advice needed: reining in a band director & expen$ive trips
Ladies and Gents: I've recently been approached to help fight a situation in my son's new high school band. This problem is NOT just in this school, but in many schools across the country. This problem is out of control and has awakened a sleeping giant...within myself, and I know in the parents at our high school.
Please help counsel me on how to fight this fight. I need ideas, talking points, solutions, advice, and directions. OK...First, I need to tell you my background, then the dilemma.
I was in band for 6 years in school a gazillion years ago. I have a very deeply ingrained opinion about fairness, hard work, the value of teamwork, and most importantly loyalty. I learned many of these character traits from my high school marching band training. Our band director believed all for one and one for all. Long before a President Bush announced "No child left behind," our band director was crying out, "No student will be left out that participates and works hard." Long before the military trained my husband that "No man is left behind," (usually), I learned it in band.
What does this have to do with anything? Well, our band was FANTABULOUS. We were a class act, Superior ratings every contest for years, were invited everywhere, many of us received scholarships, some had huge music careers, etc. ALL of us working together so well gave our Band an EXCELLENT reputation. To compliment that reputation, we had a Band Director that encouraged mass fund raising so we could take trips. It was that we all worked together so "WE" COULD "ALL GO" ON THE TRIPS that we were invited TO Play (Like the Macy's Day Parade in NY, or in the Mardi Gras Parade in New Orleans, etc...). Well, if we did NOT make enough money so we could ALL GO, then NO ONE WOULD GO. We then planned closer to home trips, etc. It was ALL AN ALL INCLUSIVE ATTITUDE, NOT EXCLUSIVE.
Now, THAT being said, THIS is what is transpiring at our local high school that I will be involved in for the next six years with my kiddos. I'll have two in band at one time, too. Some parents have three in band at once. OK...Here it is:
The Band Parents just had their first meeting for 2006~2007 School Year. My sister has been involved with this group for the past two years. She's been saying YOU HAVE to come to all the meetings because You'll want to. Well, I don't "really" want to, but it's so doggone expensive, I have to go. I can't afford to NOT go.
This year we had to pay Basic Fees for Marching Band Season ONLY, per Student is $317.00: which includes shoes, uniform rental, cleaning, band camp fee at the high school this summer, and "fair share" costs for music. This does not include the Drum line Fees for professional instructions that total an additional $600 PER CHILD. My son is on the Drum Line, so these are his fees: $917.00. This does NOT include the fees for uniform for Concert/Symphonic season. I expect another $200 bill or so to come our way. (Look, I expect fees to be a bit, but these are over the top, IMHO. I guess they're cheaper than bail...or a baby.... ahem...)
There are other fees for other groups, too. Like Flag Corps runs over $900/student a year, too, for uniforms, flags, etc.
These fees do NOT include any food, trips away or anything. So far, the fees are hefty, I think. But this is still not the major problem....
The Band President tried to rope me into a job right off but I told her that I was too much like a "Barbara Streisand to be involved. I'm anal and like things done right. I'm a control freak at times. You'll either love me or hate me, so why don't you just love me from a distance for the first year and I'll sit this one out? I will help out in a pinch." Well, my sister was standing there and said, "Believe her. She likes things done right and doesn't tolerate stupidity well. She's always been like that!" Well, My sister and I had a good laugh because I was purposefully trying to scare people away. We thought THAT will surely keep them from calling us to head up fundraising or something.
The Band Director called me anyway. She "saw" a new spokesperson in me to possibly tangle with this Lion of a Band Director that they do not know how to handle. I would bow out, but this is TOO close to my spinal fluid. I HATE seeing children left out. This Director is causing HUGE divisiveness and he is unresponsive to approaches they've made to him. He does not appear to care and NO one is reigning him in line.
This is where YOUR ADVICE comes into play. The entire board has been FREAKING out about how to handle the Band Director because he has HUGE, EXPENSIVE ideas and trips. He's a TRUE PRIMA DONNA. He's been state Band president, gazillion awards, etc...and he's going to retire in three years. Every year he has an EXPENSIVE TRIP/S to go on and these kids and parents are expected to come up with all of this money in addition to the regular fees. These trips are totally out of hand, too.
The Band President told me that the problem lies with the cost of the trips and how "exclusive: the trips have become. Many students cannot afford to go on these trips. She used this past year's trip to London. We live in the NE part of Florida and flew out of JIA here. The 6 night/7 day trip cost EACH student $2,200. Initially it was to be $2,000, but gas increased and they added on the additional $200 at the last minute or you couldn't go. Literally three days before they were to fly out of town. How many of the band students went to perform? NOT EVEN HALF OF THEM WENT. Yet ALL of them were REQUIRED to do the Fund raisers. Some fund raisers were held so all profits went to the students individual accounts, yet many went to the general fund for new instruments, etc. KEY POINT: EACH TRIP IS FREE FOR THE BAND DIRECTOR AND SPOUSE. How does this happen? Well, the BAND DIRECTOR SAYS SO.
An email flyer went out the other day. This year he has TWO TRIPS planned. The following year ONE Big trip. His email flyer wants everyone's approval for the trips. NO OTHER OPTIONS...JUST A GROUP "OK" FROM THE STUDENTS.
What are this year's trips? Atlanta $700 (five hours up the road) & Hawaii ($1,800) (Trust me...this is not a fixed cost, only an estimate)
Next Year, his last hurrah, the director wants to go to CHINA!!! Projected cost for 5 days is $2,500 per students and the Director again expects to travel for free!!!!
For those of you who do not know, these trips are because someone trying to book parades or tourism sends out invitations to many bands nationwide that are known to be good. Foreign Countries send invites to sister cities to encourage tourism, etc. Schools everywhere get invites.
The Band President has two kiddos in the Band, the VP has THREE: they work their buttocks off for the band, yet they could not afford for their kiddos to go to London this past year. This Band Director gets "P.O.'d" easy and they HAVE to work with him.
FWIW: My sister called tonight. While in Publix shopping she ran into another student that is in another local HS band in our county. Their ENTIRE BAND went to Gatlinburg, TN, then Dollywood, etc for 5 days for $300 TOTAL: Bus, meals, motel. ALL BAND MEMBERS/STUDENTS WENT ON THIS TRIP.
I challenge you to say that your local high school football coach would try to play an away game with only HALF of his team! NO! They would have to FORFEIT! They have almost ALL of their team, or NO ONE PLAYS.
This is my position: Every High School Band with an Outstanding Reputation is built by the individual character and teamwork of hard working students that DESERVE A JUST DESERTS for their hard won efforts. Their REWARD should be a Band Director that is LOYAL AND RESPECTFUL for THEIR EFFORTS AND THE EFFORTS OF the PARENTS involved in their child's life. NO student, parent, or family should have to suffer because of these out of control teacher led trips. We are not talking about a trip that is above and beyond regular school...arranged on a summer schedule, we're talking about a regular school year EVENT THAT IS SUPPOSED TO REWARD THE STUDENT AND BAND FOR THEIR HARD WORK. If ALL of the students cannot afford these OUTRAGEOUS FEES associated with these trips, then the Director should be FORCED to work with the parents and the parents have a DECIDING VOTE on ALL of the invitations the Band receives. THIS is the only way I can see this working out.
What say you? How do we fight this Tiger? Any suggestions on how to politically nip his power NOW?
Thank you for your time. I sure hope you can follow my digress speech tonight.