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Crowd attends meeting to speak out against cutbacks to TASD music program

The Tyrone Area School District Board Room was full of parents, students, teachers and TAHS alumni in support of the school district’s music programs.
It has been proposed that several cuts will be made to the program, which has had a great deal of success over the years. The proposals include eliminating a number of High School Music Theory and Piano classes and consolidation of others. It has also been proposed that the Elementary and Middle School Band Director position will be eliminated at the close of the current school year and the responsibilities of this position be assumed by the High School Choral and Band Directors.
Several parents, students, and members of the community made statements to the board in a public input section that lasted over an hour. High School Choral Director Cathy Young addressed the board introducing the three students from TAHS who will attend All-State Chorus in Hershey this week. She mentioned that it is an honor to have three musicians attend states. Young also briefly expressed her concerns on the proposed cutbacks and that this will limit the opportunities for all students and there should be opportunities for all students.
“Music has to be for all students, not just the very best students,” Young said.
After Young’s presentation, School Board Member Rev. Norman Huff, whose daughter is one of several TAHS alumni who participated in the program and advanced to become a music educator, expressed his support for the program.
“I hope that we as a School Board can do everything in our power to see that this program grows and produces like it has in the past,” Huff said.
One of the other speakers was former Tyrone Area Middle School and High School Band Director Kris Laird, who is also one of the several TAHS alumni who went on to be music educators. Laird expressed his concern that the School District needs to provide students with a well rounded education.
“It is more important that we continue to provide our students with a well rounded education,” Laird said. He also mentioned facts on how music helps students develop higher thinking skills.
Two TAHS students, Junior Kenneth Nearhoof and Senior, Robert Gherrity, were also present and addressed the board. Both students made remarks that they feel the current High School scheduling system is inadequate, not allowing students to schedule a wide variety of subjects, and that this is a reason that students are unable to take music classes. One example they mentioned was that students used to be able to take summer gym classes for completing their gym requirement so students could accommodate POPS Extension Show Choir on their schedules and that students are presently unable to do that.
One of the students, Nearhoof, said that he now has several study halls that he would rather be spending time elsewhere, possibly in music classes. Gherrity explained several concerns that too many limitations are in place on what electives students can take at the High School, which is part of the lower numbers in both music and other classes also.
“People love it, they enjoy it,” Gherrity said when speaking about the music program.
Lynn Shaffer, whose son Josh is one of the three students attending State Chorus and will be majoring in music in college next year, expressed his concern. “I challenge you as a board, are we looking at football the same way we are looking at the arts program?” Shaffer asked. “Look at it from the passion in your heart, not to take away something just because it looks good on paper.”
Shaffer is concerned that by making cutbacks in the program the School District will not be providing students with opportunities that others have had in the past.
According to Superintendent, Dr. William Miller, music isn’t the only department in the School District being reassessed. Dr. Miller stated that the District looks at the number of students as opposed to other programs and that enrollment in the schools here are much lower than they were 15 years ago. Miller said that other programs have suffered cuts in the past when measured by the same criteria.
The School Board also accepted the resignation of High School Band Director Aaron Patterson, effective the end of the current school year. Students were concerned that with several extra responsibilities, how effective will the new Band Director be and how long will they be willing to stay at TAHS. Dr. Miller stated that each time a resignation takes place that position is reassessed, regardless of the department.
Board President Lee Stover stated that this is an issue at all levels of education. Stover stated that when numbers are low, it can often affect the programs as far as cutbacks are concerned.
When the public comment section ended, Board President Lee Stover and Board Member Raymond Detwiler both thanked and complimented the students for coming forward and voicing their concerns. “We encourage students to express concerns and problems,” Detwiler said.