Parents upset by Lassiter band director’s actions
December 13, 2013 12:00 AM | 5769 views | 23 23 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
DEAR EDITOR:

We are parents of students in the Lassiter High School Band program. I write to you to publish my concerns over the troubling conduct of the newly hired director of bands at Lassiter High School. Parents have met with the principal of Lassiter High School and members of the county offices only to have concerns fall on deaf ears and unwilling spirits. I, therefore, seek a public audience in the hopes that those in positions of authority will be moved to action.

The director of bands at Lassiter High School has demonstrated a lack of concern for student safety. She has left practices early while students are still on school grounds, has left football games while students are still participating in a school sponsored activity and has left during the school day failing to find appropriate substitute teachers or ensure that adult supervision will be provided for class coverage.

The director demonstrates inadequate administrative skills and has failed to obtain the mandated permission forms from parents before taking students out of state for overnight school sponsored trips.

The director conveys an impression of ineffectiveness in the classroom. Students are not provided adequate warm-up time before playing difficult musical pieces. She does not prepare an adequate schedule for learning difficult musical pieces. Students are told simply to play faster and louder with no direction given as to how to decode the nuances of the music.

The above list covers only the most serious of the documented concerns of the Lassiter High School Band parents and boosters. Underlying these behaviors is a pattern of irresponsibility and unreliability.

The Lassiter High School Band program, a two time Band of America Grand National Championship winner, is the gold standard of high school band programs. We deserve a director with the skill, vision, and commitment to continue the tradition of excellence.

Bruce and Trish Boone

Amy Cassaniti

Barbara Sobel

(and 15 others)


east Cobb

Comments
(23)
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Lassiter Alumni 1990
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March 23, 2014
As a proud member of the "Founding Fathers" of Lassiter's Pursuit of Excellence...it bother's me to see this kind of behavior being demonstrated by adults. When we created this tradition, it wasn't just something the Class of 1990 set forth just to the students of the band program, but to the parents, boosters, and directors as well...and in that, if there was ever an issue that needed to be directed, it was handled within the program. This kind of "childish" behavior gives not only a bad reputation to the students in the program currently, but to the school, band alumni, and most of all to Mr Alfred Watkins...

If you have an issue with the current Director of Bands, then have a booster meeting to correct the problems. The only time the band boosters had to go before the Cobb Board of Education was back in 1986 about overturning the verdict about Lassiter being involved with the movie "Leader of The Band" and it also included the students in a democratic format.

Set a better example for the students...as parents you are the true teachers of your children.
Band Director
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December 16, 2013
I don't know about the appropriateness of her actions, however, the band was lucky to have ANYONE who wanted that job.

This statement is not a reflection of the band students or parents at Lassiter. It is a condemnation of the school district and the state of Georgia. There is no longer any support or job security for any of the arts in Cobb County. Every year, including this year, I hear from someone in the district that they are considering eliminating ALL arts programs. This is because of the larger problem that the state of Georgia no longer supports education.

If you add that to all of the other issues with following an historic band director (Watkins), you get a position that is completely unappealing. It is a set up for failure all around.

The students at Lassiter (and every other school in Cobb County) deserve incredible band directors. However, Cobb County is no longer an environment that any director would want to get into.

Why don't you have the next Alfred Watkins? Because you no longer live in a supportive district for band.
MAY-RETTA SURVIVOR
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December 14, 2013
@ Bruce & Trish Boone, Amy Cassaniti, Barbara Sobel, etall:

They state: "We are parents of students in the Lassiter High School Band Program..."

How courageous of them to publicly admit to such a thing.
anonymous
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December 13, 2013
Geeeezzzz. I had no idea there were such insanely petty idiots living so close to me.

FWIW, if you kids were all you act like they are...they would be making it happen regardless of who is running the program.

(Why did the words "whiney piss ants" just come to my mind?)

