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Facebook page created to save District 26 programs

CARY – More than 1,100 people have joined a social networking Web site group dedicated to preserving music, art and gifted student programs at Cary District 26.

Users have posted scores of comments about the importance of the programs on the Facebook group site “Save Music/Art/Gifted in District 26!” The site also asks former students to share their experiences to demonstrate the value of the classes at a board meeting this month.

Group members include alumni, teachers, students and community members. Ryan Lammers, a 14-year-old student at Cary-Grove High School and Briargate alumnus, created the page. He was surprised by the popularity of the page and the passion of those who posted on it.

“I wanted to get the word out about the cuts,” Lammers said Monday. “I didn’t know what to expect.”

Lammers said he was involved in music, art and theater offerings during his time in the district. He also benefited from the district’s gifted program. Lammers said he hoped that people would send e-mails and letters in support of the programs.

His creation has caught the attention of many key players, including teachers and board members.

“The community is stepping forward and giving itself a voice – that is what this site is doing,” said Randy Lawrence, a member of the online group and a former board member. “Hopefully, this energy can be funneled to make a real positive impact.”

Board member Chris Jenner also is a member of the Facebook group. Jenner said he had been reading posts on the site and looking at comments.

“I’m very impressed with the size of the group,” Jenner said. “I think we all want the same thing.”

Jenner said the board didn’t want to have to cut music and art programs.

“I have urged the administration to look for alternative methods of delivering this curriculum that aren’t as costly,” Jenner said. “I’d rather see a partial program than nothing at all.”

Jenner said he would be sitting in on a meeting of band parents Wednesday to hear additional feedback on the proposed cuts.

The site has helped organize parents and community members concerned about the proposed cuts.

In addition to sharing their experiences, users also have suggested ways to save the programs. The site is full of comments about charity band concerts, car washes, and other community-based fundraising efforts.

And the group page is host to plenty of comments about who is to blame for the district’s financial situation.

Facebook users can join the group and view the page. The site is open to all users and can be accessed by searching for the group “Save Music/Art/Gifted in District 26!”

District officials have outlined 33 proposed cuts that would trim $5,439,927 from the next budget. They range from eliminating music, art, industrial arts and foreign language classes to less time for physical education. Cuts are needed to balance the district’s budget, officials said.

Superintendent Brian Coleman said he was aware of the Facebook site and was glad to see so many people interested. He said both the board and administration encouraged such involvement, which they plan to foster further with a community engagement committee.

The board is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, at Briargate School, 100 S. Wulff St. in Cary.

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