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BenL

Recruitment Ideas

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I don't want this post to come off as a rant complaining. However, I am stumped and need ideas. 

I am the band director at Thomas Nelson High School in Bardstown(Nelson Co School District). This is my 2nd year. From 2018-2019 school year to when I was hired last year, the band lost a significant amount of members. The marching band went from 25-30 down to 12 and the concert band went from about 50 down to 36. Last year, I made due with 12 members. We competed in MSBA class A and we were never last at any contest. We were gearing up for a great concert assessment program and I had more interest in marching band this year. Because of COVID, our recruiting trips were canceled. But in terms of marching band, we had 12 kids show up to camp. Since then I have picked up about 4 or 5 kids. And I have had 2 kids quit so far. In terms of concert band I graduated 7. I lost an additional 9 or 10 due to co-op schedule conflicts or because director turn over. Most of my seniors this year aren't enrolled due to co-oping, my sophomores and juniors that didn't return were for various reasons. 

I am wondering if it is going to be worth it to grandfather in a system where to be in concert band class they have to do marching band, starting with the freshman next year. ( I went to Union Co. High and that was our requirement, Ive seen band programs where that works and where that doesn't work). TNHS pulls from 4 county feeder schools, and then a few parochial schools where the kids decide to go here instead of elsewhere. NCHS seems to maintain steady numbers in both concert and marching programs but this is something he and I both talked about. I have a lot of students who do sports and participate in concert band. So, forcing those kids to choose I feel like I would lose them. But if I start with the freshman next year, I may not lose as many. I also only gained about 6 freshman and three transfer students from schools outside our district. 

I am just stumped on what I should do. I have weighed competitive and non-competitive. Of course with COVID, we are non-competitive. Just frustrating to see the numbers so low and almost none of it is COVID related.

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If I were you, I would take a look at what your feeders are doing. You do need to ask yourself a plethora of questions. 

 

What is your relationship with your feeder?

 

How big are those programs?

 

What is your retention rate?

 

What is your overall goal for your program when it comes to size? 10% of the school population (which looks to be around 700) or more?

 

Is your program marching or concert focused?

 

I am sure many directors are dealing with what you are dealing with as well. 

 

Are you a member of any professional networks like the band director forum/guild on facebook? Many of those directors might have some great/horrible advice. 

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19 minutes ago, The Stig said:

If I were you, I would take a look at what your feeders are doing. You do need to ask yourself a plethora of questions. 

 

What is your relationship with your feeder?

 

How big are those programs?

 

What is your retention rate?

 

What is your overall goal for your program when it comes to size? 10% of the school population (which looks to be around 700) or more?

 

Is your program marching or concert focused?

 

I am sure many directors are dealing with what you are dealing with as well. 

 

Are you a member of any professional networks like the band director forum/guild on facebook? Many of those directors might have some great/horrible advice. 

I am in many of those band director forums and I see this question many times of what to do about losing kids. And really the only answer that seems to come out of this question is teach the kids that you have. Which I feel that I do a decent job of doing. 

In terms of feeders 2 of the 4 district feeder schools are middle schools with middle school band directors. One of which is the assistant at NCHS and the other who has a pretty staple program. But most of those kids feed into NCHS and I get a small handful. My main two feeder schools are two K-8 schools where there is a middle school band taught at one and the other the school has forced to meet only two days a week. So, due to COVID, my primary two feeder schools are not offering band right now. Hopefully when we return in the building that changes.

Our school population is about 700 so I would at least like 50 kids that participate in both concert band and marching band. Because right now the ones that aren't in marching band are the ones that I don't see as much effort and dedication in. 

 

I do appreciate the direction your comment gives me though!

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Random question.. 

 

What about the other activities available at your school? How are fall sports being fielded?

 

It sounds like to me there is a lot of issues with your feeders with what they are able to do. 

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Well our school tries to offer a lot of activities and sports. A few sports programs have folded before due to low participation. One of which was the Wrestling team. Clubs usually are student lead, because Nelson Co Schools are about student leadership and initiative. So most clubs are student lead with a teacher sponsor. If the club doesn't have a teacher sponsor then they don't meet.

Most of our sports teams maintain steady membership. But football has had to do some rebranding and heavy recruiting before I was hired. And even last year their record was only 1 win. They offer some sports at some of the schools. Our high school programs have some kids to pull from the feeder schools. But i dont know if all the feeder schools offer the same athletics. The middle school feeders have stronger athletic programs and then Boston k-8 school has a decent athletic program. New Haven k-8 school(my other feeder) doesn't seem to have as strong of programs. 

