Parents and students alike joined forces to protest a Board of Education decision that will eliminate morning band and after school chorus from offerings for the 2018-2019 school year. The board recently decided to move these classes to one of the halves of the new lunch period as the township’s high school transitions to a block schedule format from its current schedule format beginning with the 2018-2019 school year.

Debra Flynn, a band parent at Jefferson Township’s middle and high schools since 2005 and the mother of a current chorus student, spoke on behalf of concerned parents in opposing this decision. She applauded what she said were the amazing musical opportunities Jefferson schools have to offer, and suggested that “we should always, at the very least, be maintaining, and if not, increasing the opportunities in Jefferson’s music department. Cutting out morning band and after school chorus would be doing the opposite.”

Flynn pointed out the success of these two programs to the Board of Education. Since their inception, enrollment has increased in both courses, and most of the academically successful and high-achieving musical students are in at least one of these two programs.

Conflicts Will be Created

These students tend to fill up their schedules almost entirely with advanced placement (AP) and honors classes, which would conflict with band and chorus classes if conducted during regular school hours, like a lunch period. Morning band and after school chorus permit the music students to pursue both their musical interests as well as their academic goals.

Both the chorus and the band are often called upon to participate in township functions, such as the Veteran’s Day memorial observance. (Photo: Maria Weiskott)

“If we move these two classes to during their lunch period, this will not only conflict with students who are in both classes,” Flynn continued, “but will conflict with any other academic offerings that these students could take instead.” Flynn added she hoped that “at the very least” there could be open discussion with parents and students involved in both music programs before the current format is eliminated.

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Alyssa DeNino, a junior at Jefferson Township High School (JTHS), added to Flynn’s remarks. “A lot of students in these two programs are concerned and are actively trying to reverse this decision. We wouldn’t be sending emails and making our voices heard if we didn’t think this was important. As a student enrolled in both morning band and after school chorus, I don’t know what I would do without these two programs next year.”

At the end of these discussions, Superintendent Patrick Tierney said that he would open up discussions on the matter and consider rescinding the recent proposal to change the music program scheduling. Acknowledging that he understands the importance these programs have on the students’ lives, he said he will initiate a dialogue within the coming weeks.

Board Member Amy Gould supported a reevaluation and even suggested an evaluation to determine what else the board could do to further the musical opportunities throughout the district. She went so far as to suggest that the board even reevaluate how the band and chorus opportunities are currently run at JTMS.

Praise for Student Service; Proclamation for Board Members

Gould also commented on some of the community service projects going on in the district that Tierney reported on. At Stanlick, the students ran a food drive for the local food pantry during the holiday season, and Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) at JTHS ran a toy drive for the Junior Woman’s Club.

The consensus is that both were successful, and Gould praised the students for being so heavily involved in the community and giving Jefferson a hometown feel where everyone works together for the greater good.

The Education Committee introduced the increase of environmental research opportunities that will be available next year with a new course. The committee also reported that the school year calendar for next year is under review and will be approved at the February Board of Education meeting.

At the meeting’s close, the board proclaimed January as School Board Member Recognition Month in honor of all the hard work done by members. Board member Michael Stewart used this time to recognize all the new members on the board in recent years. He noted he is glad to have the many new perspectives they bring to the table.

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