My daughter is in band. She’s been in band since sixth grade and she has loved band all the way through. It has given her a place to exist in the shark tank of high school. Most of her friends are in band, the boys she has dated are in band, the band room has been her home away from home, and the director is her favorite teacher.
A couple of weeks ago, the director was suspended and forced into early retirement next February because of “ethics” charges filed by one parent. I put “ethics” in parenthesis because this is the most UNethical series of events I have ever been witness to, and I watch the news.
I have been wanting to write about this since it happened, but I had to let it percolate for a while because the situation made and continues to make me so angry that if I didn’t take some time, it would’ve come out sounding crazy and disjointed and that is not one of my hallmarks in this world. I realized that it was time a couple of days ago when I woke up one morning to discover that I had been organizing my thoughts in my head while I was asleep. Weird I know, but it’s how I roll. Anyway, these are my true, and honest thoughts, and I plan to disseminate this as far and wide as I can, including sending it to school bureaucrats, so here goes.
Dear School Board, Principal, and other involved persons,
I am writing you today with regard to the recent suspension of our high school band director. I know, I know, you’ve heard all you want to hear; it’s a “personnel issue” and we aren’t supposed to talk about it anymore; blah, blah, blah… Sadly, I don’t really care whether or not you want to hear it, you need to listen, because I have some things to say that I’m pretty sure no one else has said to you because most people are afraid of their own shadows and wouldn’t say sh*t if they had a mouthful. I am not one of those people. This ceased to be a “personnel issue” when what should’ve been private papers between an employee and their employer were made grotesquely public; as a band parent and a taxpayer, when that happened, it became MY issue.
I could go on and on about what a great teacher our director is, but I know you’ve heard it all already. I could tell you how much the majority of kids like/love the director, but you’ve heard that all before. I could point out that the charges are ridiculous, that situations have been ever so slightly twisted to make them into something when they are really nothing, but again, that would be redundant. I could make a case that every teacher, regardless of what they teach or the grade level they teach, tutor students on their own time and get paid for it and if you are going to censure one teacher, you need to get busy and censure everyone else. I could add commentary about band clinics vs. sports clinics, about how the board has a say in everyone who is hired to work with our kids, so there should’ve been no way that they didn’t know who was hired to work with the trombone section during band camp. I could say a lot about ALL of those things, but I don’t think I will, because I’m a fan of original, critical thought and I don’t want to repeat what has already been said. Instead, I’m going off on a completely different path. Money.
I have lived in my home for twelve years as of May 1st. In those twelve years, my property taxes have doubled. Much of that doubling is due to school tax levies. Yeah, yeah, we went a few election cycles without getting one passed, but in the end, they get passed and they are usually whoppers. Not long after we first moved in here, I had to pull my daughter from dance lessons because our taxes went up so much that I could no longer afford lessons for MY kid, due to having to increase funding to the schools. I didn’t like that. Haven’t forgotten it. But in my suburban mom fog, I voted for the damn thing, because well, THE CHILDREN!!
In the twelve years I have lived in my home, I’ve had school busing taken from my kids. The high school decided that learning German, the language of the most powerful country in Europe, was no longer an option, because I suppose, we have a huge population of future priests and doctors in my community who need to learn Latin, but very few aspiring business people for whom the German language might come in handy some day. The art department is in the process of being gutted because well, art. Ewww… Who needs that? Oh right, only the kids who’s entire talent base lies in that direction. Future art school applicants and graduates apparently do not have the right to an education that includes the things they are good at. News flash!! There actually ARE kids who want to go into some form of art for a career. A mom friend of mine actually had to email the principal about an unpaid bill for metals supplies so that MORE supplies could be purchased so the kids could do the projects they needed to do at the end of the year. I’ve seen the giant stadium lights burning during a gushing rainstorm, over CHRISTMAS BREAK, adding to the electric bill, yet we are on the precipice of bankruptcy as a district. When I first started substitute teaching, I filled in for a kindergarten teacher who was leaving for a teaching symposium in Italy. The country. In Europe. I guess they don’t have those things right up the road in say, Columbus. Gotta go to Italy. Our district has built a beautiful new administration building since I moved into my home. I guess that was for the children. Of course it was. I could go on, but I’m certain you get my drift. Take more money, cut out things people need and want because well, the children.
