MADISONVILLE-Tellico Plains High School (TPHS) is trying to pull its reputation out of the trash after band
and choir trophies were found in the school's Dumpsters last week.
Last Friday night (Aug. 2), former
members of the TPHS band and chorus discovered the trophies and
plaques the music department had won over the years were tossed into
the school's trash bins.
A surprising discovery
According to students, several teachers
got them out and alerted outgoing Band Director Robert Cobb, who
started a group chat on Facebook to set up a time for some of the
former members to go to the school and retrieve the memorabilia.
When Cobb, and former band students
Nick Lynn and Eddie Mansfield arrived, the trophies were no where to
"We started looking around and found
them back in the Dumpster," Nick told The Advocate & Democrat
on Tuesday. "I had to get in and dig for them. From 3:30 to 6:30
p.m. on Sunday, I was in the garbage saving our trophies."
Nick took a photo and posted it to his
Facebook wall, simply stating, "Just dug these out of the garbage."
News of the dumped trophies spread like wildfire, with former
students, parents and teachers voicing their opinion on social media
On Tuesday morning, Principal Russell
Harris remained mum on how the trophies ended up in the trash bins.
"I apologize that it happened," Harris told The Advocate & Democrat Tuesday morning. "I take
full responsibility. I'm not going to try to blame anyone else."
Harris said the school was in need of
additional classroom space and decided to clean out the band/choir
room to use.
"The room needed cleaning, needed
cleaning a lot," he said. "In the process of that, they got
After public out roar over the trashed
trophies, Principal Harris cleared off a section in one of the
school's trophy cases in the gymnasium this week to house the awards.
"We'll make sure they are properly
displayed," he said.
The band and choir trophies will be
displayed alongside the football trophies.
At the Thursday meeting of the Monroe
County Board of Education, parents aired complaints about the
trashing of the trophies and the termination of the music program at
Tellico Plains High School.
At the request of Third District member
Sonya Lynn, Pat Lynn, the mother of Nick Lynn, addressed the School
"One man's trash is another man's
treasure," she simply stated.
Pat continued by saying the trashing of
the hard-earned trophies and memorabilia was "disrespectful."
"Love thy neighbor as thyself," said Pat. "Truth is eternal and unchanging. Is this the kind of
thing we are teaching our children?"
Nick was an eight-year member of the TPHS band.
"I support these former band and
chorus members," said Pat. "That's 20 years of history that has
passed. Twenty years of teachers and students who devoted their
Chairman Bob Lovingood agreed.
"These children earned that," he
said. "I respect highly what she has said."
Music in their hearts
The TPHS music program and band/choir
director position was eliminated at the request of Principal Russell
Harris in June due to "continued lack of demand for band and choir
courses." The Monroe County Board of Education agreed at that
meeting to add an additional math teacher to offer algebra II as a
year-long block course this fall.
Sonia said she was unable to attend
that meeting, but "hated that it happened."
"I love music very much," she said. "I hate that it's been taken away from Tellico because there's a
lot of talented people from there. A lot."
Lovingood said he hoped the school
could look at reinstating the program in the future.
Pat added that if the band instruments
were not going to be used, they would like for them to be taken to
other schools in the county.
"So these students can get the music
and put it in their hearts. Some of them are very deserving students
who cannot afford what I paid for an instrument for my child," she
said. "We would like them to get the respect that we did not."
The TPHS principal stepped up to the
"I'm 43 years old. I've made some
mistakes in my life. This is a mistake," Harris said of the
trophies ending up in the trash. "I'm the principal. I'm in charge
of the school. It happened under my principalship."
Harris, who is going on his eighth year
as principal, then switched to discuss the eliminating of the music
"We've had a problem with numbers," he said. "I've made an effort to help that...little things that no
one has noticed. We have focus areas. Number one is fine art. It was
put there for a purpose, trying to get students into that program."
But the continuing lack of interest
left the school at a crossroads.
"The fact is I made the
recommendation and I stand by my recommendation to cut the class," said Harris. "It is nothing personal against any of my students. I
take full responsibility for it. I did it for the whole school."
Harris said he tries to be a good "steward to taxpayer's money."
"It's hard for me to justify 30 plus
in some classes and less than 10 in others," he said. "It's a
tough decision to cut a band and choir program. But what the School
Board has done is allow me to hire a new math teacher. It's going to
allow us to compete academically with other schools."
"I don't want to be middle of the
pack," he continued. "What you've given me has allowed 104 hours
more of classroom instruction."
Keeping the music alive
Harris told the School Board that the
school is working on plans for an after-school not-for-credit pep
band and chorus for anyone with any interest in playing an instrument
or singing. He added that he would like Sandy Childress and Kyle
Parks to be in charge of the after-school program.
"I hope to have 100 students or more
participating in the program," Harris said optimistically.
Until then, Harris said Keith Trout
with Sequoyah High School's band has volunteered to assist Tellico
Plains High School in caring and storing the band instruments.
"No instrument has been thrown away," he said. "If we're not using them, I'd be in support of loaning
them out as long as we can get them back."
When Harris finished speaking, Pat Lynn
asked to make a statement.
"For eight years, I never saw Mr.
Harris at any band events or fundraisers," she said.
An echo of unworthiness
Janet Vinyard, a member of the Monroe
County Rescue Squad and a former band parent, was the last to speak.
"My son was in the band for years.
That helped him from going out and getting into drugs, which is just
about the only other thing for kids to do in Monroe County," she
Vinyard said she was "hurt to the
bone" that the music program would be cut.
"I read the statement about how the
seven students who had planned to take the class just weren't worth
keeping it for," she said. "For the rest of their lives, they
will hear that echo. That they aren't worth it."
The Advocate & Democrat will
provide updates on the pep band and choir as they become available.
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