Band saga unfinished

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A year after the county school board found a way to keep a popular band director wielding his baton even though his position was eliminated, Dave Shelton and his backers are disappointed anew over Franklin County High School’s decision to shun him and hire a different director. How this came about is a bit of a mystery because FCHS Principal Sharon Collett, the final authority on staffing decisions, would not discuss her reasons for replacing Shelton with Josh Toppass, currently the director of Bondurant Middle School’s band.

What happens next is up in the air. Shelton told State Journal reporter Katheran Wasson he still loves his students but declined to say whether he might take legal action to get his old job back. We wish the FCHS principal, who retires July 1, would explain her decision and Shelton would further enlighten us on his grievance.

This saga began when the FCHS council, because of inadequate funding, decided to reduce the band director position to part time. Band boosters rose up in arms, distraught that Shelton intended to leave the school if he were denied full-time status. The standoff appeared to reach a happy ending last year when school board members worked out an arrangement allowing the director to stay, not as an employee answering to the FCHS school council but in an “itinerant position” with responsibilities at both the county high school and Elkhorn Middle School.

Even better (you’d think), FCHS found its fiscal condition improved this year, so it once again could afford to employ its own band director. That turned out not to be such a propitious development from Shelton’s perspective, because the directorship had been effectively abolished a year ago and the council had to decide whether to advertise the vacancy as a new opening. Superintendent Harrie Buecker, after being advised by the school board’s attorney that the vacancy could be posted or not, at the school’s discretion, left it up to the council – which advertised the opening and conducted interviews.

Much as he had refused to consider staying on as a part-time band director, Shelton initially said he would not reapply for the job he’d performed the past four years to the satisfaction of band members and their parents. But then he changed his mind, saying he’d give the process the benefit of a doubt, hoping that his record – studded with yearly distinguished ratings for the band in state competition, would speak for itself.

“I applied for this job four years ago, and I performed my duties honorably and built a band program of which we can be proud,” he said in April.

Clearly, Shelton had his suspicions that something funny was going on, that the council and the principal would not give his application a fair shake. Evidently he questioned the intentions of the council, the administrator, or both. The public has not been told why the council and the principal spurned a tested band director and gave his old job to a middle school teacher – a former member of the band whose hiring was announced on the school website.

Whether or not Shelton takes his complaint to court, both he and the FCHS principal should explain where they stand. The director’s supporters gave him a ringing endorsement last year and protested downgrading his job to part time. Now they deserve to know the rest of the story behind his ouster.

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  • Those numbers came from the school secretary, who also had stories of parents coming to speak with Mr. Shelton and him calling the police on the parent for "trespassing." The school secretary told the police, "No, the parent signed in, and had permission." When the police tried to find Mr. Shelton, he had left the building. Then there is the time when a student went home sick and missed a rehearsal, and Mr. Shelton got so mad, he slammed the band office door so hard he broke out the glass. He made enemies of the FCHS staff and ran off many good musicians. I personally know that he has soured several students on music with his behavior. He threatened parents and students. He refused to allow the dance team to dance with the band. I could go on and on, I have been involved with the band for many years. Good riddance.

  • Notfromhere, I don't know where you got your numbers, but you couldn't be more wrong. Please don't quote numbers if you don't know what you are talking about. Thanks.

  • The Franklin County High School band went from 140 members when Shelton arrived to now, just 43. Enough said.

  • LOL. Mr. Topass is most CERTAINLY NOT a PIECE of COAL. Actually he is a Great instructor that teaches ALL band members the same & doesn't have one group that gets special treatment & another that he just works with. They are all treated the same. No disrespect to Mr. Shelton at all. He is a great instructor also but one should not pick & choose what jobs they will do or not & it is to anybodys favor to do what all is ask of them in any job. There are reasons this was done & by all means Franklin County High School will continue on with their great traditions & in my opinion, be even better.

  • Why would the Board of Ed and the school let a vindictive woman who DOES NOT speak for Franklin County students, parents, or the community make such a foolish decision that is extremely detrimental to the band students. I am sure Mr. Topass is a fine man and teacher, but why would anyone trade a diamond for coal. We don't need potential greatness when we already had greatness in our hands. It is a sad state of affairs for these kids who deserve the talent and mentorship that they had available to them to lose it and have no apparent recourse. This was a foolish decision that should never have been allowed to have been made.