PACE Board Meeting Reveals Future Cuts

Previous PACE students speak out to protect PACE music for current and future students.


Photo Courtesy of @pace_mhs

A shot from last year’s Kinethestia’s show, the annual PACE dance show.

Sela Breen and Spencer Wolff

On December 1st, a Board of Education meeting was held to discuss budget cuts and how they will impact electives this year. For many, one of the most concerning programs on the chopping block is PACE music, and many PACE students, parents, and alumni attended the meeting to advocate on the program’s behalf. The PACE, the Performing Arts Curricular Experience elective, is one of the most beloved programs at Mamaroneck High School, so the outpouring of disappointment that emerged from the PACE community was not surprising.  

PACE music is one of three artforms that students in PACE focus in. When PACE students become seniors, they can pick to pursue dance, music or theater in a more focused way for their last year in the program. Bill Derby is the PACE teacher who focuses on music and has worked full time at the high school for years but, in the beginning of this school year, he was shifted to be a part-time employee at MHS, and part-time a music instructor at Central Elementary school. The PACE community was enraged by this since the music program was cut for PACE 1 and PACE 3, but it was promised that these changes were temporary for the school year and had to do with COVID-19. 

This shift in Derby’s job was especially worrisome for many PACE students because, in 2017, budget cuts had been cited when the Board of Education tried to cut the PACE 4 music program. Great outrage from the community prevented these budget cuts, but many are still scarred from seeing a beloved part of the PACE program cut. So, when it was announced that parts of the PACE music program, or the entire program, may be cut, this PACE community outrage came back in full swing. 

As PACE President, Arden McHugh (‘20) was the first of several students and alumni to speak as part of the public forum part of the meeting. When asked how she felt about the budget cuts, she said she was “disheartened to hear about the cuts” and frustrated that they always seem to focus on PACE. She  “feel[s] as though every student’s interest should be valued… [and] understand[s] that cuts are a part of running a school district,” but does not believe that the PACE cuts that may happen this year “aren’t really making sense given the information that the board has presented.” 

Lisa Toudic (‘20), when asked the same question, reflected on the importance of Derby to the PACE community. “Students will and always will benefit from seeing Derby,” Toudic says, “because of his energy and profound support.” She believes “reducing his involvement in PACE will lead to a loss in its overall curriculum and experience,” and that PACE’s well-rounded arts education will be diminished by  the lack of curriculum in the music branch of the program.

However, while Toudic and McHugh both were disheartened about the possibility of future cuts, Eddie Kam (‘20) argued that PACE cuts have already been made. He commented, “I think ‘will receive’ cuts implies that this is going to happen in the future when it, unfortunately, has already happened as Pace 1 and Pace 3 music were reduced this year”

MHS Principal Mrs. Clain disagrees with this, stating that “The 2020-2021 school year has posed more challenges, on more levels, than any other school year. Not only did we have to rethink every structural component of the school day to ensure students’ health and safety, we also had a 20% reduction in state aid.” She says that, in these tumultuous times with these difficult conditions, the administration had to make tough choices to impact the smallest number of students at the high school.

Another point that was brought up in the meeting was that PACE was a prime candidate for cuts because of declining enrollment, but this was quickly debunked by both Toudic and Kam’s statements at the Board meeting. Normally, when entering high school, 8th graders are allowed to choose two of the electives they put down on their request form if they talk to their guidance counselor but, this year, students were not allowed to enroll in a second elective. Because students know that it is easy to get into the PACE program since there is not a maximum number of students, many put it down as their second choice. These students who wanted to add to PACE as a second elective were not allowed to, which decreased freshman enrollment in PACE. 

Toudic and Kam were motivated to speak at the meeting because of this problem with enrollment. Kam wanted to speak to the administration’s point that lack of enrollment and lack of interest was why they were cutting the program, because he believes that this has been created by the one elective policy. Toudic wanted to emphasize a personal experience, stating that she “felt as though [her] experience of taking two drastically different electives [PACE and OSR] needed to be heard and was a perfect example as to why the administration should keep the option of taking two electives alive for all Mamaroneck students.” 

While the decision is ultimately up to the Board of Education, MHS Principal Mrs. Clain assures the MHS community that “moving forward, the high school and the district are committed to ensuring the vibrancy of the PACE program, which includes all three components of music, dance, and theater.” But, McHugh is still encouraging people to fight for the PACE Music program, despite reassurance from the administrators. She believes that the fight is not over and that people can still contribute. “I cannot emphasize enough that it’s super important for each student to be attending the board meeting zooms.  We all must be aware of what the board is doing and we must speak out to protect the programs that make MHS unique,” Kam said when discussing the fight against these cuts. He and the members of the PACE community are ready to continue the fight in the coming months, abiding by Kam’s words that “if you’re passionate about something you believe in, then you cannot stop fighting for it.”