EDITOR’S NOTE: During the past three months, The Ardmoreite has conducted a series of interviews to identify some of the issues that exist within Ardmore City Schools. This week, a series of articles will focus on some of the issues based on interviews with former and current administration, school board members, former teachers, and concerned citizens.
As a young band director, Chauvin Aaron was optimistic with the proposal of a new bond that the fine arts department of Ardmore City Schools was on the upswing. During discussions with both Superintendent Sonny Bates and Ardmore High Schoool Principal Kim Holland, plans were developed for a Performing Arts Center and trips for the band, which would become a bi-annual event.
It was reported in the Oct. 16, 2013, issue of The Ardmoreite that planning for the trip began shortly after the band returned from Chicago in March 2012 as part of a department goal to offer fine arts trips every two years.
At the beginning of the school year, the band made a fundraising request for a trip to New York City, which was approved. Once the request for the trip itself came before the Ardmore Board of Education, the motion was tabled. The trip was approved during the next meeting, but a change in schedule necessitated raising $150 more for each student on the trip. The trip was slated for March 26-29.
“At the beginning of the school year, all your fundraising requests are approved by the superintendent, principal and the board,” Aaron said. “As you get closer to the trip, you make the request.”
Once the request was made before the board, things hit a speed bump. Ardmore Board of Education President Willie Tiller asked Bates if he approved the trip, and he said he had not, Aaron said.
“That was a surprise, you don’t know why they approved everything else,” Aaron said.
Bates has been out of town, and efforts to reach him for comment have been unsuccessful. Assistant Superintendent Missy Storm said the procedure for an out-of-state trip is that all requests must go through the superintendent’s office and then to the board.
“Everything that goes to the school board comes by the superintendent’s office,” she said.
Storm also noted fundraising started long before the request.
“We were sort of out of step with procedure, and you can get in a bind,” she said.
Several reasons have been offered for why the trip request was originally tabled. Storm said as much as anything, the request for the trip was in March. She said Bates looked at the original request and thought it was a good thing.
“He studied it a little further,” she said. “And that was when it was obvious it didn’t meet all the policy. The retest window for the EOI (End of Instruction test) started March 31 and the regular testing started in April.”
The Ardmoreite reported the electronic agenda for the meeting indicated a recommended motion of approving the trip. Superintendent and board approval was not provided on the agenda, however.
“At this point, there had been so much publicity about it, he (Bates) thought it would be good to put it on the agenda and let the board members make a decision,” Storm said.
Storm said there was hesitancy to allow the trip as requested because it fell within a three-week period in which there is intense review for the test. In the Oct. 16, 2013, issue of The Ardmoreite, Tiller said, “There was a lack of documentation for the presentation. We didn’t receive a complete packet for approval.”
“Chauvin was accused of being disorganized, and I was like, ‘What!?’,” exclaimed Dr. Barbara Dunn, president of the Ardmore Band Boosters. “Mr. Tiller couldn’t find all the paperwork in his packet, which was right in front of him. He said we had to come back next month because he (Aaron) was unorganized. Chauvin offered to help him. It was apparent some of the board members hadn’t gone through their packet before the meeting. Then Sonny wouldn’t sign off on the trip, which was a complete shock to all of us.”
In an effort to save the trip, band parents and students began to send emails to board members. According to Aaron and Dunn, the effort drew the ire of Tiller, who sent an email to Aaron. Aaron said he did not encourage the letters, and said parents need only read The Ardmoreite or attend the meeting to know what transpired.
“He was saying I had improper dialogue, and said I was unprofessional,” Aaron said.
“Of course, I did not respond because it was not his place. I did my best not to perpetuate the situation.”
“Chauvin never met with parents and said, ‘You are about to lose this trip’,” Dunn said. “Nothing like that ever happened. We had been working 18 months based on verbal consent given to Chauvin by the superintendent. Parents had been working hard, and it would have been ridiculous for the parents and the band to work for 18 months without having consent.
“We didn’t need someone to rally us. The emails were very professional. They weren’t crazy emails, they were from parents that said we support this trip. It was parent initiated.”
Dunn said once approval by the board was given, it came with a cost. There were plenty of chaperones, but they had to rearrange work schedules because the trip took place at a different time. A new hotel also had to be secured as well as other changes to the schedule.
“It cost us about $75 more per student and another $75 from the organization to assist kids,” Dunn said. “It was quite expensive when that happened.”
Dunn said Aaron is loved by the students, who set a new standard for the Ardmore band.
“It is nice to have someone that is not complacent with mediocrity like our administration apparently is,” she said. “It is important to have people come in and set the bar higher and higher because the administration is complacent with mediocrity.”
In tendering his resignation, Aaron offered hope for the continued growth of the program, noting the impact his tenure at Ardmore affected him.
“Students, I encourage you to stay in the band and continue striving for excellence in everything you do. The work that has been done in the past three years is a testament to your work ethic and ability; do not waste it. Parents, please continue to encourage them to stay in band and other school activities. Having the ability to complete tasks will make a difference in their lives,” Aaron wrote.
“We have had a great three years. I truly cannot express in words how much I will miss the students, parents and community of Ardmore. I will always be an Ardmore Tiger. I think of you as a part of my extended family, and hope you will stay in touch.”
In the Friday edition of The Ardmoreite, Assistant Superintendent Missy Storm talks about the state of the school.