School board tables vote on marching band curriculum status

More than a dozen students and parents commented during the Nov. 19 Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board meeting on plans to change the curriculum status of the high school marching band. The lengthy discussion led to the board tabling voting on the recommended policy change until the Jan. 22 meeting.

Unionville High School policy requires music students who want to participate in band to also participate in the marching band. District administrators have reviewed this somewhat inflexible policy and recommended the marching band’s current “co-curricular” status be changed to a voluntary “extracurricular” program.

Superintendent John Sanville said the administration recommends changing the mandatory requirement “as it will empower students who play musical instruments to make their own decision whether to participate in the marching band.”

Meghan Shea, a Unionville High School senior and four year marching band member, said participation in the band has been “a life changing experience which I may not have gained if the program had not been mandatory. Many eighth grade students transitioning to high school will miss this opportunity.   Members of the marching band conducted a survey, which supports a compromise policy of making marching band mandatory for all ninth grade students who wish to play in the high school band.  Tenth grade through twelfth grade students would be given the latitude to participate in the marching band if they choose.”

Ruth Carl, an East Marlborough Township parent said, “If the marching band’s ‘co-curricular’ requirement is changed to voluntary, there will be fewer students participating and it will be a weaker program. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.”

Mark Stooky, of Chadds Ford Township, spoke in favor of the recommendation.

“I am the assistant scoutmaster and am concerned the current policy serves to deny students who play musical instruments opportunities other than the marching band. A student interested in a Boy Scout leadership position may not have the time for scouting and the marching band. If he chooses scouting, he is denied the opportunity to play in the school band. There are other conflicts as well.  For example a student interested in just the band may have a part time job to save for college. The current mandatory marching band requirement needs to be changed to allow all public school students an opportunity to just play in the band.”

After an hour of public comment, the board decided to table their vote until January, which will allow time for further review and discussion with the administration.

Two members of the board, Jeff Hellrung and Frank Murphy, were unable to attend Monday’s meeting and the seven board members present said theybelieved all board members should have an opportunity to vote on this controversial policy.

The December meeting will only be a brief reorganizational discussion and no voting matters will be addressed.

About Jim Phreaner

After 41 years of auditing large NYSE global corporations, former IRS Agent Jim Phreaner was looking for a project in retirement with fewer regulations and more people. He joined the staff at Chadds Ford Live more than a year ago. James Edward “Jim” Phreaner, 64, died suddenly in his Birmingham Township home on Dec.17, 2012. Jim was a devoted husband, son, father, friend, and neighbor.



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