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Heritage band parents protest assistant band director position cut
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Members of the Heritage High School's band program and their families stood in solidarity as they requested the Board of Education to rethink eliminating the assistant band director position during Thursday’s BOE meeting.

This position cut comes at a time when RCPS is evaluating its faculty numbers based on lower than expected student enrollment and reduced state and local funds. It initially announced in January that it would cut 69 teacher positions. That number was later revised to 58 positions after an unexpected rise in student enrollment late in the year. RCPS hopes to reach those numbers largely through attrition.

At Thursday’s meeting, Heritage Band Booster Club Co-President Priscilla Scales urged school board members to think about the important role the assistant director plays in managing the high school’s band and cited the band’s achievements as evidence.

Scales said within the last year, the band played 32 non-school hour performances with more than 100 students. She mentioned that the band directors’ tasks include preparing music for all performances and coordinating band trips for students in marching band, concert, flag and dance team.

“We say there is a certain synergy between both directors, where one complements the other making this a band of excellence. We really can’t function with both directors not being there,” said Scales.

She added that HHS bands have been awarded numerous awards and invitations including the 2011 Super Bowl of Sound Grand Champions, superior ratings for the Jazz band in 2011 and 2012, as well as being named Grand Champion for flag and dance line.

This year, the Jazz Band performed at Spivey Hall and the marching band traveled to New York City to perform at historic downtown South Street Seaport.

Prior to the regular session, the Finance Committee discussed the potential position cut.

Chief Financial Officer Lee Davis said that HHS principal Greg Fowler made the recommendation to eliminate one band position.

He also mentioned that Salem High School and Rockdale High School have done the same with their band programs.

Davis argued that the band classes did not have an adequate amount of students to warrant a second band director to teach during school hours. He called it a smart decision, to which committee member Darlene Hotchkiss agreed.

“I appreciate Greg looking at the needs and what we have to accomplish and realizing he had an opportunity to help in that situation,” she said. “He is taking responsibility and talking with the band people and letting them know of his decision.”

However, HHS could still retain the assistant band director to work the afterschool portion of the band program using the existing band director teaching supplement still available in the budget, Davis said.

He also weighed the possibility of finding the assistant band director an elementary school music teacher position, while still permitting time afterschool with the high school band students through the use of the supplement.

Heritage High School Band is comprised of a 160 member marching band; three concert and symphonic bands; a 30 member flag and dance line; and a 23 member jazz band.

The BOE expects to eliminate most of the 58 positions through natural attrition and retirements. Remaining certified employees will either fill other vacant positions or be offered a long-term substitute position with reduced pay in order to keep their benefits. However, the school system is waiting until April 23, when faculty must decide to accept or decline their contracts for next year, to have a better idea of the vacancies and positions available.