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In Lenox, no marching band for Memorial Day parades

The rigorous schedule of standardized testing was cited as preventing the Lenox Memorial Middle and High School Band from practicing, and therefore being unprepared for the parades. “I am sad, I’m disgusted, embarrassed for the town of Lenox. The school should have leadership and teach respect to veterans. This is a civics lesson.” -- State Rep. (and Lenox native) William “Smitty” Pignatelli

Editor’s note: In response to this article, Lenox Superintendent Timothy Lee told the Edge that the Lenox Middle School band will play at the beginning and end of the Lenox Memorial Day Parade, and will also walk. Lee said “This will not happen again,” in future.

Tim Walsh, owner of Public Market in West Stockbridge, offered free lunches to any marching band that can play at the parade. 

Lenox — Much wrath is being flung at standardized testing lately, and now in one Berkshires town it is mud-soaked after a rigorous spring testing schedule at Lenox Memorial High School has interfered with the marching band’s ability to play in upcoming Lenox Memorial Day Parade on May 30.

Band Director Jonathan Cade sent an e-mail that eventually landed in the lap of Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli (D-Lenox) and sent him “through the roof.” Pignatelli is the son of a World War II veteran, and named after his father’s best friend, one who never made it back alive. He says Memorial Day is so important; it being the kick off to summer isn’t why, either.

There are a few reasons the band can’t take their place in the parade, according to Cade, but “the biggest obstacle we face at this time of year is the large amount of standardized testing that all schools are faced with. The A.P. and MCAS tests make it very difficult to schedule many extras in May.”

“I am sad, I’m disgusted, embarrassed for the town of Lenox,” Pignatelli told the Edge. “The school should have leadership and teach respect to veterans. This is a civics lesson. It’s only one day, one hour.”

Pignatelli nearly burst into tears on the phone. “I get very emotional about this for personal and professional reasons,” he said. “So many others had loved ones who never made it home to watch a parade or even participate in a parade.”

Cade was not particularly happy about it, either. “This was a very difficult decision to make,” he wrote. “As the son of a disabled World War II vet, I fully understand how much this day is part of the fabric of Lenox and Lenoxdale.”

Cade further said that he hoped this was the only year this would happen. Lenox Principal Michael Knybel, he said, assured him that he will work on scheduling so the band can participate in future. Cade did, however, arrange for a trumpet player to play taps “at both observances.”

Pignatelli said he wished the news had come sooner so another band could have been secured. He said he still would have been unhappy about it.

“I want someone from the school to call my 92-year-old World War II vet father, who lost a best friend whom I’m named after, and explain to him why schedules didn’t jive. I want someone with a $12.5 million [school] budget that was never questioned to call the Coakley family. