Make Every Penny Count


Goal-Setting and School Grants

Give a Note board member Renier Fee connected with the Music & Arts 2017 Music Educator of the Year, Christine Cumberledge of Central Junior High School, Hurst, TX, to discuss goal-setting and school grants. As a music education veteran for 21 years, she knows how to make every penny count.

2018 is here and a new school semester begins. Can you share specific examples of goal-setting for:

Personally, I am going to make a goal to keep myself healthy! I am a mom and a teacher—two full-time jobs! I have to be very efficient and organized or one of those things will suffer! Professionally, I always want to improve the way I teach or find a better way to explain things.

I want my classroom to be a positive and energetic environment. We focus on engagement—I hear every beginner play alone every day. Sometimes this might be only a few notes, but keeps fundamental problems from sneaking by me. I want my beginners to end the first year without bad habits that can hinder them later. Sometimes this requires me to be educationally annoying! I am patient, but very persistent!

This year I have made a goal of trying to have a written objective sheet every six weeks. A lot of what we do in band is subjective, but for students who need more concrete data, this is not always effective. I have found that adding a pass-off or objective sheet is very motivating for some students.

During the year, I want every student I teach to show growth! In almost every beginner class I have a wide variety of learners. I could have the future valedictorian sitting next to someone with special needs. While they may not learn at the same pace, they can all show growth. I try to modify my lesson plans so everyone has an obtainable goal – while challenging the accelerated learners.

Do you share these goals with your principal or school administration?

Part of the new assessment process in Texas requires us to set goals at the start of each year. We spend time at the end of the school year evaluating how we did. Our district is very data-driven. We focus a lot of growth. In addition, there is an expectation that our fine arts programs do well at competition. While this may sound intimidating, I think it holds us to a high standard and is part of the reason our district does well.


teacher of the year

Music & Arts 2017 Music Educator of the Year, Christine Cumberledge of Central Junior High School, Hurst, TX


What technology or tools do you use to monitor the progress of your goals?

We do a lot of objective sheets and charts with students. Not all of our students have internet, and while we would love to incorporate more technology, we have not reached the point where it is possible for every student. In the future, I would like every student to be able to use the new Essential Elements interactive tools—and now that they have added a phone app, we are exploring more of that system.

This is also the semester that you will begin to forecast your budgetary needs for the 2018-19 school year. How do you plan expenses for your school district in which 60% of your students come from low-income families? Where is your money spent?

I am very careful about where we spend money. We do not take a lot of big trips—and I have a good relationship with the coaching staff. They save us a lot of money by driving for band trips that otherwise would have required charter busses.

The majority of our budget goes right back into the students by helping to fund supplies and private lessons. I make it very clear to my parents at the start of the year that money should not keep a child from succeeding in band. We ask for a modest band fee when the year begins. This covers our band binders, method books, shirts, concert uniform rentals, and other operational expenses. We work with families that need assistance. Sometimes students help organize the band room, mentoring younger members, or even keep our music library in order.


budget | CatLane


Does your financial planning rely on booster clubs to bring in outside support?

Our district does not have booster clubs at the junior high level. We do a fundraiser in the fall and spring to try and supplement our budget. For a lot of my parents who have a beginning band student, the first year is just a “toe in the water” to see how band works! I always joke that beginning band doesn’t get to go out in public until December (when we have our first concert)!

Give A Note’s initiatives have provided more than $1.2 million dollars in direct funding to underserved music education programs. These grants can be lifesavers for schools like yours. Do you apply for grants?

You know, I have not applied for any grant before. In the past, I have taken a creative approach to solving problems, and, somehow, we are able to provide for any student who wants to join band. We don’t have a lot of the luxuries that some other programs have, but we make it!

I would never want someone who is in a more difficult situation to go without. The more I think about it, the more I realize this is probably the mindset of most of my families who live month-to-month—we find a way to survive!

Interestingly, the mindset of my students is to give back as well. Last year, we adopted a family in need to provide a nice holiday meal and gifts for the children. It makes me tear up to think of the kids who brought in change from their own savings to help others. I am so proud of the fact that when we do a food drive or a clothing drive, it is often the students who have the least who find a way to give.

Give A Note’s grants are special because they are non-restricted; we trust you to spend the money the best way you see fit. No strings attached! If you received a grant from Give A Note, what would you spend it on?

Oh my . . . I have a list! I would like to have a drum set for our jazz band. Right now, we just hope that one of my percussionists is able and willing to bring a set from home. When we don’t have anyone with a set, we just make do with a combination of our concert and marching equipment.

I would also like to have a few iPads for student use. Like I mentioned before, we have many students without access to internet at home. It would be so beneficial to allow them to come afterschool and record assignments.

Thanks, Christine, for your time, and again, congrats on winning the Music & Arts 2017 Music Educator of the Year award!


Read Renier Fee’s past article, “Five Reasons You Should Thank Your Music Teacher.”


music and artsRenier Fee is a member of the Give a Note Foundation Board

Renier oversees marketing for Music & Arts, the largest music education company in the country, with more than 135 retail stores, over 350 retail affiliates, website operations, and a road rep force servicing students and music teachers nationwide.


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