Several people expressed opposition to splitting the band when they spoke to the Iola-Scandinavia School Board at its March 14 meeting.
With about 94 students signed up for the high school band in 2011-12, the administrators have proposed splitting the band into two sections. According to band director Janice Lehr, the only reason she heard for splitting the band is that it would be “educationally unsound to have a big band.”
“We’re considering our director’s ability to give enough attention to each student,” explained District Administrator Joe Price. “In any other context, we would hear concerns that with too many students the teacher can’t give enough individual attention.
“We have proposed two sections because we believe it makes our band better,” he added. “I believe we would have two excellent bands.”
The board’s monthly meeting was moved to the auditorium to accommodate the huge crowd present. Only those who followed proper procedures were allowed to speak.
“The band experience of 90 is better than in a class of 30,” stated Tina Faldet, a parent who has been involved with the school music program since 1999. “Put them together and let them all make great music.”
“Mrs. Lehr can handle it – 80, 95 or even 120,” Faldet added. She indicated that she and another parent are willing to help with the band on a volunteer basis.
“Our band is the envy of all the other school districts in the area,” said George Van Zeeland. “Why would we want to change something that works so well?”
“Can’t we just keep it as one band?” Cindy Buttles pleaded. “It works and it works well as one.”
“A 60-piece band is good. A 100-piece band can be wonderful if you have a great director, which we do,” stated Tom Michael. “Don’t make the mistake of breaking it up.”
“We’re members of the band and this affects us directly,” stated Charlie Scott and Paige Berg.
They went on to explain that splitting the band would increase the workload of the band director. “Large enrollment is what every band director dreams of,” Scott said.
Berg reminded the board that the band has over 100 members prior to graduation, when the eighth-graders are added to compensate for the seniors who will be graduating. To compensate for the disproportionate student-teacher ratio, she suggested adding another teacher to the classroom or using parent volunteers.
“We as band members are well-behaved,” Berg stated. “Mrs. Lehr has never raised her voice in the loudest classroom in the school.”
Scott and Berg also noted that the upperclassmen serve as mentors to the younger band members.
“I recommend to leave the band as it is,” stated board member Bill Peterson.
“If the teacher is in favor of this, I can see no reason to change it,” said board member Randy Frye.
“With declining enrollment, why make a change now?” commented board member Charlie Wasrud.
A motion was made to not split the band. The crowd cheered and gave the board a standing ovation as the motion was passed.