The Highland band parents are tuning up for a campaign to raise money for new uniforms. The Marching Bulldogs have been stepping into the same suits for the past 15 years, and they are becoming threadbare.
“Next year, our band uniforms will be older than our freshmen,” said Patty Take, president of the Highland Band Parents Association (HBPA).
With the the age and wear and tear on the current uniforms, more and more mending has had to be done, Take said.
“With new directors of the marching band program, the field show has gotten more strenuous on the kids, and even more strenuous on the pants, or bibbers, as we call them. Many times, there are band moms who find themselves performing emergency first aid on a pair of bibbers, before a student can take the field in competition,” she said.
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But funding new uniforms is an expensive undertaking. They can cost as much as $425 each. That puts the total cost at $51,000 to outfit 120 band members.
“We are looking at a potential of $70,000, with some extras, and as the band grows,” said Dale Holzinger, HBPA treasurer.
That’s why HBPA is asking for a little harmony with the district when it comes to its funding needs.
Take said that the 290 band students in the district, grades 5-12. According to the district, band students paid about $32,000 this year in fees. That money goes to pay for the directors’ stipends ($16,450) and transportation costs ($13,500). An $18,000 line item is for “supplies, equipment and upkeep” (instrument R&M, $9,000; supplies, $3,200; equipment, $3,200; dues/fees/registrations, $2,600).
Band parents want some of that money to be reinvested into uniforms.
“Our marching band program is starting to develop a reputation of excellence,” Take said. “When they take the field in O’Fallon or at the University of Illinois, they are representing our school district and our towns. We are just hoping to get them new uniforms, so they look as awesome as they sound.”
Holzinger said that, after asking parents to pay their fees and volunteer for fundraisers, they simply cannot be asked to kick in more cash themselves for uniforms.
“We can’t ask band parents to pay over what they are already paying in fees to the district,” he said.
School Board member Robert Miller said he didn’t see why the band couldn’t get some assistance from the district.
“It would seem to me, they should be able to get their share of the pie back in fees,” Miller said.
HBPA also asked the board to possibly lower fees for younger students. Take, the HBPA president, said the band fee for sixth-graders was raised when Center School students were moved to Highland Middle School, but the hike did not coincide with any extra cost to the district.
“Really nothing has changed, except they get to all have band together in a big, cool band room,” she said.
But the fee increase, she believes, has had a chilling effect on participation. The program has lost 40 students, and those numbers cannot continue, she said.
“The band program is really built from the bottom up,” she said.
The School Board will be reviewing the district’s fees at its March meeting. School Board President Renè Friedel said the board would look at HBPA’s requests, but she did not make any promises.
“There’s a need everywhere, and we are doing our best,” Friedel said.
On Monday, May 16, from 4 until 9 p.m., the band will have a fundraiser at Urban Farmhouse & Pie Co. in Highland. The band will receive 10 percent of sales that night. Money from this fundraiser will be earmarked for new uniforms.