Athletics have had their own issues with recruitment and retention. In my personal opinion, it didn't really benefit the school district to open a 2nd high school because now our athletic teams are not as good as Bardstown's and Bethlehem's programs.

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Make best friends with your counselor, the secretary, and then the administration. Scheduling can make you or break you. Preferably, you need to be on a 7-period day or at least a modified block where u can have band year-round.

This one is a biggie: you MUST be directly involved with your feeder programs (and vice-versa). If you have a schedule where you are stuck at the HS all day, it’s not going to work like it needs to. I don’t know if any major, highly successful programs in KY, IN, or TN where the HS director only teaches one or two classes of band at the HS (and then A and H, etc). Jmo

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12 hours ago, bdit said:

Make best friends with your counselor, the secretary, and then the administration. Scheduling can make you or break you. Preferably, you need to be on a 7-period day or at least a modified block where u can have band year-round.

This one is a biggie: you MUST be directly involved with your feeder programs (and vice-versa). If you have a schedule where you are stuck at the HS all day, it’s not going to work like it needs to. I don’t know if any major, highly successful programs in KY, IN, or TN where the HS director only teaches one or two classes of band at the HS (and then A and H, etc). Jmo

Yeah that was this issue this year. Seniors are moving to a modified block schedule, so that they can co-op 2 or 3 days out of the week. So due to that and COVID I split my concert band into 2 classes 1st and 6th period. I had a "marching band" class turned percussion ensemble last year that Ive turned into another concert band class during 7th period too. Even with band offered 3 times in one day I still had kids drop due to scheduling conflicts and I've spent so much time with the counselors trying to work out scheduling. This year I have 3 band classes and 3 A&H. Last year I had 2 band classes, 3 A&H, and Guitar Class.

Myself and the person at NCHS have mentioned trying to work out where we can go to the feeders on certain days of the week and the push back argument we receive is that we wouldn't be fulltime teachers so why would we get a fulltime salary. 

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3 hours ago, BenL said:

Yeah that was this issue this year. Seniors are moving to a modified block schedule, so that they can co-op 2 or 3 days out of the week. So due to that and COVID I split my concert band into 2 classes 1st and 6th period. I had a "marching band" class turned percussion ensemble last year that Ive turned into another concert band class during 7th period too. Even with band offered 3 times in one day I still had kids drop due to scheduling conflicts and I've spent so much time with the counselors trying to work out scheduling. This year I have 3 band classes and 3 A&H. Last year I had 2 band classes, 3 A&H, and Guitar Class.

Myself and the person at NCHS have mentioned trying to work out where we can go to the feeders on certain days of the week and the push back argument we receive is that we wouldn't be fulltime teachers so why would we get a fulltime salary

As it appears to me, and I don't know your total situation, your schedule seems to be the major elephant in the room. It's good that you have a positive relationship with your counselor, but if you are STILL having scheduling issues, then it is up to him/her to fix and address it. I've always said, "I don't mind if the student has to make a choice, but I don't want it to be forced." If it's forced, it's a lose-lose. 

The middle schools that feed you are directly related to your enrollment at the HS. You may need to talk to your superintendent if you keep getting pushback for needing to be involved with the middle schools. That may give you some indication if they truly want a band program (or not). Then you would know if you're just spinning your wheels and need to get out of there. Nelson County has had some success in the past with their program (before the split), but it was never the size that it should have been based on the enrollment. As an outsider, it appears to me that the middle schools (or K-8..........who still does that??) are the first issue, and then the scheduling at the HS being the second. 

Edit: I would also like to think that your asst principal would be on board with helping you, although his band programs were never really stellar (meaning he may not understand what it takes to truly succeed).

Edited by bdit

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Could you do a combined marching band program with Nelson County?  Sort of like Co-Hop from a few years back?  (Or did that not really happen?  Was that a fever dream?)  

 

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40 minutes ago, KMEA Commenter said:

Could you do a combined marching band program with Nelson County?  Sort of like Co-Hop from a few years back?

Why would you do this? Each school has its own things - athletics teams, band, cheerleaders, dance team, etc. If each school maintained independent groups for everything except band, how would that look in the community? How would that look to the administration? I would think by attempting to combine the groups, you are telling your administration, "I understand you do not value us and our program and that is ok. We will just mess around with our "sister-school" and join the two programs. It's ok. Don't worry about us." Could you imagine combining the basketball teams from both schools? How about the soccer teams? No? Why not? Because that would be ridiculous? Exactly. To combine the two bands into one is equally ridiculous. Not to mention the fact that the marching band would by KMEA rules not be allowed to compete. 