Band Parent
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December 13, 2013
I'm a Band Parent, a supporter of Mrs. Markum and a fan of Mr. Watkins. I would like to point out to Bruce and Trish Boone, Amy Cassaniti, Barbara Sobel (and 15 others) that every item that you state below is no different that the standard operating procedure under Mr. Watkins. So, wondering if you had the same concerns under his leadership:

The director of bands at Lassiter High School has demonstrated a lack of concern for student safety. She has left practices early while students are still on school grounds, has left football games while students are still participating in a school sponsored activity and has left during the school day failing to find appropriate substitute teachers or ensure that adult supervision will be provided for class coverage.

Please don't tell me this is the reason you want Mrs. Markum fired!!

Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal - Parents upset by Lassiter band director s actions

Concerned Student
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December 14, 2013
First of all, it's Mrs. *Markham.

And to answer your question (which clearly demonstrates some ignorance, so allow me to explain,) there's much more to why she needs to be removed with the program. She demonstrates inadequate knowledge, poor leadership skills, and is killing (yes, killing) the world renowned program of Lassiter. The reason the parents here had to put the points they did is to show empirical evidence that can be used to prove she's not good for the job. The Lassiter community is desperate to be heard and this is another way in which they're doing it; without evidence backed by emotion.
ugggagrad
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December 13, 2013
I have to give these parents a great amount of respect for TRYING to point out issues that have been of concern. My kids had a coach who also happens to be an administrator in an elementary school. She broke all kinds of GHSA rules that put kids in danger when it came to heatstroke, verbally abused them,had kids playing with concussions etc., but because she is one of the "chosen" to rise to the top at CCSD,and the fact that she had gotten "coach of the year" from the MDJ, her antics were ignored. We as parents had meetings like this to see what our options would be, we wrote letters to the AD, which fell on deaf ears. The only thing that stopped this behavior was that someone DID go talk to her and relay our concerns. Teachers are not always right, coaches are not always right, but the lesson my kids learned was that everyone isn't perfect. Playing for someone like this made them stronger emotionally and taught them how to deal with adversity, part of life. As a parent, it stinks though, as we hope that good will always prevail, but it doesn't.... life isn't fair, its how you deal with it that matters. I would tell these parents to let it go now... enjoy your kids senior year. It will be a hard lesson to learn for your kids, but a realistic one.
Really??
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December 13, 2013
And she should be fired from her position?? Really??
to really
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December 13, 2013
I never said she should be fired from her position. And from what I understand, the parents who have been complaining didn't initially ask for her to be fired either. They asked that the band director, and principal meet with them to address their concerns. They wouldn't do it. That is what prompted them to try to go to the CCSD and what prompted the MDJ to write a misdirected, article. It is amazing to see so many ignorant comments, trashy comments using foul language, and also bullying comments. The MDJ has let this get out of control by not editing these. Exactly why I will not pay for a subscription to this paper. Its as bad as the Enquirer
East Cobber
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December 13, 2013
I feel sorry for these people's kids. How embarrassing!
getalifeglooe
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December 14, 2013
Well, you obviously are one of those parents who sit on the sidelines, never do anything and can only blog things like this. It is all about doing what is right... too many people don't call others out for their behavior... that is the problem in our world these days.
Mark Lefkow
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December 13, 2013
This relentless attack on one teacher is crazy, folks. I wonder how you'd like it if people followed you to your jobs and complained to your boss about you. This is a teacher. She makes like, what, $50k a year, and you're trying to make her life miserable. You don't use the newspaper if you really want to reconcile issues or solve problems. You actually talk to people and work out the issues. If you don't get your way, live with it.

- Mark Lefkow (and no others)
MAYRETTA SURVIVOR
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December 13, 2013
I quote the complaining and petulant Bruce and Trish Boone, Amy Cassanti, Barbara Sobel (and 15 others):

"We are parents of students in the Lassiter High Schiool Band Program."

