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April 11, 2012

Booster president offers solutions to band growth problems

ROYSE CITY — The band booster president has given the Royse City Independent School District’s Board of Trustees some possible solutions to addressing the problems of a growing band program.

During the school board’s April 2 meeting, Jennifer Smallwood told board members there are some major concerns they — parents and band booster club members — needed to bring to the trustees’ attention.

Smallwood’s comments were made during the “open forum” part of the meeting. This agenda item is described as a “listening opportunity only” for the board. No action was taken.

“As you know, our band program continues to grow each year, not only at the high school level, but across all schools,” Smallwood told the board. “We have some concerns that need to be addressed as we continue at this growth rate.”

First of all, she mentioned that a school policy prohibits students from carrying large musical instruments from school to home on school buses.

There was a time when the band program had enough instruments that allowed students to have one at school and one at home. Extra instruments are no longer available, she said, because of the growing number of students.

Also, she said, with the band program growth in grades six through 12, the school district doesn’t have enough directors to cover after-school practice and sometimes before-school practice.

“Our directors are not able to provide tutoring to help our students practice for UIL events and competitions,” Smallwood said. “This is hurting our student confidence and we feel it needs to be addressed.

“We understand this is a good problem to have, but we feel the school board needs to understand that the band program is an excellent program that provides many champions for our school district and needs some additional help.”

She recommended the following solutions:

• Adding a band director;

• Adding classes at various campuses to have smaller groups;

• Reducing the number of directors who are on each campus at the same time

• Rotating directors during marching band; and

• Providing extra buses so students can get their instruments home and be able to practice.

She then provided additional information on each possible solution.

Regarding the need for an additional band director, Smallwood said when a band director retired recently, he was replaced. However, she said, “we lost one of our band director positions at the other schools.

Middle school has suffered the most, she said.

Directors are having to travel “way too much” between the different campuses and cannot build a relationship with the students. And, she added, tutoring is almost impossible.

Smallwood also elaborated on the possible solution to add classes at various campuses to have smaller groups.

Currently, she said, there are about 80 high school students in one class, 140 middle school students in two full classes, 100 at Herndon Intermediate School and 80 at Ruth Cherry Intermediate School.

“With the amount of directors that are available, Herndon has three director teaching units and Cherry has seven director teaching units because of three different classes going on at the same time,” Smallwood said. “We need three band periods at the middle school.

“We have received news that the high school will have two concert bands, first and eighth period, as well as a jazz and percussion band class. This proves even more that we need an additional director.”

She said the school district should have fewer directors at each campus at the same time.

“We have our head 4A band director that is only at the high school for one period,” she added. “However, other program directors are allowed to be at the high school all day. This seems unacceptable to us.”

Regarding a need to rotate directors during marching band, Smallwood said if there was an additional director, that person could be rotated one time per week to cover other campuses.

Smallwood suggested that the school district provide extra buses so students can get instruments home and be able to practice.

Even students who have smaller instruments that can fit on their lap are being told they cannot bring them onto the bus, Smallwood said.

“The students must be able to practice to be able to improve,” she said.

Facilities also were a topic of concern.

Currently at Herndon, she said, students have class in the cafeteria, “which is very distracting, plus they have to take time away from learning to move the tables and set up chairs and stands.”

She suggested dividing the class and using an empty classroom, like the music room, if possible.

“As you can see, our students are suffering the most and we feel this is a major concern for parents, the booster club, as well as it should be for the school board,” she concluded.

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