By CASEY CROUCHER
Recorder News Staff
The Greater Amsterdam School District's finance department believes a bid for new marching band uniforms will come in under its allocated amount in the budget, allowing for extra money for band instruments.
GASD business manager Kim Brumley told the board of education this week that the uniforms bid will be approximately $70,000 to $80,000 -- leaving upward of $30,000.
The band uniforms currently being used are from 1996 and the school district has been putting off the purchase of new uniforms for a few years.
Susan Stoya, the district's secondary education director, said the music department has also been asking for instrument purchases for years.
"Every year I get asked for up to $10,000 a pop, and every year I have to say no and I try to squirrel away a couple thousand here and there to help along," Stoya said. "There hasn't been a large-scale purchase of instruments since the district got the Vh1 Save the Music Foundation grant, which was more than 10 years ago, and the current music budget has money for supplies and repairs but no current funding for instrument purchases."
She said the district's instruments are so old that the music department exceeds the repair budget every year and every year a transfer is needed to cover additional repair costs.
Stoya said the instruments get "double the wear and tear" because there's a middle school marching band that has more than 75 students who share instruments.
She said the district has been working to decrease the attrition of students in the instrumental programs in fifth and sixth grades, but once those students reach middle school there's a significant drop-off in the program due to economic disadvantages.
"The number of economically disadvantaged students has gone up dramatically over the past few years and for many students the cost of renting an instrument is prohibitive," she said. "Once students hit middle school they have to buy their own instrument or rent an instrument, so for many families they can't afford that and they opt out."
She said GASD music teachers try to persuade these students to play some of the larger instruments since they stay in school and don't need to be rented, but there are only so many larger instruments to go around and "and not all students want to play the tuba or another instrument."
Stoya said the music program is one of "the jewels in the district" and they've been operating on a shoestring for the past few years.
She asked the board to consider using the money left over for the uniforms to fund instruments.
"Can you get a major playing on the football team in Amsterdam?" Gavin Murdoch, vice president of the board, asked.
"No," Stoya replied.
"Can you get a major in music?" Murdoch asked.
"Yes," Stoya answered.
"We have to support this; give them all the money left over," he said.