Photos and words by Gaige Davila
Point Isabel ISD says there is nothing more they can do to make longtime band director Scott Hartsfield return to the district.
“The District’s administration has met with Mr. Hartsfield to mediate this matter at length and has exhausted all efforts to try and resolve this matter,” PI-ISD School Board President Heather Scott told the PRESS in a statement.
With marching season already started, Port Isabel Band Booster Club (PIBBC) members are asking PI-ISD parents to demand a resolution, hoping to bring Hartsfield back to the district.
The issue started after Port Isabel High School changed the athletic period, which was originally during 4th period before this school year, to 1st period. Band students, who attended their band class in 1st period, who were also in football, volleyball or cross country had an alternate schedule: 3 days of band, 2 days of athletics.
By the second day of this school year, Hartsfield resigned from the district, reportedly after a verbal confrontation with head football coach Tony Villarreal. Hartsfield, according to Port Isabel Band Booster Club (PIBBC) President Lorena Hernandez-Gonzalez, said PIHS’ athletic department was pressuring band students to quit band in favor of football.
The PRESS’ repeated attempts to contact Hartsfield have not been successful.
Members of the Port Isabel Band Booster Club (PIBBC), led and populated by parents of PI-ISD band students, met with Capistran the next day at PI-ISD’s central office on August 25. Capistran told the parents she would meet with Hartsfield and look into the scheduling issue. Later that day, Capistran told PIHS counselors to remove the hybrid schedules for 14 students, leaving 1st period as band only for those students. They would have to attend athletics before or after school, as arranged by their coaches.
But this did not address the issue, members of the PIBBC told the PRESS. They want the schedule to be of years past: 1st period is band, 4th period is athletics. To do this, the master schedule of every student in PIHS would have to be changed, Capistran told the PRESS. Hernandez-Gonzalez supports this, saying the scope of doing so is not as large as the district makes it seem.
“If (Capistran) changed it the first time, she can change it back to what it was,” Hernandez-Gonzalez said. “If it was that much of a change, why did she do it in the beginning?”
Capistran could not be reached by press time. The district has not posted a job opening for a band director as of press time.
In the same statement to the PRESS, Scott said there are no scheduling conflicts for students in both band and athletics.
“We are hopeful that all parties can move forward towards a positive direction that is in the best interest of all of our students,” Scott concluded in the statement.
Days after Hartsfield resigned from the district, band students described the once orderly program as chaotic.
Current band students protested the district, PI-ISD Superintendent Theresa Capistran and the PI-ISD Athletics department, all of which, they say, have made being in band difficult.
Students told the PRESS this past Thursday that some students have quit band, are considering quitting or are lost in what to do next.
“It’s a lot more stressful than it usually is, a lot more pressure is being put on us,” Nataly Granados, a freshman band student, told the PRESS. “Because he did not just do all of the summer band for us to quit midway and stop pushing forward. Without him, a lot of us want to leave, straight up. Because what’s the point of doing it if he’s not with us?”
“He’s a father figure for most of the band kids and having him leave really impacted all of us,” Ava Tamayo, a senior band student said.
Adrian Jimenez, a freshman band student, echoed this sentiment, saying Hartsfield’s guidance happened past the band hall.
“I am really sad he’s gone,” Jimenez said. “He’s someone special. We are known because of the band. If we were failing at class, he would go and talk to the teacher and say, ‘what can this student do, what can you do to help him?’ He can’t be replaced.”
“It’s different without him, he put the fun into it,” Gavin Del Rio, a freshmen band student said. “He encouraged all of us to stay in and keep going.”
Hartsfield’s absence has left an instructional void within the district’s band program, with upperclassmen teaching underclassmen, particularly within the percussion section, which was Hartsfield’s specialty.
The students said they’ve been harassed by athletics students, saying they’re “band geeks,” should give up on trying to get Hartsfield back and to stop complaining about his resignation.
“For some reason it hits harder because we lost someone that’s dear to the program and it just hurts to me a lot to see a place that was so welcoming of band kids all the sudden become spiteful because of a rushed and poor decision that was made,” Granados said.
The PIBBC, through social media, are asking the PI-ISD community to write to school board members and administration until a resolution between Hartsfield and the district is made.
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