Compromise to aid VCHS band

After operating under a cloud of uncertainty for more than a year, the Vandalia Community High School band last Thursday received a ray of sunshine when the Vandalia Board of Education agreed to restore half of the director’s position it had cut in early 2013.
Unfortunately, that action comes too late to retain either of the directors that have propelled the program to prominence in this part of the state. High school director Tony Hicks has taken a job in the Meridian Community School District and junior high director Sara Berg recently announced that she is leaving for a similar position in the Altamont Community School District. And who can blame them?
Time will tell if the program can recover. A large measure of that recovery will depend on who the board selects to succeed the experienced directors.
Much credit for keeping the program afloat for the past year goes to the Vandalia Band Boosters, a group that’s worked tirelessly to raise funds and support the program. In fact, the group organized a variety of fundraising activities to amass about $120,000 for Hicks’ salary ($60,000 each year for the 2013/14 and the 2014/15 school years). That’s no small feat in a district in which more than half the kids come from economic backgrounds that qualify them for free or reduced lunches.
We applaud the boosters for their hard work and for their respectful demeanor as they’ve worked with the school board in a tough situation.
By no means is the band alone in facing dire circumstances because of budget cuts. Athletic teams, extracurricular activities and even academic programs have felt the sting of funding or personnel cuts. Parents are now transporting their children to athletic contests. Booster groups are in perpetual fundraising mode. And teachers are facing larger classes as retirees are not replaced.
Unfortunately, school funding cuts are now a fact of life when the state has slashed General State Aid by 11 percent and is apparently unconcerned about the financial plight of downstate school districts. It all stems from the financial mess that state officials have allowed because they aren’t willing to get their fiscal house in order.
We applaud the school board for finding a creative solution to the band’s situation. It’s just too bad that the cuts gutted one of the district’s most successful programs before a fix could be found.

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