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School district gets group’s top award

Teacher Theresa Holonich teaches students at Letcher Elementary School who learned how to play “Frere Jacques.”

Teacher Theresa Holonich teaches students at Letcher Elementary School who learned how to play “Frere Jacques.”

The Kentucky School Boards Association (KSBA) presented the Letcher County Public School District with the Public Education Achieves in Kentucky (PEAK) Award on May 5 at Letcher Elementary School in recognition of a districtwide piano program.

All third and fourth grade classes in the district, which is about 500 students, take piano lessons once a week.

“Music is so important,” said Anna Craft, superintendent of the Letcher County Public School District. “Math scores go up when you learn music.”

An alumni association donated a Steinway grand piano for Letcher County Central High School in 2009, but wanted students to learn how to play piano. The alumni association along with the Letcher County Education Foundation donated $52,830 to purchase piano labs for all seven elementary schools.

“We wanted pianos in our school and that is what we got,” said Will Smith, chairman of the Letcher County Board of Education.

Sherry Sexton, director of grant programs for the Letcher County school district, attributes the piano program for increased math scores and attendance rates as well as a decrease in discipline referrals.

“You have to have a buyin by local administrations to do these things,” said Durward Narramore, KSBA president-elect. “This support is necessary and is needed. It helps you with education down the road.”

Bill Scott, KSBA executive director, told thirdgrade and fourth-grade students at Letcher Elementary School on Thursday that the school board has given them a special gift.

“What you choose to do with this gift is up to you,” said Scott. “You will enjoy music for the rest of your life. It will pay great dividends down the road.”

Theresa Holonich, district wide piano teacher, travels to each of the elementary schools and uses piano keyboards in the labs to teach students how to play piano.

“I look forward to the future of Letcher County in music class and I hope we inspire children to be musicians and good citizens,” said Holonich.

The PEAK Award, the KSBA’s highest honor, was established in 1997 to focus statewide attention on outstanding public school efforts aimed specifically at enhancing student-learning skills to promote the positive impact of public elementary and secondary education in Kentucky.

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