters notes, is unusual for a high school.
Selected from an initial pool of 14,000 schools, Valley High was one of 16 finalists for the top National Grammy Signature School award that received cash awards of $5,000 each.
Mr. Peters said the school will receive its award at a nominees' banquet the day before the Feb. 24 telecast of the awards ceremony. But it won't be an actual Grammy trophy, he said.
The district spends $426,000 each year on its lone high school's music program, including salaries for 10 staff members.
Many teachers donate their time and energy to the schools where they work or to their communities. But about half the teachers in a small Pennsylvania town are going one step further and donating part of their paychecks, too.
Forty-six teachers from the 1,350-student Meyersdale district, about 100 miles south of Pittsburgh, agreed to have $5 deducted from their checks every two weeks for the Meyersdale Public Library. Meyersdale teachers earn an average of $37,000 a year, below the state average of about $47,500.
Residents recently voted down two referendums that would have raised taxes to support the operations of the 28,000-volume library. As a result, local teachers formed Project TEACH, which stands for Teachers Empowering a Community's Hope, to raise $5,000 a year for the library.
Although the program has garnered tremendous support from the community, residents just don't want their taxes raised, explained Stephen Smerbeck, the president of the Meyersdale Area Education Association and an English teacher at Meyersdale Junior-Senior High School.
--Mary Ann Zehr & Marnie Roberts
Vol. 18, Issue 24, Page 3