No decision yet on band position for Forest zone

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By John Barnhart

    The Bedford County School Board plans to make a decision on whether to restore a band instructor position to the Forest zone band program next month. This position, which is located at Forest Middle School, had been cut when the budget for the current school year was developed earlier this year.

    According to information provided at the school board’s Thursday night meeting by Dr. Mac Duis, director of instruction for the school system, the Forest zone’s band program is larger than that of the other two high schools put together. There are 140 students involved in band at Jefferson Forest High School. Liberty High School has 37 in band and Staunton River High School has 61.
    The school board was presented with options, should it decide to restore this position, with price tags attached. It would cost $48,000 to hire a full-time band instructor and $24,000 to hire a part-time instructor. That’s the cost for a full year. The new instructor would start on Jan. 18, so a full time instructor would cost $25,000 for the remainder of the school year, and a part-time instructor would cost $12,000.
    According to Duis, the middle school is where the greatest need is. The position in question is shared by the high school and the middle school. Because of the elimination of a position this year, JF band director David Webb has been going to the middle school to teach classes.
    District 4 school board member Gary Hostutler noted that there are 274 students involved in the band program in the Forest attendance zone. This counts the high school and FMS totals.
    “That’s mind boggling,” Hostutler commented.
    Hostutler said that the numbers justify bringing back the subject as an action item at the next school board meeting.
    Randy Hagler, the school division’s director of finance, said that he anticipates having a $260,000 surplus by the end of the fiscal year. The fiscal year ends on June 30. However, District 2 school board member Dave Vaden, said that there are other needs in the school division and mentioned schools in which two grade levels were combined into one class this year.
    “I’ve been getting a lot of phone calls about that,” he said.
    Board chairwoman Debbie Hoback added that restoring the band director position now does not mean that the school system will have the money to keep it next year.
    Another action item that will show up at the Dec. 9 meeting is a proposed change in the high school program of studies intended to increase the school division’s graduates’ college and career readiness. Under the proposal, some courses would be eliminated, including some college dual enrollment courses. More advanced placement (AP) courses would be added.    
    In other business, the school board voted unanimously to award a contract to Melvin T. Morgan for the amount of $298,047.00 for work on Boonsboro Elementary School’s roof. An allocation of $232,000 in federal stimulus funds will be made to this project.
    This was Brad Whorley’s first meeting as a school board member. Whorley defeated Cheryl Toler, who had been appointed by the school board last summer to serve on the board for an interim term until a special election could be held to fill the unexpired term of David Black. Whorley took the seat on the first meeting after the Nov. 2 election. Whorley represents District 3.
    What’s his impression of his first meeting in the hot seat?
    “A lot of information to process,” he commented.  “It wasn’t as overwhelming as I thought it would be.”
    Whorley expects being able to fund the schools in the current economy to be the biggest challenge the board will face.
    Whorley, who has lived in the county for more than 40 years, did get one surprise following the election.
    “I just realized after meeting Dr. Mac Duis that I had his mother as a math teacher,” he said.