Thursday, August 25, 2011

Strike Out the Band? Only Partially, and It's Better Than the Alternatives

A friend on Facebook tipped me off to this story, which evidently was on the news today (I don't get to watch "the news" all that often, sometimes because I'm not home that early). One local school district's budget cuts have affected fine arts in a negative way, but not the way you might expect; for one thing nobody got fired. So how did they do it? They decided to let the high school bands perform only at home football games:
Starting tonight high school football teams in Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD left the bands behind for away football games. The approved cuts are to the fine arts and athletics departments.

Benching the band is expected to save the district $50,000 in transportation costs, meaning hundreds of students at the district's five schools will perform to recorded music during the 17 away games.

"None of us are happy about having to do that," said the district's fine arts director Jim McDaniel. But "we literally save a teacher's salary, at least, by not going. We didn't cut anybody in the district. We kept everybody. We've been very committed to teachers. They're gonna go to some of the JV games as well and on Sept 23rd we're going to have a night that's just for our high school bands."
There are cuts being made in other areas as well--certain junior high "B" teams are being eliminated, sports camps are being shortened, and parents will have to buy letter jackets for their kids now, instead of the district picking up the tab.

As someone who was a Band Guy in high school, and works with school band programs now, my initial impression is that I'm not wild about the idea. Part of me says that's unfortunate, and that they should have cut the position of Deputy Associate Vice Superintendent for Curriculum Development in the Northwest Quadrant as a better way to save money.

And yet, another part of me is glad that no faculty positions were cut, realizing that not going to away games is just like marching at a second-tier football school such as my alma mater, UNT, where we went to maybe one away game a year. And while the bands won't be quite as performance-tested as usual by the time they get to their regional marching contest in October, it certainly could be worse. (Picking a random C/FB school, Newman Smith, it appears that the band only loses three out of ten games during the season; they only have four away games, but one is against another C/FB school, so it's played in the district stadium.)

I always hate to see any cuts done to fine arts...or any other area that affects students; as you may know from reading this blog, I'd prefer to see non-teaching areas trimmed down a bit first. So while this news disappoints me, I can't keep thinking about this one thing: No teacher lost a job here. So while I hope that a lot of districts don't make this move--football games might become as dull as some of the ones I attended at UNT during college--you have to give them credit for thinking at least slightly outside the box.

What say you? Let me know in the comments.

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