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Catoctin High losing some teaching positions next year. Marching band threatened as music slot is reduced to half time

Susan Allen
Thurmont Dispatch

(5/1) With pre-registration for school year 2008-09 classes completed, Catoctin High School faces the loss of two and one-half staff positions, including reduction of the school’s only music teacher slot to a half-time position. Not enough students registered for music courses in the fall to justify a full-time instructor. Some parents are very concerned that this may mean the end of the marching band at CHS.

CHS Principal Jack Newkirk stresses that all staffing is determined on a year-to-year basis and having to cancel a course one year does not mean that “it’s gone forever.” School enrollment is not static. Staff may be lost one year and regained in the following one. Besides the change in music staffing, CHS gained half a staff position in science, and lost slots in English, math, and targeted intervention.

“Staffing changes also do not mean firing,” though sometimes a teacher will have to change schools or work at two schools. (Catoctin’s music teacher, Matthew Curran, has been with the school since 2001.) Newkirk adds that “our goal is to keep programs.” He has met with the Catoctin Music Boosters to consider options for next year. Two other high schools in Frederick County, Middletown and Walkersville, have already faced this issue and maintain marching band as an after-school activity without a classroom component.

If marching-band continues solely as an after school activity, the Music Boosters will have to provide all of the financial support to hire a director, an assistant, and coaches for the color guard and percussion section. President Mike Krouse says that while their budget is currently in good shape, they will have to increase their fundraising efforts to cover personnel costs. He and the rest of the board members are exploring the possibility of corporate sponsorship, and opportunities for fundraising in conjunction with the carnival and Colorfest.

Without classroom instruction, booster volunteers will also have to organize additional out-of-school practice time during the summer prior to band camp in August. Krouse believes that “there is a lot of support for the band in Thurmont and Emmitsburg,” but added that parents and students need to understand that “if they want their marching band to continue [in the future], they have to sign up for the course.”

Frederick County high school students often have very little flexibility in scheduling their classes each year. With the establishment of four 90-minute-period “block” schedules in the mid-1990’s, students are limited to four courses per semester. Many of their courses must fulfill credit requirements in English, math, social studies, and science needed for graduation. More students are choosing to include Advanced Placement classes to get a head start on college-level work. Some students need extra time to prepare for the demands of tests now required for graduation. This leaves many students with less time available for elective classes such as music and art.

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