How very courageous for them to publicly admit to such a thing.
Embarrassed Cobb
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December 13, 2013
If they were all so courageous they need to publish the 15 others and stop hiding so we can all see who the other 15 (Insane Parents) are.
LetsBeSerious
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December 13, 2013
@Embarrassed Cobb: really? you courageously sit behind your keyboard and rant about parents being "insane" because they are actually stepped up and are fighting for their children, fighting to make sure the "Tradition of Excellence" remains more than a slogan for the LHS Band?

Shame on You.
anonymous
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December 13, 2013


"The Lassiter High School Band program, ... is the gold standard of high school band programs"

- from reading this letter, apparently it isn't
cobb band alumni
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December 13, 2013
To Mr. And Mrs. Boone, Amy Cassaniti , Barbara Sobel and the 15 others:

Let's think about how this protest will affect not only you and your children, but other children who are deciding whether or not to join the Lassiter Band or any of its feeder programs; music educators who are considering Cobb County as a future employer and other booster organizations around the country.

Since Lassiter's name been disgraced on a local and national scale, how many children in 5th grade will not want to join band knowing that Lassiter "is not good" anymore based on 6% of band’s population. How many 8th graders are not going to join the Lassiter band next due to this publicity? How many parents will not let their children join due to the overwhelmingly disgust of "20" parents and students to an educator who wants to teach your kids about one of the most basic and needed art forms related to the human condition. Nevertheless, why would she disgrace her legacy of being at Lassiter all those years?

Not only will the children be affected, but the ramifications for all of the other music ensembles around the country who have booster programs? I can honestly say that our booster organization is appalled by your actions. We have three new directors at our school. After winning all of their competitions last year, this year we got 6th, 4th and 10th. And the first thing the parents said to all of us, was how proud there were that we remained positive throughout the transition. This literally brought tears to my eyes. Then and there I knew that these parents were all about the quality of education that their child was getting and not the quantity of trophies we brought home.

Now to your points:

1. She has left practices early while students are still on school grounds.

-Were the other directors still in the building? If so, then she has every right to leave.

2. She left football games while students are still participating in a school sponsored activity.

-Is this school sponsored activity related to the marching band? If not, then she does not responsibility for those children. If so, if there is another director around, he or she is more than capable of handling the band.

3. The director demonstrates inadequate administrative skills and has failed to obtain the mandated permission forms from parents before taking students out of state for overnight school sponsored trips

-How did you attain this information? Are these items available to the public? Were they illegally obtained?

-Is this the only administrative skill that is inadequate?

4. The director conveys an impression of ineffectiveness in the classroom. Students are not provided adequate warm-up time before playing difficult musical pieces. She does not prepare an adequate schedule for learning difficult musical pieces. Students are told simply to play faster and louder with no direction given as to how to decode the nuances of the music.

- In your opinion, what is adequate warm-up time? I would like to know the answer.

- I'm pretty sure that Markham does not say "play faster and louder." Being a music educator with a master’s degree would not be the most appropriate verbiage given her background.

-Winning Outstanding Music Performance and a BOA Regional confirms the point above.

-To the notion of adequate scheduling, are students practicing at home and taking personal ownership of the program and their own success? If not, that’s another issue that every band in the country deals with on a regular basis.

5. The Lassiter High School Band program, a two time Band of America Grand National Championship winner, is the gold standard of high school band programs. We deserve a director with the skill, vision, and commitment to continue the tradition of excellence.

-Winning Grand Nats is amazing accomplishments for your program. Marching band is only one facet of music education, and it's not on top of the list. The best music performing ensembles have never graced a football field. As music educators, we are trying to meet that gold standard of true artistic expression that such ensembles as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Berliner Philharmonic and Mormon Tabernacle Choir achieve during their performances.

-FYI: She helped win those two national championships.

You as parents only want what is in the best interest for your child and I think we all understand and respect that. Just imagine if you were Mrs. Markham and only have been on your jobs for six months and people wanted to fire you after producing some remarkable results? Or having the KKK show up to one of your rehearsals? Ask Mr. Watkins about that.

