It’s likely that the public comment portion of Monday’s Shawnee Mission School Board meeting won’t be filled with happy tunes.
SM East Band Boosters leaders say they expect somewhere around 50 parents and perhaps that many students and alumni to attend the meeting in a show of solidarity for finding a way to keep SM East’s jazz band program fully staffed. A staffing plan proposed by the administration for the 2013-2014 school year would reduce band director Kim Harrison’s hours at SM East from full time to half time (though Harrison may be assigned additional hours teaching at other schools).
The proposal had drawn widespread dissent from members of the band community. Band parents and alumni have been deluging board members and administrators with messages pleading to find a way to keep a full time teacher with the jazz band.
Kevin Cerovich, a Blue Knights alumni, said Harrison’s devotion to his students helped Cerovich discover his passion for music and build his career. After graduating from the UMKC Conservatory, Cerovich auditioned with the US Air Force Academy Band. He landed a full-time job with them playing trombone.
“I caution…against destroying things that have such potential to affect young people in a very meaningful and lasting way,” Cerovich wrote in a letter to the SMSD board. “I honestly don’t know where I’d be without the SME Band Program and a FULL TIME Teacher who had an insatiable drive to see his students succeed.”
Neal Eidemiller, band boosters co-president and father of two current jazz band members, said he and his fellow band parents simply can’t understand the logistics of the proposed staffing change.
“How can a director handle a program of this size [at half time]?” he said. “When you take resources away from program that’s so respected and honored, you’re going to lose a lot.”
Eidemiller stressed that the district said it is still in the process of trying to find a solution to the situation. But, he said, anything less than a full-time allocation for the band director position at the school would result in serious damage to one of the most successful high school jazz programs in the region.
The school board meeting starts at 7 p.m. Monday at the McEachen Administrative Center, 7235 Antioch Road.