The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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May 6, 2014

Band rally doesn’t sway board

CAIRNBROOK — A month ago Shade-Central City’s school board voted 5-4 to drop the district’s music program.

On Monday night, dozens of concerned Shade marching and concert band members stood outside the school to let their voices – as well as their saxophones, trumpets and drums – be heard on the matter.

But the pep rally-style protest, which drew approximately 70 program supporters, wasn’t enough Monday night. The school’s board met, and then adjourned, without a motion for a re-vote.

The exact implications were a bit murky Monday night. School administrators said the move – and projected $200,000 savings – cuts only music education courses in the school and the two teaching positions tied to them.

“The only difference is that music will be entirely extracurricular now,” Business Manager Stacey Papinchak said. “Marching band … chorus and concert band aren’t being cut. And they’ll still be funded.”

But students and parents worried Monday that the district’s move will be a fatal blow to all things music-related in the school.

“Band is about camp over the summer, practices on school days … competitions and events,” said band parent Audrey Andrews, who added that the program is more than just an after school activity.

Students pointed to marching band and their music courses as a critical part of their school lives, with some saying they planned to pursue music as a career after high school. By gutting the music program, that’s an option future Shade students wouldn’t have, said Destiny Tish, a senior band member.

“I can’t imagine going to a school that didn’t offer music,” Tish said moments after she and 22 other band members played to a cheering crowd on a campus lawn.

Bob Lane, Shade’s music director, said 42 students participate in the high school music program, up from seven just six years earlier.

Behind him, signs staked in the ground around read “Save Shade’s band” and “Where would we be without music.”

Joe and Sharon Gardner of Fishertown were a among the crowd of supporters cheering on Shade’s band during the rally – and then shaking their heads with concern after it ended.

“Schools all over the country are doing this,” Joe Gardner said. His granddaughter, Taylor, was among the band members who could be affected by the move, he said.

Board member Steve Sesack stressed the difference next year will be smaller than local residents and students might think. But numbers – both student enrollment and rising costs – forced the district's hand, he said.

“We had 900 students in 1985. We have 477 now,” he said. “Cuts have to be made.”

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What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
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