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High school band on chopping block

BY ZACK STEEN

zsteen@dailycorinthian.com

With only eight students enrolled in the Biggersville band, the program may soon play its last song.

The small enrollment number supplied to Superintendent Larry B. Mitchell by the state department of education is being disputed by the school's principal.

"Eight students is just not enough to have a program," said Mitchell. "We can no longer justify offering it."

Mitchell said he reviewed the program two years ago with similar results. He said he gave high school principal Pete Seago a set of band program expectations, which were never met.

While Seago was absent from the Tuesday meeting, elementary school principal Elizabeth White shared his notes with school board members.

By way of White, Seago said he was never given a letter of expectation or a plan for improvement.

White said Seago also recently learned of a discrepancy in state reported band enrollment numbers due to the small school's constant scheduling conflicts. Students who would like to participate in more than one extracurricular activity are often forced to only pick one due to required academic courses offered at the same time. Because of the scheduling issues, Seago's numbers actually state 25 students, not eight, are currently enrolled in band.

"How can we have students in band who aren't enrolled in the class or receiving credit for that class?" asked board president Ricky Fields.

BHS Band Director Libby Cunningham said, due to scheduling, she had an average of 20 students participate in pep band at football games last fall. She said the band marches in local Christmas and Veteran's Day parades and has an active booster club.

"Three musicians from the band have committed to Northeast on a full tuition band scholarship," Cunningham told board members. "One of those students told me they would not be able to attend college if it wasn't for a band scholarship."

In two years as band director at the school, Cummingham said she has never been given a letter of expectation or a plan for improvement and said such should have been provided when her contract was renewed last summer.

Cummingham oversees high school band and general music courses. The campus has one other music teacher in the elementary school "" Kristin Cook, who also teaches chorus for all grades.

By comparison, Seago noted Alcorn Central has 30 band students or 7 percent of the student body, while Kossuth has 65 students or 14 percent. Biggersville band enrollment, at 25 students, is 16 percent of the student population.

A vote to close the program was tabled to May 13 when board members will be given costs associated with keeping the Biggersville band alive.

Board members Fields, Daniel Cooper, Ann Little and Judd Chapman each voted to table discussion, while Mary Coleman voted against tabling.