Co-curricular or extracurricular? Germantown debates Wall of Sound

100 people show support of summer band program

May 15, 2012

Germantown - With more than 100 students, parents and teachers in the audience showing support for the Wall of Sound on Monday night, the Germantown School Board decided to table the item until more information is gathered.

The debate was threefold: whether the Wall of Sound should continue to be treated as a co-curricular activity with the pay as part of the instructor's contract or if it is an extracurricular activity that should be compensated for accordingly; whether the Wall of Sound should continue on a tryout basis; and how to compensate for the band director's 170-plus hours spent working with the band program outside of the classroom should it be considered extracurricular.

In years past, student placement in the Wall of Sound Clinic was for the purpose of instrumentation and marching configuration, but was limited due to uniforms and facility space. It is considered by administration as an extension of curriculum offered during first semester. Students in the Wall of Sound are the same students enrolled in Wind Symphony in the fall.

"Wind Symphony is a semester long class with a marching component," said director of bands James Barnes. "The Wall of Sound name is just a nickname for a class called Wind Symphony and for students who want to march, but we are limited by the size of the room."

The clinic focuses more on the marching component in preparation for fall performances. For those who aren't in the clinic, there is another three-week summer program open to all students.

Board member Diana Kline wants to increase the size so every student can participate in the Wall of Sound, even if that means they have to practice separately because of lack of space.

"It took a week of summer marching band to learn the stuff and choreography involved," she said of her time in band. "Every class had their part and then after school we would all get together and you didn't have to worry about busting your ear drums because we were outside practicing."

Barnes said the drill is much more intensive than it was 20 years ago and the level of performance would not be the same if the students could not practice and learn the drill together. Practicing after school throughout the year, he said, would also take away from the student's availability to attend sports' practices.

Kline said "so be it."

Tryouts motivate musicians

Two students spoke at the start of the meeting, saying they weren't accepted into the program their freshmen year which forced them to work harder. They were then accepted the following summer.

"This isn't the 1980s," Barnes said. "If you come to see the Wall of Sound, you will see the difficulty compared to what you and I did 30 years ago."

Barnes said the reason marching band is separate from other band programs if because not all students in band want to march. Kline did not see the problem with forcing students to march if they want to be involved in band.

Although not every student is selected for Wall of Sound, any student can participate in some form of summer band including parade performances.

Board Member Bruce Warnimont was more concerned with the classification of the Wall of Sound as co-curricular, which he said may violate the Department of Public Instruction's guidelines for summer programs.

"All students have the right to attend a summer school program, all students must be allowed," Warnimont said.

Board Member Michael Loth said some summer school classes have an enrollment limit. Once it's reached, no more students are accepted. He did not see the difference between those classes and the summer band clinic.

"We all agree band is a great and valuable program but it's about making sure we're doing this correctly," Board Member Sarah Larson said.

Ultimately, the board decided to seek legal counsel as to whether considering summer band programs as co-curricular is a violation of DPI requirements.

"If our attorney finds we are on thin ice and it's not an academic program, I want to know what's appropriate," Board President Bob Soderberg said.

Should the summer band program be considered as co-curricular, Barnes wasn't sure if he would be expected to work more than 170 hours without pay.

Warnimont said "collective bargaining is gone," therefore how the band director and assistant band director are paid for their hours spent at fundraisers, football games, traveling concerts and the honor society activities is all on the table.

At the tail end of the debate, Kline threw out accusations against Barnes, claiming he was being paid separately by the Warhawk Band Boosters which was met by an uproar of protest from the audience.

The issue will be on the School Board agenda for the May 29 meeting.

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