And all that jazz: North Tahoe students show up for class despite it being victim of budget cuts
December 9, 2009
TAHOE CITY, Calif. and#8212; The North Tahoe High School jazz band stuck out like a sore thumb at a November school board meeting.
Folks that young don’t generally show up to the monthly get-togethers for the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, but the half-dozen or so students had an express purpose.
They were there to save their jazz band, one of the course offerings slashed from the high school when budget reductions hit this year.
The students still attend the class on their own time and#8212; at 6:35 a.m. each day and#8212; and want the class to be a credited course again.
and#8220;It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s so worth it. There are so many people who are working for us,and#8221; said Madi Ordway, a sophomore baritone sax player in the class.
Ordway said when the students found out there wouldn’t be a credited class for band, they came together and voted to continue to meet bright and early every morning and to try their best to get the class back onto the school’s schedule.
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and#8220;It’s definitely not a world of happiness at 6:30, but we’re also all pretty motivated to be there,and#8221; Ordway said.
She spoke for the group at the November board meeting, saying the band was an important part of the community. Then she presented a check for nearly $7,000 that the North Tahoe Fan Club raised to pay their teacher, Dean Nordby, for the first semester, in hopes of earning credit for the class.
Luke Funicella, a junior guitarist who also attended the meeting, said the Fan Club’s support of the jazz band is a relief for the students.
and#8220;To know how much support we have from everyone else is such a good thing and#8212; it really takes the worry off of us for the most part,and#8221; Funicella said.
Jennifer Merchant, Ordway’s mother, spoke about the importance of the band to students.
and#8220;My daughter has told me since she was in elementary, in kindergarten at Kings Beach, that she wanted to be in that band,and#8221; Merchant said. and#8220;It encourages kids to stay in school and stick with their instruments.and#8221;
Funicella said he feels the extra work the students put in to stay in jazz band and#8212; the early practices and traveling and#8212; are worth it.
and#8220;For me, personally, it’s worth it because it’s the first year there’s been a guitar player in the band,and#8221; Funicella said. and#8220;I feel I owe it to Mr. Nordby to be there and#8212; he puts in a lot of time for us.and#8221;
Due to a legal gray area, school board director Lisa Mohun asked the district hold, but not cash, the check until the board could review its policy on accepting private funds.
District Director of Human Resources David Inns said he hopes to have the item agendized shortly for a board meeting. He said he anticipates the board will support accepting the funds.
Inns said the jazz band was cut because of tightening staff hours at NTHS.
and#8220;The reason it’s not there is a reduction in our staffing formula due to a reduction in staff,and#8221; Inns said. and#8220;What’s happened is they’re narrowed down to a few choices when it comes down to electives and#8212; we don’t have staffing for it because we don’t have the funds.and#8221;
Inns said he’s fairly sure when the district’s financial situation improves, it will be able to add the class again.
The students would like to see the jazz band as a credited course as soon as next year.
and#8220;I’d love for it to just be a class again so we can get over the back and forth,and#8221; Ordway said. and#8220;We can just play our music and be the best that we can, unfortunately we’ve done more talking than playing this year.and#8221;
Merchant said she wasn’t sure jazz band supporters could or would want to continue privately raising funds, saying ideally the class could be funded by the district next year.
She said the group hopes to raise another $7,000 to pay for the class in the school’s second semester.