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SM East band supporters take protest to school board
The SM East band community took its case to the Shawnee Mission School Board Monday night in an attempt to keep the band director’s job a full-time position.
SM East band students and their protest signs greeted even early arrivals to the meeting outside the administration building. Inside they helped fill the room and sent eight speakers to the podium to plead the case to abandon any plans to cut band director Kim Harrison’s hours and consolidate any of the band instruction at the high school. Current students, former students and parents weighed in on the damage they anticipate to the award-winning program if Harrison is not a full-time presence next year.
Neal Eidemiller, a band boosters co-president, said he met with SM East and district administrators last week and was told that the final decision had not been made, but that some cuts in the band program could be expected. He challenged any relationship between declining enrollment at SM East next year and participation in the band program, suggesting that projected numbers in the band program are up.
“Please don’t doom the SM East band program to a fate of mediocrity,” parent Larry Grekstas added. He catalogued the number of programs that the director guides and how much time Harrison spends with students individually. The importance of individual time was reinforced by two junior members of the band. Current and former members told the board how band participation, especially in the jazz bands had changed their lives.
A lower enrollment projected for SM East next year had been blamed for triggering loss of staff time. Principal Karl Krawitz had said the incoming administration is faced with cutting five teaching positions because enrollment is expected to be down by more than 100.
Incoming SM East Principal John McKinney attended the board meeting Monday. He confirmed that the decision on band hour allocation is not final and said the priority is on “doing what is best for the students.”