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Band policy hits sour note

Seminole High School's marching band placed 21st of 62 bands in last year's Grand Nationals competition in Indianapolis, and its Band Boosters think the band has a shot at doing much better in this year's competition, scheduled for November.

But, under Pinellas school rules, bands are allowed to make a major trip only once every two years, so Seminole would not be eligible until 1993.

Band Booster president Sharon Bagley asked the School Board to waive the rule for the Seminole band and assured board members that parents of the 135 band members had agreed to pay $200 each for the trip.

The board rejected Seminole's plea at its meeting Wednesday, but instructed Superintendent Howard Hinesley to look at the policy.

Bagley said the band may submit its money to enter the competition anyway, in the hope that the board will change its decision when the policy is reconsidered in March.

Hinesley said the policy was instituted in the 1970s. At the time, Largo High's Band of Gold was appearing all over the country and the world. Band members spent a lot of time raising money for those appearances.

That band's success prompted other bands to enter competitions around the country, raising money to support their trips. The community and band directors began to complain about all the fund-raising.

Parents also put so much pressure on band directors and students that both had a high burnout rate, Hinesley said.

Besides, Seminole parents might be able to write a check for their children to participate in the out-of-state program, Hinesley said, but other schools could not.

"My charge is to have good bands in all schools," he said.

Hinesley admitted, though, that he is concerned about the low numbers of students in marching bands. Seminole's band, at 135 members, is the county's largest. Others average about 70 members.

Schools the size of Pinellas' high schools should have bands of 165 members or more, Hinesley said.