Came across an article in The Buffalo News that highlighted the career of a high-school football coach stepping down as the Lancaster Central School District's Athletic Director.
As the district's AD since 1993, Len Jankiewicz has been active in seeing the makeover of Lancaster Central football-only stadium including new lights, bleachers and a press-box as well as bringing a state-of-the-art, 31,500 square-foot community athletic field house.
Additionally under his watch, Jankiewicz has added 28 sports programs including boys hockey, girls lacrosse and other, according to The Buffalo News, "modified sports for girls."
Although I did not see mention in the article, nor could find specific information in the Lancaster Central School District website, was whether or not Jankiewicz has provided sports programs or extra-curricular activities for district students with special needs; however, he did work with the Board of Education and town of Lancaster to purchase land for practice fields and refurbished tennis courts, including new lights, for the typical district students.
The Buffalo News adds to Janiewicz's accomplishments, "While all these accomplishments can be measured, the list is even longer of things that can't be."
I find this hard to swallow when the district athletic program ranks at nearly top of Western New York with an annual budget of $500,000.
Upon investigating how much budget is directed towards the Dramatic Arts, a Lancaster Central School District representative could not provide an exact amount dedicated towards this program stating that the monies are spread throughout programs servicing 6,000 students throughout 8 schools (5 elementary, 2 high and 1 middle school).
The Lancaster School District 2010-11 budget lists $1.25 million directed towards co-curricular/interscholastic activities, but lack of further details listed on the online budget and an unreturned phone-call from the school district office did not provide information into where the Dramatic Arts fit into the budget.
Listed online for Lancaster High and Middle schools under Activities and Clubs/Teams, indicates portions of the budget provide these schools money for extra-curricular clubs focusing on Dramatic and Performing Arts. Both schools have "Stage Crew" clubs that teach students the fundamentals of stage sound and lighting. The middle school has a "Drama Club" and the high school Activities page lists a "Performing Arts".
Of the $1.2 million, minus $500,000, one doesn't have to be a detective to assume these clubs, and the other Lancaster high and middle school's 64 non-athletic activities and clubs, receive less than $500,000 annually. The additional monies are further spread among the other district's elementary and high school programs giving some indication into how diluted the allocations become.
Once again, attempts to isolate the money directed towards non-athletic, extra-curricular activities of the Lancaster School district have yielded unreturned phone calls. I am left to assume these numbers are blurred and therefore difficult to account for.
Now the debate over how a school district should prioritize the budget to reflect a more even distribution of money to non-athletic programs, including Arts programs, has been going on for decades. The question at the core of the debate is whether or not a School district should dedicate more funds to extra-curricular programs that only benefit a small group of individuals with athletic talents.
Proponents of athletics programs state that these programs help students build strong work ethics of teamwork and group support as well as promoting physical fitness. Opponents retort that Arts programs build communication skills and benefit a broader range of students including special needs children.
Indeed, there are numerous articles and studies citing the importance of Arts in school districts and the benefits associated with these programs. New Horizons For Learning lists over fifty articles, studies and links with their website page Arts in Education that detail the benefits of Arts in schools.
Both sides have valid points.
Unfortunately in these difficult economic times, school districts are force to make deep budget cuts to their extra-circular programs. Since we live in a culture that favors Sports over Arts, the latter sees drastic cuts while the former, as with the Lancaster School district, with a $500,000 Athletic budget, a new football stadium, new tennis courts and the addition of 28 sports programs, remains relatively intact.
So yes, Buffalo News, in that "while all these accomplishments can be measured, the list is even longer of things that can't be" includes Arts program budgets that are drastically cut or are eliminated.
Just hope that Len Jankiewicz comes out to more theater in his retirement.
Matthew LaChiusa is the Executive/Artistic Director for the American Repertory Theater of WNY who happens to be a complete football junkie but strongly believes there needs to be more balance between Sports and Arts at the high school level.
Below is a video of fellow Fredonia State alumni Lisa Brigantino and her talented sister, Lori as they promote their album "Wonder Wheel". With them is Susan Haefner (another FSU alumni and mega-theater talent) as they preform "I Gotta Find Me Somethin."