Public outcry keeps buses running for eight school marching bands

October 29, 1991|By Meredith Schlow | Meredith Schlow,Evening Sun Staff

Tiff Cassidy, a senior at Perry Hall High School, calls herself "a band nerd."

"I love band," says the 17-year-old, who has played clarinet since fourth grade. "I take band twice a day."

Cassidy is not alone in her enthusiasm. There are 245 members in Perry Hall's marching band, one of eight high school marching bands that depend on county school buses to take them to various parades throughout the year.

When Baltimore County officials decided to save money by cutting transportation for nearly all school music groups, the public outcry was almost as loud as the bands.

In response, officials put about $8,000 back into the budget to transport the eight bands to the last two parades of this semester.

The original list of bands included Perry Hall, Overlea, Kenwood, Franklin, Lansdowne, Parkville, Loch Raven, and Owings Mills high schools.

The parades are scheduled for Hanover, Pa., on Thursday and Hagerstown on Saturday.

Schools were notified of the original transportation cuts last Wednesday afternoon, leaving little time to make alternate plans, says Marvin Van Dyke, Perry Hall's director of bands.

"I don't mind biting the bullet. It's just a matter of timing," Van Dyke says. "It seems to me that when you're needing to make these kinds of cuts, you could do it with every expediency so that the word can get out and you can make other arrangements."

Following Wednesday's announcement, parents and students began calling county officials to protest the cuts and ask that the money be reinstated -- at least to cover the last two parades of the year.

"Everybody was pretty upset about it," says Ron Barbagallo Jr., 15, a saxophone player at Perry Hall. Ron made calls himself to school superintendent Robert Y. Dubel, Del. Alfred W. Redmer Jr., R-8th, and Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell, D-8th.

"A lot of people got the runaround," he says.

Nevertheless, Friday afternoon the schools received the word they were hoping for -- transportation would be provided for the ZTC last two parades for school bands still interested in attending.

The county spends approximately $86,500 each year on transportation for school music groups, according to Mildred R. Reiner, coordinator of the Office of Music.

The groups range from elementary school students who perform at nursing homes to various choral, instrumental groups and marching bands at high schools, says Reiner.

"It's just that there aren't enough funds to take care of the many activities that our students take part in," she says.

Still included in this year's transportation budget, however, is the Marching Band Showcase, the Sixth Grade Choral Festival, The All-County Band, Orchestra and Chorus for middle and high school students, the Boys Festival, the High School Band and Orchestra Judication, the Eighth Grade Choral Festival and the two marching band parades. All of the events will be completed by spring, Reiner says.

Barbagallo says the fight isn't over yet.

"This takes care of two parades, but it doesn't take care of the whole thing," he says.

His father, Ron Barbagallo Sr., says parents and students who are unhappy about the way the county is cutting its budget will meet tonight at 7 o'clock in the Perry Hall High cafeteria to voice their concerns.

"We want the money for after-school programs to be restored permanently," the father says.

"These kids really enjoy this. Why . . . should we take it away from them?"

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