I agree with previous posters that said the job 1 should be getting involved with the feeder programs. If you want the high school program to grow and be strong, there has to be a relationship between the high school director and the middle school programs on a daily basis. I would also encourage you to have a serious discussion with the administration at the high school. Ask them what their goals are for the band program, for the marching band. If the answer is anything resembling "to have a strong and vibrant band program that our school/community can be proud of", then (as the musical expert in this situation), you need to follow up with a list of things that need to happen to allow the stated goals to be achieved. The first of which is to have some continuity of instruction between the middle schools and the high school. If you are told the bit about you "wouldn't be a full time employee and therefore would not receive a full time salary", remind them you are still working a full day each school day, it just might be that you are working half the day at the high school and half the day at one of the middle schools. This would require some adjustments to the "allocation" for faculty from the board of education to the high school administration but it is definitely not impossible. There are too many programs in the state that have high school directors that spend part of their workday at the middle school and part of it working at the high school for that to not be a possibility. 

Having said that, if you hear from the administration when you ask what their goal is anything other than what I mentioned above, you might need to do some soul searching and decide if that job is one that you want to stay in. Tough thing to have to think about but the reality of the situation is if your administration's goals for the band program are different from your goals for the band program, it will be almost impossible for you to make much headway towards accomplishing your goals as the administration "holds all the keys to the castle". Their support is going to be critical to IF you will be able to achieve your goals.

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49 minutes ago, Mike Honcho said:

Why would you do this? Each school has its own things - athletics teams, band, cheerleaders, dance team, etc. If each school maintained independent groups for everything except band, how would that look in the community? How would that look to the administration? I would think by attempting to combine the groups, you are telling your administration, "I understand you do not value us and our program and that is ok. We will just mess around with our "sister-school" and join the two programs. It's ok. Don't worry about us." Could you imagine combining the basketball teams from both schools? How about the soccer teams? No? Why not? Because that would be ridiculous? Exactly. To combine the two bands into one is equally ridiculous. Not to mention the fact that the marching band would by KMEA rules not be allowed to compete. 

 

I think you took me a little more seriously than I intended...

That said, why would you do it?  To get bigger, have more resources, etc.  

I'm not sure you would be "telling your administration" anything.  I think you would be responding to them telling you they don't value you.  Which, if they don't, it is what it is.  

I don't think it's totally ridiculous.  I mean, Co-Hop did it in 2008.  (I had to look that up.)  I'm sure they felt they had a good reason for doing so.  (I don't remember why.)

The KMEA rules issue is a fair point.  I didn't know it would prohibit KMEA competition.  But KMEA isn't even doing anything this year, and it's not the only game in town.  Would it prohibit competing in other circuits?  (Maybe it would, I don't know.  If so, and if you want to be competitive, then yeah, it's a non-starter.)    

It's just food for thought.  

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11 hours ago, bdit said:

As it appears to me, and I don't know your total situation, your schedule seems to be the major elephant in the room. It's good that you have a positive relationship with your counselor, but if you are STILL having scheduling issues, then it is up to him/her to fix and address it. I've always said, "I don't mind if the student has to make a choice, but I don't want it to be forced." If it's forced, it's a lose-lose. 

The middle schools that feed you are directly related to your enrollment at the HS. You may need to talk to your superintendent if you keep getting pushback for needing to be involved with the middle schools. That may give you some indication if they truly want a band program (or not). Then you would know if you're just spinning your wheels and need to get out of there. Nelson County has had some success in the past with their program (before the split), but it was never the size that it should have been based on the enrollment. As an outsider, it appears to me that the middle schools (or K-8..........who still does that??) are the first issue, and then the scheduling at the HS being the second. 

Edit: I would also like to think that your asst principal would be on board with helping you, although his band programs were never really stellar (meaning he may not understand what it takes to truly succeed).

To answer a few questions. (It's no question that this job could be a sinking ship) Scheduling has been the biggest frustration. I'm not going to rant much about it but basically when it came to scheduling kids in band the response was there were so many scheduling conflicts going on that it drastically limited my numbers. If I offered 1 band period then I'd have 10 students or at most 15. Due to ag/ffa course, dual credit offerings, an engineering program, and senior co-op. Hopefully with a new music teacher at one of my main feeder schools who has worked with some good competitive programs, and has agreed to be my assistant BD, one of my feeders will have a good relationship. My goal is to work out where I can go visit the feeders on some rotation schedule, if it's even gonna be possible.

