Band boosters clash with athletic boosters

by Laura Bednar

Oct. 17 board of education meeting

Kathleen Vijaywergiya, music booster president and school parent, expressed concerns over the Independence High School athletic boosters’ treatment of the marching band.

She noted that marching band is listed in the school’s quarterly publication under “sports offered.” The student handbook lists band under club activities, not interscholastic athletics, yet marching band members earn physical education credits like varsity athletes.

Athletic boosters print and hang banners depicting senior athletes on campus, and Vijaywergiya said music boosters were told the band was to hang their own banners this year. She said some banners were missing and two had misspellings.

“In the past, the music boosters ran the grill and participated in the concession stand, just like every other sport,” said Vijaywergiya. “We have now been excluded.”

She said she attempted to resolve these issues by contacting staff involved with athletics but “barely received any response.”

“Our marching band has always been included with the rest of the sports, and the sudden change in treatment of our students excludes them and actually bullies them,” she said.

Board President Joan Mencl asked when Vijaywergiya noticed the change. She said during the pandemic in 2020 or 2021.

In a response submitted to Independence Today, athletic boosters President Jeff Pascarella said, “The Independence Athletic Boosters Club and members certainly respect and appreciate all of the hard work of the music boosters membership and how much they do for the music students in our district. The athletic boosters and its members also work hard in doing the same for the athletic programs at Independence. It was extremely disheartening to learn of the comments and accusations made by the president of the music boosters.

“The statements read are misleading, false and extremely irresponsible. The Independence Athletic Boosters firmly deny any validity to the accusations made. We also are very disappointed the music booster president did not approach any officer of the athletic boosters club prior to her statement with any questions or concerns. The Independence Athletic Boosters’ membership will continue to work hard, with integrity, in support of Independence athletes and its programs.”

The response from Mencl and board Vice President Carrie Sears read in part, “Our boosters and PTOs are considered support organizations. … They each have elected officers, bylaws, and operational norms for those value-added experiences. Often times, their mission and work overlaps with other support organizations.

“We always hope our support organizations can work together when there are competing interests or opportunities to support. As board members and part of the district leadership team, we often are paying members of these organizations, however any input we have to the operations of the specific support organization would come as a paying and voting member or officer of the organization, not as a board of education.”

The statement included a standing offer for both the athletic and music boosters to meet with Superintendent Ben Hegedish to discuss challenges.

Kiwanis K-Kids

Independence Primary School students involved in the Kiwanis K-Kids program presented their projects. K-Kids is a service organization affiliated with Kiwanis International.

The K-Kids pledge is similar in mission: “As a K-Kid, I promise to serve my neighborhood and my school. I will show respect toward my environment, and I will try to make the world a better place in which to live.”

The 45 members of IPS K-Kids complete service projects throughout the year. Students decorate and prepare gifts for veterans during the school’s Veterans Day celebration. During the Christmas season, they send digital cards to children in hospitals and physical cards to those in nursing homes for Valentine’s Day.

K-Kids have also held fundraisers to support Cornerstone of Hope, a grief counseling center in Independence. Within the school, kids have made thank you cards for faculty and staff and created a slide show thanking the PTO for their work. ∞