End of talk, Wolfe says: Band is a curricular activity

PUNXSUTAWNEY — The battle of the band continues.

Monday, Cheryl Hollis and her daughter, Karah, addressed the Punxsutawney Area School Board during the 10-minute public comment portion of its agenda on the issue of why Karah cannot participate in the PAHS Marching Band.

At issue: Is marching band a curricular or an extra-curricular activity? The Hollises claim it is extra-curricular, citing after-school-hours, preparation and rehearsals, while Superintendent Dr. Keith Wolfe says it is a graded, curricular activity that is part of concert band.

Monday, Cheryl Hollis said she had researched the policy following the Aug. 24 meeting and wanted to ask questions of specific board members and administrators.

Although it is not the board’s policy to formally answer questions during public comment, Wolfe did address some of Hollis’ questions, the first of which was why he — as the chief administrator of the district — allegedly did not talk to PAHS Principal David London about changing the policy in light of Karah’s situation, which is that she attends a cyber-school that is not the Punxsy district.

Wolfe said he did speak to London around April 24 or 25 and called Hollis April 26.

When Hollis asked if he talked to London about a policy change, Wolfe said he looked at the policy and said he did not believe it should be changed.

Hollis then asked about an article in The Spirit in which Wolfe said the board is not “afraid to change their minds about something. It’s not as if their heels are dug in about a certain issue.”

He said he agrees with the policy, and that it was not his recommendation to change it.

When asked who generally makes these kinds of recommendations, Wolfe said he does.

Hollis then asked a question of London, but board President Gary Conrad upheld the policy regarding board answers during public comment: That it would no longer answer any of Hollis’ questions, saying he believed it felt as if the board was on trial over the issue.

“We’re talking about policy, and I’ve explained this to you, but you just disagree,” Wolfe told Hollis.

She then asked how marching band could be a curricular activity when students rehearse after school. Wolfe replied that students also practice during school, thus making marching band a curricular activity.

He added that because Hollis is no longer in the Punxsy district and attends a cyber-school — which is her choice — she is no longer eligible to participate in the Punxsy band. He also said Karah had the choice to take part in Select Ensemble and Jazz Band, both extra-curricular activities, but she chose not to.

“It’s like if you want to go to DuBois and play sports here,” which would not be an option, Wolfe said.

“Marching band is a curricular subject for which a student receives a grade,” he said. “End of talk.”

Hollis asked Solicitor David Young about her daughter’s rights to visit the building. Young said he would not look up that policy Monday, but that she could find it on the district’s Web site.

Again citing the marching band’s summertime and post-school rehearsals, Wolfe replied that AP English — also a curricular course — students must also complete a number of assignments during the summer.

As she did during the Aug. 24 meeting, Hollis said she would explore her daughter’s rights further.

During her comments to the board, Karah — who would be a junior at PAHS if she had chosen to attend — said unless the board could give her a good reason why she cannot take marching band, it should permit her to take part.

She also said she chose not to enroll in the Punxsy district’s cyber-school because it didn’t have some programs for which she was looking.
“I ask you to look this over and change the policy for me and others like me,” she said.

In a related matter not discussed during the board meeting, Wolfe said a few ways the cheerleaders can cheer at away sporting events are beginning to emerge.

He said the band knew it would not be able to attend away football games this year, but through a miscommunication — for which he said he would “take the heat” — the cheerleaders were not informed of the decision. It was agreed, however, that the band and cheerleaders could perform at the closest away events in DuBois and Brookville.

After speaking with the cheerleaders’ coach Julie Baun, Wolfe said there are some community groups willing to pay for the cheerleaders’ transportation to away events, or the cheerleaders’ booster club could sponsor a spirit bus, in which students’ paying to ride the bus with the cheerleaders to away events could offset the costs of transportation.