After requests from citizens for the Hanover School Board to provide more opportunities for open dialogue, the public’s wish has been granted.
Tuesday night, school board members held the first “open forum” at the school system’s headquarters in Ashland in a number of years, where 35 citizens gathered and several individuals expressed concerns about the fate of Lee-Davis High School’s show choir program, noting there has not been a consistent choir director recently.
“It’s been a revolving door for four years now,” said Steve LaCombe, a Mechanicsville resident, who is active in the high school’s program.
LaCombe and many others were worried about when and how the program will receive a director who will stay for a number of years. He pointed out that there was a new instructor this year who resigned and said that he’s unsure of why the person left when they seemed to like their job.
Denise Orlandi, a parent of a Lee-Davis student and active “show choir mom,” is worried about how the fast turnover of music directors impacts students.
“We need to continue the program for these kids,” Orlandi said.
She recommended the board communicate with the students and let them know what’s going on in regards to finding a new choir director and figure out why this is an issue.
Chairman and Chickahominy District school board member Robert Hundley Jr. said that staff would look into this and figure out why the program cannot keep a director.
“Beyond saying that we will look into that and go back and figure out as much as we possibly can and share with you as much as we possibly can, I don’t know that there’s much else we can say,” Hundley said.
Glenn T. Millican Jr., Mechanicsville District representative, agreed but said this is not just an issue at Lee-Davis High School but in other schools, too. Millican suggested looking at the problem in a broad sense and properly engage the public in more ways than just holding open forums.
“We need everyday opportunities for communication because when it is spread out, there’s always instances when everyone doesn’t get the word,” Millican said.
He wants to make sure stakeholders such as parents and students are constantly in the know and are aware of what’s going on in the schools.
Though this has been an issue at Lee-Davis for four years, several board members said they were not aware there was a problem.
Earl Hunter Jr., Henry District board member, said often when they talk with human resources, they review personnel matters and catch issues when there are consistent, numerous position changes. This time, they did not.
“We gotta apologize. We gotta check that,” Hunter said.
A student in the Lee-Davis show choir, Makenzie Rodriguez expressed how much being a part of the choir means to her. Rodriguez said that the fact that teachers have jumped around has taken a toll on her and other students.
“It is being built and then torn down and built and then torn down,” she said. “It’s like a rollercoaster.”
But Rodriguez added how much it meant to her that school board members agreed to look into this issue.
“It really does mean a lot to me,” she said.
After Rodriguez spoke, many parents and even her peers were in tears. Then, Sue Dibble, South Anna District board member, reassured her and the rest of the passionate audience that their message was received.
“We do care,” Dibble said. “Myself and these gentlemen do care.”
During what considered an “official school board meeting” Tuesday, citizens were able to ask questions that were immediately answered by a school board member. All school board members were present.
The meeting occurred following complaints from citizens was that if they raised issues during citizen’s time at regular school board meetings, they did not receive any instant feedback or answers. A few residents spoke during citizen’s time, suggesting that the board host “town hall-style meetings” to facilitate more open and better communication between board members and the public.
The board will hold its next regular meeting June 10.