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Community rallies to save LMS jazz band program

All that jazz will live on at Langley Middle School.

At least for another year.

Threatened with extinction from severe school district budget cuts, the jazz band program has been saved through a combination of hard work, fundraisers and publicity.

South Whidbey Schools Foundation treasurer Wendy Baesler reported that $9,000 in tax-deductible donations had been raised so far — a thousand dollars more than was needed.

“The money is in a restricted fund for the specific use of the middle school jazz band,” she said. “The excess funds will be used for jazz band-related activities.”

The district discontinued funding for the jazz program at the middle school in the 2009-10 school year due to budget restraints. Officials are trying to find ways to cut $1.85 million from next year’s budget, and the band, though repeatedly praised by school administrators as an essential extracurricular program, got the ax.

On Wednesday, foundation president — and former district superintendent — Lisa Bjork presented the school board with a check for $8,000.

“The goal of the schools foundation is to be a catalyst to further support quality education for all of our students,” she said. “In a diverse community such as ours, when people want to come together, good things happen.”

Jazz band teacher Jessica Foley said that a fundraiser at Useless Bay Coffee Company in Langley and a sixth- and seventh-grade recital spread awareness that the band was in dire straits.

“The kids are amazed and very happy,” Foley said. “People in this community were very supportive, and we are all grateful for their efforts.”

South Whidbey School District Superintendent Fred McCarthy noted the Herculean effort of parents, local businesses, the arts community, music educators and citizens resulted in raising sufficient funds to reinstate the LMS Jazz Band as a before-school program.

“The district is deeply appreciative of this generous donation during these particularly difficult and challenging financial times,” McCarthy said.

Baesler said that the majority of individual checks ranged from $10 to $100.

“But we got one for $3,000 from a single anonymous donor,” she said.

The South Whidbey Schools Foundation provides financial support to the school district above and beyond that available from tax dollars, focusing on support of teachers through innovative teaching grants, recognition and fiscal administration for a number of creative programs funded by special grants and donations.

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