Our band program and our band director have meant everything to my daughter. He has taught her far more important things than how to play a French Horn and roll step. He has taught her to be on time, “early is on time, on time is late…”; he has taught her to try her best, “good, better, best, never let it rest until your good is better and your better best.”; he has taught her that when she is hot and thirsty and sunburnt at band camp and feels like she’s going to die, that if she goes and gets a big drink of water she can do it one more time. He’s taught her that things are more fun if you’re good at them and that practicing and trying and working your butt off pays off. He’s had really high expectations of her, and he has demanded that she meet them. He’s called her out in front of everyone else, and praised her when she’s done well. He’s taught my daughter to be respectful of others, and he’s taught her to strive and have self-respect and joy in a job well done. She has more poise, confidence, discipline, self-respect, drive and maturity than she would have ever had without band. These are all qualities that my husband and I instill at home and having them re-iterated by a respected teacher is priceless. He doesn’t even know he’s helping us. He’s just doing his job. Isn’t that what an educator is supposed to do?
She’s a senior. She has three weeks of school left. He is not coming back until the last week she’s there. He’s been suspended because someone apparently had an axe to grind. I don’t know why, I can only speculate and I won’t do that here. I WILL say that I saw in writing the person responsible say the kids come first. I agree.
Suspending our director doesn’t just hurt him. In fact, if I were him, I’d be on a plane to Florida to spend my two weeks in the proverbial principal’s office on the beach, but I doubt that’s what he’ll do. He’ll start working on next season’s marching band show, or think of ways to improve the bands for their concerts, or ways to help kids learn to try their best. The REAL people being punished over this pointless mess are the children. The ones all the government bureaucrats (and lets be honest, public schools are an extension of the government) purport to always put first. Instead of spending the last three weeks of her senior year enjoying herself, my daughter got in the car today and said she’s done. She told me that band was the only thing that she truly loved about school, and now that he’s gone, it’s no longer the band she loves. Shame on you “put the children first” adults. Shame. On. You.
So what do I want? I want you to rescind the suspension. Let him come back to school immediately to spend these last few weeks with kids who have looked up to him and learned from him and spent so much time with him these last three years. You’ve already pushed him out three months early next year, that’s enough. Quality educators need to be in the classroom. Why should you all care what I want? Next paragraph.
I’ve had it with this school district cutting everything that my kids enjoy. I’m sick of the band having to practice in a dark parking lot because the doc gets on the nerves of the soccer coach who is practicing on the next field. I’m sick of politics and political people. I’m sick of paying over 4000$ a year in property taxes and it’s never enough. I’m sick of the football team getting a giant inflatable football helmet (where’d the money for that come from, hmmm?) and our kids barely get a mention when they win every competition they go to and when they leave for nationally acclaimed parades like Macy’s. I’m sick of all the attention going to jocks who play on a local stage, while our musicians who play on national stages and attract loads of positive attention to our school district get ignored. I’m sick of keeping my mouth shut. The squeaky wheel gets the grease so they say, and I feel mighty rusty. I’ve lived in this community for twelve years. I’ve subbed in the schools and volunteered in the schools, and with scouts, and church. I know a LOT of people. I’ve always voted for the schools, even though it’s bankrupting me. I’ve always supported, for the children. But it has gotten me nowhere. If my daughter has to finish out her senior year without this teacher who has meant the world to her, I will never vote for another school levy in this district ever again. In fact, I will contact the No Lakota people and volunteer for them. I will actively campaign against every levy that comes down the pike. In fact, I may call for an investigation of every school board we’ve had for the last twenty years who let everything that is supposedly so horrible happen. Where have you administrators been for twenty years? If everything our director has done has been wrong, who is not doing their due diligence? It seems to me that would be the administrators.
Please don’t force me into politics. I hate it, but if I HAVE to get involved to right wrongs, and reverse injustices, I will. Free Snyder. Give my daughter back the happiness that band has always given her. Let her graduate on an up note. Do what you say you do, and think of the kids. I’m not alone. I spent an hour and a half trying to get out of Kroger on Saturday afternoon because I kept running into band parents who agree with me. There were two hundred and seventy five kids in band last year. Multiply that over 28 years of service this man has had in our district. Multiply THAT by at least two parents per kid, many have three or four, and remember; band kids grow up and turn into adults who go to the polls. That is a mighty big voting block. Remember, it’s for the children.
No justice, no more of MY MONEY.
Have a day.