Students angered over Central Lee
by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · March 01, 2013

Many Show Choir students took their anger public last week, posting comments on Twitter critical of the high school’s decision to pull them from the Central Lee competition, the equivalent of their state finals.

The decision came after a couple of students involved in both Show Choir and boys basketball opted for the substate game against North Cedar and other students expressed conflicts as well.

Chris Reed, who directs Christopher Jive and the Uptown 45, issued a Feb. 20 letter explaining how he, Head Boys Basketball Coach Stephen Bender, Principal Michelle Lukavsky and Dean of Students Jeff Wrede tried to work out a way to negotiate show times at the competition and shuttle students back and forth. Central Lee is about a two-hour drive in one direction.

Show Choir competitions have two parts: A morning qualifying round, which would not have conflicted with the basketball game, and an evening final round, which would, depending on their time slot.

“Throughout the week, it has become clear that we will not be able to perform at Central Lee despite the accommodations,” Reed wrote in the letter. “The anxiety and significance of the basketball game could cause any number of unforeseen emergencies or setbacks with transportation. Because of these risks, we do not want to put anyone in jeopardy nor do we want to risk either program’s chances of success.”

West Branch High School took home Grand Champion honors last year at Central Lee, along with Best Choreography and Best Band. It was the first championship in school history.

Students’ comments went so far as to name two classmates as the targets for blame.

“Not blaming anyone but people need to understand that Central Lee is our state and two of our best players left us. How could we not be mad?” wrote one student.

“I just wish we could show how far we’ve come and get the chance to win grand champions again,” wrote another.

The targeted students responded on Twitter as well.

“To anyone who has ever felt completely destroyed, who has cried for hours my heart goes out to you I would never wish this feeling on anyone,” one posted.

“For all of my fellow show choir members, I am truly sorry that my decision resulted in us backing out of Central Lee. … I hope that you can all forgive me eventually. I know I have disappointed many people, and I am truly sorry …” wrote the other.

Not all of the comments were negative.

“Next year, we WILL dominate. I’m totally gonna take this as motivation!” read one post.

Superintendent Kevin Hatfield said it was “unfortunate” to see the negative comments go public.

He pointed out that, in small schools, students often get involved in multiple activities — in fact, without it, some of the groups would not have enough involvement.

“Our kids … we need them for so many things,” Hatfield said.

Lukavsky and guidance counselor Amanda Hughes spent much of Thursday meeting with Show Choir students to talk to them about the decision and their reaction.

Hatfield said that, in hindsight, he thinks the school could have done a better job handling the two activities, even though they cannot control the times and places of competitions.

The superintendent said the students also needed to understand how they made “bad choices” with social media.

“We want to make sure no one felt bullied,” he said.

He said this decision should not make people believe the school gives greater weight to sports over fine arts.

“A piece of society really enjoys sports, and another really enjoys fine arts,” he said. “It was not about which one was more important. It was a logistical issue.”

Reed said it was a “very upsetting and stressful way to conclude our season.”

“This has been a tough life lesson for all individuals involved,” he wrote in his letter.

Representatives of the Fine Arts Connection, the fundraising group for Show Choir, marching band and more, declined to comment on the situation.

Some of the most vocal Show Choir proponents on Twitter did attend Saturday’s basketball game, even going so far as dressing in costumes or school colors to cheer for the Bears.

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