Final decision coming next week on Jefferson show choir's trip to Chicago competition

Show choir director to make decision after members gather, make any needed changes to show

There may be a clear path to a national competition for West Side Delegation, Jefferson High School's show choir.

On Tuesday, less than one week after administrators announced their decision to not allow the choir to perform in the FAME Show Choir National Championship in Chicago on Friday, April 26 and Saturday, April 27, the school's administration changed its tune and left the choice up to show choir director Kent Keating.

According to the release, Keating will rehearse next week with the approximately 75 percent of West Side Delegation members who expressed a desire to attend the competition – which falls on the same weekend as a number of activities, including the high school's prom, Drake Relays and the United States Academic Decathlon Nationals Competition. Following that practice session, Keating will decide whether or not the group will compete in Chicago. West Side Delegation performers will be able to decide individually whether or not they will attend nationals. Keating did not return calls Tuesday.

“I'm extremely pleased that the superintendent and the principal and the director all got together and had a conversation about whose decision this really is," said Amy Homan, president of the Jefferson's choral auxiliary and a parent of two West Side Delegation students. "I think that putting it back in the hands of the team is where that decision needed to lie."

Charles McDonnell, Jefferson principal, cited scheduling conflicts as one of the concerns that informed the administration's initial denial of the choir's travel request despite the majority of members voting in favor of attending the competition. Other issues McDonnell addressed included students' "significant financial responsibilities" and "the need to finish the year strong academically."

On March 29, an email statement from the Cedar Rapids Community School District announced that Superintendent Dave Benson would review Jefferson administrators' action.

Groups must fund their own travel, hotel stays and food in order to perform at FAME national championship. The Tuesday release from the school district stated that boosters and donations will cover those costs for West Side Delegation should members perform in Chicago.

According to Bert Johnson, the vice president of FAME Events, organizers have not yet set the performance schedule for the national competition because the slate of competitors will not be finalized until the two qualifying events take place this weekend. Choir members will find out during a live random drawing late next week at what time they will perform, but the mixed choir events are set to begin at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 27.

Should Keating permit the choir to compete in Chicago, students would be able to attend Washington High School's prom, scheduled for Saturday, April 20.

Mara Carberry, the mother of a senior West Side Delegation performer, expressed support for administration's change of heart. To her, this saga could be a educational opportunity for administrators and the choral department.

"I think we learned a lot this year. Hopefully next year, if we go forward and continue to compete in that national arena, we'll make sure that expectations are set earlier in the process," she said. "Going forward I would ask that the communication and that expectation be set earlier. I think a lot of this could’ve been avoided."

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