10/05/04 — Eastern Wayne High School band members plead for new uniforms

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Eastern Wayne High School band members plead for new uniforms

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 5, 2004 2:02 PM

School band uniforms that were tattered and held together by safety pins and paper clips were held up for the school board to see Monday night as parents and students from Eastern Wayne High School pleaded for new ones.

Board members said they were sympathetic. They put the blame on budget cuts.

Thomas Rose, a band booster club member for two years, brought several of the uniforms to illustrate his point.

"This is what students have to work in," he said as he held up a sample. "They haven't had new uniforms in 20 years."

Parent Sandra Clark called the current uniforms "hideous," especially when the band squares off against other bands at competitions. She said the Eastern Wayne band has done well at the competitions, strictly on skill and talent, but fortunately was not judged on appearance.

She said she understood the plight of having to balance the budget, but feels the need has been postponed long enough.

Carol Martin said she was floored when her son, a freshman member of this year's band, brought home his uniform.

"As a parent, I was totally shocked," she said. There were "no buttons on the front of it."

She said the uniform was held together by safety pins and asked the board to "do the right thing for our young students and let's make them happy."

"We're embarrassed by the way we look," said Paige Clark, a member of the marching band and drum line.

The school board typically does not respond to individuals or groups who appear before them. But Monday night, five of the seven members did comment on the issue.

Board member Thelma Smith said, "If I could write a check right now, you would have a check and you would have brand new uniforms."

She then reached down for her purse, prompting board member George Moye to rise from his seat and offer her his pen.

"I do understand what you're saying and I hear you loud and clear," Mrs. Smith told the contingent. "I saw those uniforms and I know you're right."

Historically, she said, the board has replaced uniforms on a 10-year rotation and Eastern Wayne was scheduled after Goldsboro High. The uniforms at Goldsboro were replaced two years ago, she said.

Mrs. Smith said the board wants the band to look its best and represent Wayne County well.

"Whatever we can do to speed up this process, just give us a little more time to get our budget worked out," she said. "We're going to do all we can to make it happen for you; help is on the way."

The nearly 45 members of the group in the audience responded to Mrs. Smith's remarks with a standing ovation.

Board Chairman Pete Gurley told the group that their message had been heard and would be taken under consideration as the budget continue to be finished.

Later in the meeting, after the group had left, the board discussed the matter further. The board agreed that it had gotten behind in the 10-year rotation, but there was some question as to whether it had been 20 years since Eastern Wayne received new uniforms.

Gurley said he had seen some pictures from 1988, but was uncertain how old the uniforms were when the photos were taken. Mrs. Smith said she did not believe new uniforms had been purchased in the 12 years since she joined the board.

Moye said he sympathized with the students' and parents' concerns.

"I don't think the uniforms anywhere in Wayne County have really been up to par with any kids in the state," he said.

Board member Shirley Sims said, "I am sorry that they have had to wait this long."

Board member Rick Pridgen recalled one of the first items of business when he joined the board two years ago was to delay the band uniform rotation for one year.

"This is a direct result of some of those cutbacks that we have had, and I hope that people see that," he said.

Tyrone Wagner, band director at the school for the past four years, was not present at the board meeting. The News-Argus learned that one way he had attempted to make sure students had uniforms was to request some from his high school alma mater in South Carolina.

"Our band members did not have enough pants," he said this morning. "That school's colors were black and gold, and they still had some of the old uniforms."

Wagner estimated the requested gained him about 25 pairs of pants for his band to use.

"We do need the uniforms," he said. "I try to expose them to different things, and other students laugh at them, telling them they're dressed like they're going to prom.

"They play well. It just lowers their morale when they hear comments like that."