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Publish Date: 2/1/2005

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Bill Wilkinson directs the band at Silver Creek Middle-Senior High School. Wilkinson is considering an early retirement due to a reduction in the number of extra-duty hours for which he is paid by the St. Vrain Valley School District.Times-Call/Hunter McRae

Banding together
Silver Creek seeks policy changes to keep band director

 LONGMONT — Band parents and students at Silver Creek Middle-Senior High School are on a quest to keep their beloved band director Bill Wilkinson from retiring early and help others in his position by revamping an extra-duty pay system they believe is “flawed.”

About 75 Silver Creek Middle-Senior High School band parents and students flooded the St. Vrain Valley Board of Education meeting Jan. 26 in an attempt to get Wilkinson’s extra-duty pay reinstated.

In the past, Wilkinson received 280 hours of extra-duty pay, which netted him an additional $3,000 a year on top of his annual salary. This year, the beloved band director’s extra-duty hours were cut back unexpectedly by 100 hours.

That cut, on top of the pay cut employees of St. Vrain took two years ago after the district found itself in financial hot water, convinced Wilkinson he had to retire soon before his lower wages jeopardized his future retirement earnings.

As part of the presentation to the board, 10 students stood up to talk about “Mr. Bill” and why he is important to them. One student was moved to tears as he talked about his band director’s response to him breaking a leg earlier this year.

“I got hit by a truck and I remember thinking that my senior marching year was done,” said Andrew Hendrickson. That didn’t deter his band director, who responded, “Well, we’ll just have to incorporate you into the show” and proceeded to build Hendrickson an outhouse to play from that would fit with the group’s Western-themed show.

The band’s original quest was to get Wilkinson’s pay reinstated, but after looking at the district’s extra-duty pay formulas, decided to find a solution that would help all band directors, not just Silver Creek’s.

The group pointed out that small schools such as Erie and Lyons high schools, with fewer than 400 students, receive 350 initial hours of extra-duty time, while Silver Creek and Frederick High receive only 150 more, even though they are twice the size, with between 500 and 800 students. Niwot, Longmont and Skyline high schools, which are only one-third bigger than Silver Creek, receive 1,000 hours. The schools also can allocate variable hours. With those figured in, Silver Creek was given 1,000 hours this year, Longmont, Skyline and Niwot each received 1,900 hours, Frederick was given 790, Erie was given 700 and Lyons was given 650.

Wilkinson’s supporters recommended St. Vrain base its extra-duty hours on the size of the programs at the schools rather than on the size of the school. They also pointed out that band directors are required as part of their job to lead their bands at football games, parades and competitions, and yet they receive the same amount of extra-duty pay as other groups.

The parents recommended increasing the base allocation of hours to each school based on its size, which would bump Silver Creek’s base allocation from 550 to 700 hours, guaranteeing Wilkinson the 280 hours he has always received.

Rob Berry, the district’s director of athletics, physical education, fine arts and health, said that under the district’s current policy, no more than 18 percent of a school’s allocated hours may be used for any one program and that how those hours are allotted should be the job of a site decision-making team.

The board recommended a special task force, made up of parents, teachers and administrators, take a closer look at the district’s extra-duty compensation policy to see if changes need to be made.

That won’t help Wilkinson this year, said Becky Hansen, the parent leading the effort, but she hoped it would clear the way for Wilkinson, Berry and Silver Creek Principal Sherri Schumann to discuss different possibilities for next year. One option was to make concert, marching and jazz bands separate programs so Wilkinson would not be in danger of exceeding the 18 percent limit for any one program.

Wilkinson’s students, in marching, concert and jazz band, are hoping for the best.

“Mr. Bill is important to everyone,” said sixth-grader Gunnar Hansen, 12. “He is an inspiration to us all. He helps us with our playing and he’s a member of our band as well as our instructor. He needs to stay in St. Vrain.”

Paula Aven Gladych can be reached at 303-684-5211, or by e-mail at pavengladych@times-call.com.


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