Meanwhile, the band director, Ginny Markham, has hired an attorney to defend herself against a dissident group of parents who have publicly criticized her job performance and the process under which she was hired.
A group of about 20 parents and their students from Lassiter High’s band program were prevented from speaking at a school board meeting Wednesday, because their comments related to a specific teacher.
The parents and students showed up to discuss their outspoken concerns with Markham, who took over the position this year from a beloved 30-year band leader, Alfred Watkins.
A number of other parents have now risen up in defense of Markham. They did not attempt to speak with board members Wednesday, they said, because they are satisfied with the top achieving ensemble’s success in Markham’s hands.
Board policy and legalities
Board attorney Clem Doyle said he skipped over the group of 14 people signed up to speak during public comments because they had indicated they would be speaking about a specific employee.
“It’s against board policies to discuss personnel matters during public comment,” Doyle said.
After public comment had ended, Board Chairman Randy Scamihorn invited the Lassiter Band group to the front of the room to speak privately with individual board members.
“I’m frustrated that we can’t speak in public about our concerns,” said Roger Toland, the father of a sophomore clarinet player at Lassiter.
Some parents said they felt stuck. After not getting what they wanted from the school principal, Chris Richie, they were upset the board didn’t seem eager to make any changes at the school.
“Where do we go now?” asked Trish Boone, a parent of a senior trumpet player.
Board member Kathleen Angelucci listened as a group of students, parents and alumni shared their complaints.
Angelucci said she encouraged the students in the band to become leaders within their sections, and to spend their energies teaching each other and search for a compromise.
Not all parents feel the same
After an article ran in the MDJ that reflected the concerns of the 20 parents, other Lassiter parents spoke up and said they were quite happy with the band program under Markham’s leadership.
Tom Estella, the father of a sophomore mellophone player, said Watkins left large shoes to fill, and wishes all the parents and students would do more to support Markham.
“She really hasn’t had an opportunity to succeed or fail, she’s only been there one year,” he said.
The few parents and students who are complaining do not fully represent the thoughts of the rest of the band program, Estella stressed, and said their complaints were creating a toxic environment for the band community.
Parents in the band’s booster association are supposed to assist the band’s director, Estella said, and he doesn’t believe they are doing so.
Markham’s lawyer says she is more than qualified
Markham was an excellent choice to fill the vacant band director role, said Marietta-based attorney Robert Ingram, who is now representing Markham.
Markham reached out to her lawyer a few weeks ago for advice on how to respond to a handful of disgruntled parents who were making “unwarranted and defamatory attacks” against her, Ingram said.
Following Watkins in his role was an extremely hard thing to do, and the first-place trophy from the October Bands of America Regional Competition in Towson, Md., should prove Markham is doing a good job, Ingram said.
He believed there would be naysayers no matter who took over the direction of the band.
“It would be impossible for Principal Chris Richie to select a band director to follow Alfred Watkins who would satisfy all the parents of 300 students,” he added.
Richie made the decision to hire Markham without the help or input of Markham’s husband, Gary Markham, who retired last spring, Ingram said. Claims by the few parents who said otherwise were unwarranted and false, he added.
“Fortunately, decisions on hiring and firing of band directors is not left to the collective mob-mentality of a few parents. If it was left to parents, schools would be in absolute chaos,” Ingram said.
He has faith in the future of the Lassiter Band, and in Markham’s capabilities.
Ingram provided this statement in an email:
“The bottom line is that Ms. Markham loves all 300 students that are a part of the Lassiter Band, she is well credentialed, and she plans to continue leading the band in a tradition of excellence by winning championships as they did under her leadership this past October. Ms. Markham is optimistic about the future for the Lassiter Band programs and encourages the parents to rally together as a team to continue the Lassiter Band’s tradition of excellence.”