Rock Hill schools, not boosters, will collect band fees

dworthington@heraldonline.comFebruary 25, 2013 

— Rock Hill’s annual $500-per-student band fee will be collected by the high schools and the not band boosters, Superintendent of Schools Lynn Moody announced Monday.

Moody said the decision was based on the advice of the schools’ accountant and lawyer, as well as outside counsel, which said having the boosters collect the fee may be illegal and it represented a “bad practice” because the school board and administration are ultimately responsible for how fees are spent.

Moody said there were no instances of financial impropriety by the band booster organizations and that the boosters have the same goals as the administration – to create the best environment for students, giving them a chance to excel.

Moody said a committee – with a yet-to-be determined number of band boosters and others – will write a plan for how the funds would be available to the bands.

“We don’t have a plan,” Moody told a room full of band parents who packed Monday night’s board meeting. “We will move ahead together.”

Many of the concerns expressed Monday were how changing the fee collection would affect the district’s bands that annually compete to be the best in the state.

Parents said that district and state spending rules would hamper their efforts, particularly when it comes to selecting and paying for each year’s show, which can cost as much as $15,000, paying for instrument and vehicle leases and hiring staff for specialized instruction.

The fees help offset these costs. Students and parents can work a variety of band booster fundraising activities to pay off the $500 per student band fee.

Most of all, though, parents were concerned that any changes would affect the camaraderie among band members and the parents.

Holly Whaley, whose daughter plays in the Rock Hill High School band, said the $500 band fee she pays is “worth more than what I pay for my house. I am part of a family.”

Whaley was one of 10 speakers who addressed the school board during its comment period. All but one asked the board to spend more time on the issue, especially considering its complexity.

Sue Gulledge, wife of Rock Hill band director Joseph Gulledge, said the school board has talked about the iRock initiative that would put a computer in the hands of every student in the district for more than a year, but the same board and administrators have not asked band parents their opinion on the band fees.

“We want the same thing. We have more research on gadgets than these children,” she said.

The board took no action Monday, standing on its 2006 decision to impose the $500 fee. Since that decision, there have been frequent discussions over who should collect the fee. Prior to Monday, the fee was collected by the band boosters.

George Booth and Pat Kiefer, presidents of the band boosters organizations at Northwestern and Rock Hill high schools respectively, said they were glad to see the board has requested an opinion from the state attorney general.

Moody asked the band parents to “not give up on us. We are working through the process. We are sensitive to the fact that this is a family and that will be our focus.”

She noted that there are methods in place to put the funds in the hands of the bands without writing checks. Moody said, however, that the “red tape” that parents complained about is “not always a bad thing.” The process yields the needed oversight and responsibility, she said.

Don Worthington •  803-329-4066

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