Today's post is by sophomore Mackenzie Keith at Whitewater High School in Fayetteville, Georgia.
On Monday, March 25th, the Fayette County Board of Education (FCBOE) announced the suggestion of making funding cuts that consist of $320,000 to the fine arts programs of our schools. The following day, I created a petition asking the Fayette County Board of Education to reconsider their proposal.
Personally, I had heard about this from a friend during my French class, but I wasn't sure whether it was just a rumor or not. Later that day during band class at Whitewater High School, our director, Mr. Jack Jean and assistant director, Mr. Rob Truan, made an announcement about the proposed funding cuts. This is what sparked the idea to make a petition.
I just happened to be checking out of school early that day for a doctor's appointment, so as soon as I left the classroom, I began creating the petition on my phone.
I sent out a text message with the link to the petition to almost everyone in my contact list and emailed it to those who weren't. After coming home from school that day, I realized how quickly the petition was gaining support, so I created a Facebook page and had my friend Brian, a Fayette County High School band senior and Amy, a Whitewater High School band senior, help me run it.
The proposed funding cuts include the elimination of all of the Fayette County high school assistant band directors, as well as the 5th grade band and orchestra programs, and cutting any orchestra programs that don't have a "healthy" number of members. There was not an exact number of what a "healthy" number would be. Without our assistant band directors, we couldn't possibly have band programs of such high caliber that we currently have. It's simply too much for only one director to put the program together. As a team, our high school band directors put in as much as 10 hour work days, and 14 to 16 hour days during marching season! Without an assistant band director, it would be impossible for our Fayette County High School marching bands to produce the programs that we are so well known for, and competitions would simply be out of the question. Bands that we compete against from other regions usually have 2-3 full time directors, plus a staff of 8-10 or more!
In response, the FCBOE stated that the middle school band directors would help out with the high school marching bands. This would mean that the middle school bands will not be able to have their after school practices or rehearsals, or play at the middle school football games the entire marching season, hindering their talents, growth, and potential. This same effect will occur with the cutting of the 5th grade fine arts programs. It will set our students back a whole year, which is the difference that sets our county bands ahead of all of the others. Doing so would also rob our younger students of the wonderful experiences that I, and so many other band and orchestra members have shared, thanks to the current 5th grade programs. The idea that the orchestra programs are in danger of being cut out entirely is simply ridiculous, as the orchestra is as important as the band or any of our other fine arts program.
To anyone who thinks that something similar
is happening to your programs,
speak up and speak out!
There's nothing more powerful
than the students' opinion.
Fayette County consists of 17 elementary schools, 6 middle schools, and 5 high schools, serving a total of 20,301 students as of October 2012. At Fayette County High School, there are 185 students in band, and 155 of these band members march in marching band. Whitewater High School consists of 148 band members, with 125 marching band members. All five high schools have a concert, symphonic and wind ensemble band, as well as a marching band. Some of the high schools even have a jazz band and a brass choir.
The meeting at which the school board will vote on the proposed budget cuts was on Monday, April 15th. It was an open meeting, meaning that people can sign up to voice their opinion about the matter at hand. We've planned to have a coordinated line of speakers in order to get our entire cause voiced, as there is a 3-minute limit to the speaking time. If the funding cuts are passed, we'll keep trying to appeal to the FCBOE to convince them that this is a mistake and hopefully get them to change their minds.
Aside from our Facebook page and petition, a spectacular YouTube video has been created and we have also contacted the press to get coverage and publicity for our cause. There has been a published letter to the editor by a Fayette County citizen, local business owner, and previous band parent, with many positive responses.
Originally, I had intended to get, at most, 100 signatures on the petition. Here we are, two weeks later with 2,330 signatures from people from all over the world! It's amazing what a couple of students can do to make a change! We have come together as band members, and as a community with a common goal of saving our successful Fayette County band programs that have served so many students in the past, the present and we hope, the future. We want to let Fayette County Board of Education know that we do not support their proposed budget cuts, and we want to do it with a voice that represents all of our Fayette County schools.
Thank you for allowing me to tell our story. I am hoping that it has a happy ending, and I will let you know the outcome after the board meeting! I hope that if you are reading this blog, and your band program is in jeopardy, that you are inspired with a passion to take a stand and believe that you can save your program.
Mackenzie Keith is a sophomore at Whitewater High School in Fayetteville, Georgia and has been in band for 6 years, starting in 5th grade. She currently plays trombone for the Wind Ensemble and mellophone during marching band season. Mackenzie is also an All-State player and has been part of the GMEA District Honor Band numerous times. She plans to major in Medicine and minor in Psychology and hopes to attend the University of West Georgia to study and eventually have a career as a psychologist. Her favorite subjects include literature, band, and French. Please visit and "like" our Facebook page called Stop FCBOE Fine Arts Funding Cuts, where you can find a link to the petition and a link to the YouTube video.