News Column

The show goes on: Naples High School Band performs after director's contract isn't renewed

May 23, 2014

By Katherine Rosenberg, Naples Daily News, Fla.

May 23--Two Naples High School Band members received band director's awards at a concert and ceremony Thursday night -- but that band director was conspicuously absent.

When reached at his home immediately before the show, outgoing band director William J. DuBois said he knew nothing about the concert and symphonic bands performances that were slated to start within the hour. He said he knew nothing of the ceremony that would follow, during which students got their participation letters, seniors got plaques and the two special awards, previously hand-picked by DuBois, were given out.

DuBois, whose contract was not renewed for the 2014-15 school year, sent an email May 9 to school staff and Principal Kevin Saba saying after the decision on his contract, all previously scheduled events and communications maintained by him would be canceled. And they were.

School officials, responding to parent concerns that there wouldn't be an end-of-year participation ceremony, worked to arrange the 7 p.m. concert in the school's auditorium. Two student drum majors acted as conductors for the evening.

Although DuBois has been teaching, he said his intention in taking down the band website and canceling events -- including a visit from a world-renowned composer funded through an $1,800 local grant -- was essentially to step aside and make room for new leadership by ceasing to put his stamp on the program.

"When I was informed, immediately my primary concern was what is in the best interest of these students?" DuBois said. "The only thing I could do at that point to try to help the program was to try to get that next person in as quickly as possible ... I can't control how fair they are to that person or persons, except to not do anything further that might compromise that person's ability to try to make decisions in the best interest of the program."

The decision not to continue the program as it was, however, lead to many rumors around campus, students said. They weren't sure what was true, and it seems parents have many different versions as well. For his part, DuBois said he previously decided not to discuss the matter publicly because he didn't think that directly benefited his students.

District officials said the search for a replacement has begun and Dubois still is employed and is being paid through the end of the school year.

"District and school administrators are working with the students, parents, and band boosters to continue the band activities and programs throughout the rest of the year since the band director has chosen to no longer support them," district officials said in a prepared statement.

District officials have not made public a reason for letting DuBois go.

"Decisions to renew an employee's annual contract are not taken lightly and are always made with the best interest of students in mind. There was no exception in the case of Mr. Dubois," district officials said in an email.

DuBois doesn't know why, either.

"All I could discern from their choice was the directions in which I had taken things was not what was wanted," DuBois said. "It's really not about me anymore, but despite being in this position, a lot of my heart is still in this program with these kids, and it always will be."

DuBois is the second band director to leave the school in the past three years. Stephen Detjen left Naples High in 2012 for Pine Ridge Middle School; a move assumed by many students at the time to be a demotion, but that Debbie Terry, assistant superintendent of human resources, said was the district fulfilling a request for a transfer. Attempts to reach Detjen for comment were unsuccessful.

For junior Jake Zacarias, 16, his senior year of band will be under the direction of the third instructor in his four-year high school career, assuming the director's position is filled by fall.

"It's kind of an awkward situation," Zacarias said. "I have no idea why (DuBois wasn't renewed); we've heard it has to do with the music not being current. That's honestly what we thought when Mr. Detjen was leaving, too. There's a few people who do think that."

DuBois taught the marching band to play music from the Phantom of the Opera, and as an extension of a band trip to Philadelphia, band members got to see a live performance on Broadway in New York City. Band members said it was an incredible opportunity, but noted the music is not up-tempo or current.

Zacarias, a baritone player, said music is music and band is more about celebrating familial atmosphere than critiquing which performance is most lively during football game halftime shows.

Many students described DuBois as a dedicated teacher and director who wanted his students to get the best possible education.

Kimberly Svatos 15, who has been playing the alto saxophone since sixth grade, said DuBois put a lot of his own time, effort, energy and money into making all band members better musicians.


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Source: Naples Daily News (FL)

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