Mason band program faces possible cuts

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Mason Middle School

By Paige Houpt
Mason Times staff writer

Mason Middle School band parents, members and supporters voiced their protest at the April 19 school board meeting on the proposal to reduce the band director’s position to part-time.

The Mason Board of Education is adjusting its budget for the 2011-2012 academic year after being faced with Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposal to cut $470 per pupil.

That money is now offset for many districts by federal money that won’t be available until next year, so the effective per-pupil cut will be reduced to $340 under the Senate plan.

Amber McRay is the band director at Mason Middle School, and Beth Bousfield is the other band director at the middle school, as well as Mason High School.

At the meeting, Bousfield told board members that she understood the awful and unprecedented financial situation the district is up against.

“If the sun shines a little brighter on our finances, on a reinstatement list, I ask that position be added to that list,” Bousfield said of McRay’s position.

Mason High School

Bousfield said that if the band director’s position is reduced to part-time, that could mean:

  • There would  be no team-taught classes at the middle school or high school, and the winter high school concert would be canceled.
  • The jazz band would be eliminated at the high school and middle school.
  • Solo and ensemble classes would only be offered at the high school level.
  • The annual band trip to Mackinac Island would cancel, and all trips at the middle school level would cease to exist.

Sandra Smucker, a Mason Middle School band parent, said that jazz band has been a empowering confidence booster for her daughter Molli.

“The level of growth I have seen in her since she joined the program is truly amazing,” Smucker said.

“She has also improve tremendously in math since she started jazz band,” Smucker added

Liberal arts programs that begin at the middle school level, really motivate students and can really set the pace of their high school and college career, according to Smucker.

After the meeting’s public comments, School Board President Ralph Beebe stressed that no final decisions have been made.

“Remember that the word ‘proposal’ is being used at this point,” Beebe said.

All school districts in the state must have next year’s budgets in place by July 1, and the Mason Board of Education will hold a budget forum in May that will include all the district’s education cuts.

The band director position is just one of many on a list of possible cuts in the 2011-2012 budget, according to Mark Dillingham, superintendent of Mason Public Schools.

Other possible cuts  include, administration, social work, teachers, custodial, secretarial, student run clubs, athletics, community education and summer school.

Dillingham posted a letter addressed to the community that states the district is expected to lose 65 students this fall. The document also noted that the district’s retirement costs are expected to increase in 2011-2012, and the district is projecting a $500,000 increase in retirement expenses, an increase of about 3.8 percent.

“We have a major task ahead of us,” Dillingham said in the letter.

“We’re going to have to work together for our children’s sake in order to weather this major storm,” Dillingham added.

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