Also, the AP youre thinking of left TNHS. 

I'd like to see this program get to where it was in 2017-2018 under Alex McCoy. This program has a plethora of problems, but i do feel like so far ive left it in better shape then when I took over last year. I'm also from Western KY and some point I'd like to move closer to my family. 

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21 hours ago, KMEA Commenter said:

I think you took me a little more seriously than I intended...

That said, why would you do it?  To get bigger, have more resources, etc.  

I'm not sure you would be "telling your administration" anything.  I think you would be responding to them telling you they don't value you.  Which, if they don't, it is what it is.  

I don't think it's totally ridiculous.  I mean, Co-Hop did it in 2008.  (I had to look that up.)  I'm sure they felt they had a good reason for doing so.  (I don't remember why.)

The KMEA rules issue is a fair point.  I didn't know it would prohibit KMEA competition.  But KMEA isn't even doing anything this year, and it's not the only game in town.  Would it prohibit competing in other circuits?  (Maybe it would, I don't know.  If so, and if you want to be competitive, then yeah, it's a non-starter.)    

It's just food for thought.  

NCHS director and I mentioned and toyed around with this idea. Or at least having some combined rehearsals(Pre-COVID). We have also talked about county wide indoor ensembles to help strengthen our marching programs. 

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43 minutes ago, BenL said:

NCHS director and I mentioned and toyed around with this idea. Or at least having some combined rehearsals(Pre-COVID). We have also talked about county wide indoor ensembles to help strengthen our marching programs. 

It makes some sense to me.  Strength in numbers.  Support.  The kids at each school might benefit and be drawn to the opportunity to meet/interact with peers from another school.  

Both bands have had struggles with numbers post-split.  That's to be expected when a high school literally gets split in half.  This isn't a situation where a sacred, long-term rivalry between two big, historic band programs would somehow be violated in spirit by cooperating/collaborating.  This is two bands trying to make it through tough times (not to say the struggles of the two schools are exactly the same, but you wouldn't have discussed it with each other at all if both schools didn't stand to benefit in some way).  

Again, it's really just a thought, but an interesting one.  When you're trying to survive, there's no reason to simply cast ideas aside.  You have to have an open mind, and I'm glad to see you do.  I think that will help you be successful in the long run, whatever approach you end up taking.

Edited by KMEA Commenter
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For what it's worth, Bands of America will let you combine (as long as you're in the same district, which you are). You could also do festival class or exhibition in KY, if you chose so. Also, I would be pushing for the 10% rule of enrollment for your HS classes. I think TNHS is around 700, so you can do the math. And I always had a set number of freshmen that I would be expecting from feeders (meaning I would start losing my mind if that number fell below; for me, if I wasn't bringing in 25-30 freshmen per year, something was wrong).

Also, I would advise you to stay at least long enough to get tenure (complete your 4th year, and teach there your 5th). Then, if you do decide to move districts, you won't have to start all over. You would just need to complete one year at the new district to get your tenure back. Many newer teachers in KY don't understand how that works. If you teach somewhere for 4 years, and then leave, you have to start all over again. OR if you teach somewhere and get tenure, then leave for another position and teach there for one year ONLY, then leave AGAIN, you have to start all over. Tenure is HUGE in today's landscape of things. Jmo

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5 minutes ago, KMEA Commenter said:

It makes some sense to me.  Strength in numbers.  Support.  The kids at each school might benefit and be drawn to the opportunity to meet/interact with peers from another school.  

Both bands have had struggles with numbers post-split.  That's to be expected when a high school literally gets split in half.  This isn't a situation where a sacred, long-term rivalry between two big, historic band programs would somehow be violated in spirit by cooperating/collaborating.  This is two bands trying to make it through tough times (not to say the struggles of the two schools are exactly the same, but you wouldn't have discussed it with each other at all if both schools didn't stand to benefit in some way).  

Again, it's really just a thought, but an interesting one.  When you're trying to survive, there's no reason to simply cast ideas aside.  You have to have an open mind, and I'm glad to see you do.  I think that will help you be successful in the long run, whatever approach you end up taking.

I'm not as knowledgeable with WGI and indoor world but I am pretty sure we could make some sort of independent type group for something like that and collaborate between the schools and include Bardstown or students from the parochial schools. 