Yes, it could be true that her assistants do everything and she treats the children disrespectfully, but what if she does not? And if she does, she will probably be fired due the "elite" reputation that the program has earned. Bad directors do not last in Cobb County very long.

I will say that the Facebook post of Bruce Boone does sound sincere as an apology to Mr. Watkins and Mrs. Markham.

In closing, your actions will have several negative ripples throughout your children's tenure in the Lassiter band program, but will cause other children and candidates who have “skill, vision, and commitment to continue the tradition of excellence” to disregard this "elite" program. For that, I am truly sorry that this happened for students and future music educators of Cobb County Music Programs.

-Sincerely,

A First Year Band Director

West Cobb Band Alumni 2005
A few represent many
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December 13, 2013
I originally supported Mrs. Markham whole heartedly. I knew it would be very difficult for anyone to follow Mr. Watkins. It was only after my daughter came home in tears after band practice that I started to talk to other parents and ask questions. I learned that over half the band students were so distraught under Mrs. Markham’s direction that they were ready to quit. That’s when I became very concerned about all the students and the future of the band program as a whole.

Student leaders, supportive parents, and the assistant directors met with Mrs. Markham and politely asked her to step aside during practice and watch how it was done. She agreed to, and I commend her for that. As a result, they pulled together and won a regional competition in spite of her, not because of her. The fact they came together as a team, far outweighs that they won.

Unfortunately our students are telling us nothing has really changed, and half are still seriously thinking of dropping out of band. This is why concerned parents have been quietly trying to get the administration to listen to the students before it is too late. It is only because these efforts have not produced any results, that we felt the need to go public with our concerns.

Admittedly, I don't think we've done a very good job of presenting the real issues at hand in the public forum.
Music Educator
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December 13, 2013
To A few represent many:

"Student leaders, supportive parents, and the assistant directors met with Mrs. Markham and politely asked her to step aside during practice and watch how it was done."

I cannot think of an instance when this would be considered appropriate. She was hired and regardless of the opinions of parents or students, she is now in charge of the program. If the principal had not wanted her in the school, it would not have happened, though the articles continue to blame it on her husband hiring her, without any public proof of this being the case.

All of the complaints from students and parents include claims that I can't imagine people take seriously. Unless the parents are sitting in during instructional time, all anyone has to go on are the rumors from the students. As a music educator, and being in schools in general, I have heard how stories change from student to student and finally to parent.

I had a similar new director transition when I was in my last 2 years of high school. Instead of trying to have my parents involved, including my then Booster President mother, I decided to take note of teaching methods and styles I would not like to see within myself. It did not make me hate or erase music from my life. It made me work harder on my own, preparing myself for college auditions. This is called perseverance, and it is something I'm proud my parents instilled in me. After earning my B.A. and Masters in Music Education, I teach in one of the best school systems in the country and I am saddened to see another music educator treated this way.

I'm glad you admit the real issues were not presented appropriately in a public forum. I only wish the LHS students had the strength of perseverance that would enable them to work with a new director and grow as people and musicians. The parental complaints and media involvement might very well have ruined the school's chance at getting any quality director in the future. I know I would never take a position following a controversy as poorly dealt with as this.

Current Band Student
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December 13, 2013
To Music Educator:

I am a current senior in the Lassiter Band. The meeting that you didn't think was appropriate was actually a very good thing in our season. The meeting, however, was not with any parents, other than the two booster presidents who attended to supervise. The students were the ones that planned and led the successful meeting. Mrs Markham told us that it was one of the best learning experiences of the year in terms of how to manage the band. Over the summer we had a meeting with her to discuss goals of the season and what we wanted to accomplish. She knew that we had a system in place and she would try to continue the success of our program. When we felt that our season was unproductive (our show was not as far as it usually was for the time; I, being a senior, knew how little we had gotten done relative to my first three seasons), we decided to have that meeting. We felt it was good for the program and she did as well. One thing that we made clear was that our Assistant Director (Mr Thompson) and our Visual Instructor (Dave McCarthy) knew how to run the rehearsals in an effective way. She then let them take control of marching band rehearsal. That is why we believe that our victory in MD does not reflect her contribution to the band.

