The feeling of frustration was palpable at Turlock Unified School District’s meeting on Tuesday as the Pitman High School Band and the Board of Trustees attempted to meet each other halfway regarding transportation usage within the district.
The issue surrounding transportation was originally brought up at the Sept. 7 meeting wherein the Pitman Band complained about the requirement that stated that they had to use district buses for their band reviews.
With approximately 162 students in band this year, the band believes that it both meets the storage and distance requirements to necessitate the use of a charter bus.
“We are such a special storage need and I really want that to be taken into consideration,” said president of Pitman Band Boosters Lori Denego. “Right now, we have parent volunteers hauling school equipment and we shouldn’t have to rely on that.”
Despite this, they have been told to use costlier district buses which, according to band members, lack both the storage and comfort required for their band reviews.
As echoed by many band members who voiced their concerns at Tuesday’s meeting, the money Pitman Band raises is not the school district’s money. There was a shared feeling of confusion among band members regarding the power the district held when it comes to telling them how to spend the money they had raised themselves.
“This year, our band had to drop one of its most exciting band reviews because of lack of funding,” said senior Christopher Elliot. “Not because we did not raise enough, but because we had to spend extra, unnecessary money for school buses rather than charter buses.”
As a response, the district stated that it had contractual obligations with the California School Employees Association to support their employees’ regular hours. Additionally, the district emphasized the duty it holds to ensure the safety of all students within the district.
“It does not matter where the funding comes from,” said TUSD Superintendent Sonny Da Marto. “It’s a district, school sponsored trip, therefore the liability and obligation is in the district. We can’t tell you how to spend your money, but we are responsible for the students and we cannot allow them to go on trips unless we are 100 percent sure they are safe.”
All of the Board members informed the guests at Tuesday’s meeting that there would not be an answer that night; however, they were committed to work with administrators to find out what they could do to come to a solution.
“If there is language in the contract that says if we cannot meet the needs with our own transportation, then we have the option to go outside to a charter company then I think we need to explore that for band specifically,” said Board member Barney Gordon.