Marching band now extra curricular; school budget hearings set

As anticipated, the Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board directors voted unanimously to make marching band an extra curricular activity. The 9-0 vote came during the board’s Jan. 22 meeting held at Charles F. Patton Middle School.

Marching band involvement had previously been mandatory, or co-curricular, for students involved with the symphonic and concert bands. Board members deemed that to be too much of a commitment for students and their families.

While the vote was unanimous, some board members — Gregg Lindner and Kathy Do — said they would have voted to keep the co-curricular requirement for 8th-grade students, and then allow it to be voluntary after that. That was not an option, however.

Do said she would love to see the band continue as is, but that it’s wrong to force participation.

Holly Manzone said that those who argue that there would be fewer students participating in the marching band might be correct, but added: “It may become more enjoyable if kids are there because they want to be there.”

Jeff Leiser addressed a concern that the board wanted to do away with the marching band. He said the board is committed to keeping the band, but that having participation mandatory for concert and symphonic band members was not the way to go.

“It didn’t make sense to me when my daughter was in the band,” he said.

Leiser added that he would hate to think that a student didn’t participate in the other bands because they would be forced to join the marching band.

Jeff Hellrung added: “When the administration and the band director are in favor of this, it’s the right thing to do.”

Prior to the vote, during the public comment period, one East Marlborough resident urged the board not to make the change without some type of plan to ensure the marching band would continue to exist.

Other business:

• The board set the official dates for hearings and meetings on the 2013-2014 budget. Hearings — to be held in the district’s public conference room — are scheduled for Monday, May 6 and for May 8 and 9 if needed. There will be a vote on the proposed final budget during the May 13 work session and a vote on the final budget that will set millage rates during the regular June 17 board meeting.

As previously reported, the preliminary budget is for $72.7 million in revenue and expenses. An aggregate tax increase of 1.67 percent — 1.83 percent in Chester County and 0.89 percent in Delaware County — is within the state’s Act 1 limit and would not require a referendum in the spring primary.

• Board members are considering buying iPad Minis for all eighth-grade students next year. Student families would have the option to buy the devices at “residual” cost at the end of the school year.

• Leiser announced during the meeting that he would not seek re-election for a second term on the board. His current term ends this year. He serves Region B, representing Birmingham, Pocopson and Newlin townships.

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About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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