We, as students, feel that her rehearsals during the day are unproductive because of a lack of teaching. When the parents say "Students are told simply to play faster and louder", they are telling the truth. We are rarely told how to produce a good sound and the elements that make up tone production, something we have always focused on. To her, playing well is hitting all the notes, but we have been taught that true music making is much more than notes. It has come to the point where we are happy to get a chance to rehearse with Mr Thompson because he teaches us how to be better musicians.

Many of you think we are little kids who know nothing about being musicians. However, you couldn't be more wrong. We have students going to All-State, GHP, and other honorable music programs every year. If that doesn't make us knowledgeable, what does? You make it seem like we have no idea how to be good musicians. While we love Mr Watkins and all he did for our program, it's not his absence that makes us upset. We want to have someone who is very knowledgeable about music standing in front of us everyday, telling us how to be the best musicians we can be. Mrs Markham doesn't give that to us.

We are not whiny rich kids who miss our old director; we are students who have experienced a great director and want to continue our "Tradition of Excellence" through this transition period.
Prof. Musician
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December 15, 2013
Sorry Current Band Student,

If she isn't telling you how to produce a good tone, you, as a senior, should know how to do that and impart that information to your younger peers. Especially since you have students going to All-State, GHP, ASYO, Brevard etc....(as I did in high school).

I went through a transition like this as well. I didn't like it and he only lasted two years (which incidentally were my last two year as well). I didn't go to the principal, I didn't complain to my parents, and I CERTAINLY didn't go to the paper!! There is a term called slander and this director is well within her rights to sue everyone involved in this public display.

Instead of complaining, I worked harder and found outside ensembles that fulfilled my musical needs. I am very familiar with the Lassiter Band. You are a very strong program. You are knowledgeable musicians for your age. I stress "for your age" because if you wish to continue in music (as well as most careers), you've got a lot to learn when it comes to dealing with difficult situations. For your sake, I hope you chalk all of this up to a learning experience. It sucks. I'm sorry. It's not always going to be fair. I still deal with my fair share of "terrible" directors. I deal with it. I learn from it. Please learn from it. Rise above this public, slanderous, childish nonsense.
Logic is Good
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December 20, 2013
To "cobb band alumni" -- it is a shame that you decided to write a letter when you have no knowledge of the situation. Mrs. Markham, despite her "master's degree" did indeed tell the students over and over to "play louder" and "play faster." These talented students are being shorted in the classroom, and are now being persecuted by uninformed people such as yourself for standing up for what is right and telling the truth. To "Prof. Musician" -- Did you think about this statement before writing it? You are telling the students that they should teach each other if their teacher doesn't know how to do so. Your comment: "If she isn't telling you how to produce a good tone, you, as a senior, should know how to do that and impart that information to your younger peers." Should she sit and watch, and sign her paycheck over to these smart students?
Prof. Musician
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January 25, 2014
Logic,

As someone who has been playing for 17 years, I know a thing or two about high school bands. As I said before, I've been through the transitions. For a senior in the Lassiter Band, I would sincerely hope they knew how to make a good tone. To be honest, they should know how to do that before leaving middle school. Producing a good tone in a band of that level shouldn't be the number one concern. It's second nature to them. I also find it hard to believe that Ms. Markham would actually neglect something like that. I also suggested that if Lassiter isn't meeting their musical needs, there a other organizations outside of school who can. I can personally think of three all within a 20 mile radius of that school. She is not sitting back and letting the "students teach themselves" and collecting a paycheck. Such comments show how you have no clue what it means to run any kind of ensemble.
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