 

I did just have a meeting with my athletic/club organizations director who came to me first and said "we need to get you to these feeder schools, get the band to play in the hallways and generate some interest" My AD is our head football coach and hes rebuilding the football program too so he is fully on board with whatever collaboration pieces that need to take place with the feeders. Because I mentioned to him what I have said here about how 1 of our main feeder programs isn't offering band right now and tried to just make band two days a week 6th-8th grade all combined into one class so, maybe itll be him, and I meeting with other admin about what we can do.

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9 minutes ago, bdit said:

For what it's worth, Bands of America will let you combine (as long as you're in the same district, which you are). You could also do festival class or exhibition in KY, if you chose so. Also, I would be pushing for the 10% rule of enrollment for your HS classes. I think TNHS is around 700, so you can do the math. And I always had a set number of freshmen that I would be expecting from feeders (meaning I would start losing my mind if that number fell below; for me, if I wasn't bringing in 25-30 freshmen per year, something was wrong).

Also, I would advise you to stay at least long enough to get tenure (complete your 4th year, and teach there your 5th). Then, if you do decide to move districts, you won't have to start all over. You would just need to complete one year at the new district to get your tenure back. Many newer teachers in KY don't understand how that works. If you teach somewhere for 4 years, and then leave, you have to start all over again. OR if you teach somewhere and get tenure, then leave for another position and teach there for one year ONLY, then leave AGAIN, you have to start all over. Tenure is HUGE in today's landscape of things. Jmo

That's good to know, I wasn't entirely sure how tenure worked. I knew that you'd have to be somewhere for at least 5 years but wasn't sure about leaving. 

I'd love to have 10%. A few of the feeder schools I got 0 kids from. I gained more transfer students than from my feeders this year. 

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1 hour ago, BenL said:

I'm not as knowledgeable with WGI and indoor world but I am pretty sure we could make some sort of independent type group for something like that and collaborate between the schools and include Bardstown or students from the parochial schools. 

 

I did just have a meeting with my athletic/club organizations director who came to me first and said "we need to get you to these feeder schools, get the band to play in the hallways and generate some interest" My AD is our head football coach and hes rebuilding the football program too so he is fully on board with whatever collaboration pieces that need to take place with the feeders. Because I mentioned to him what I have said here about how 1 of our main feeder programs isn't offering band right now and tried to just make band two days a week 6th-8th grade all combined into one class so, maybe itll be him, and I meeting with other admin about what we can do.

Interesting.  Having the football coach on your side generally helps.  

You seem to really care about the program.  Best of luck to you.  

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Just throwing this out there, not trying to be a jerk.  Can we stop referring to middle school programs as "feeders"?  There's a bunch of reasons why, but try to grow past that.

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2 hours ago, JuliusKorngold said:

Just throwing this out there, not trying to be a jerk.  Can we stop referring to middle school programs as "feeders"?  There's a bunch of reasons why, but try to grow past that.

um, but that's what they are...........................like it or not. Where does my HS band come from? The middle schools that "feed" me. Although I have one MS teacher that needs to be reassigned due to poor performance (but that's another story for another time).

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3 hours ago, JuliusKorngold said:

Just throwing this out there, not trying to be a jerk.  Can we stop referring to middle school programs as "feeders"?  There's a bunch of reasons why, but try to grow past that.

What are the reasons why?  

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That a middle school band "feeds" the high school program reduces its purpose to just that. A middle school band is its own program with its own justification for existing. 

It's like saying that a music program of any type only exists because it will improve math and reading scores. It's inaccurate and does a disservice to the teacher(s) and their students. 

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Also, if a high school director views their associated middle school band as mostly or only a "feeder," they are setting up a one-way, toxic relationship with their potential students and their current teacher. At that point, it's parasitic. 

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1 hour ago, tubadude62 said:

Also, if a high school director views their associated middle school band as mostly or only a "feeder," they are setting up a one-way, toxic relationship with their potential students and their current teacher. At that point, it's parasitic. 

This seems like...overthinking.  In any event, if the high school director does not think of the middle school program as an important feeder of potential future participants (which the high school program needs to survive), they are less likely to support the program, are they not?

Plus, if the middle school program is getting support from the high school director, but it isn't serving as a good feeder program in return, isn't that by definition a toxic, one-way relationship?

Edited by KMEA Commenter
COVID-20...I'm living in the future. Also I forgot a question mark.
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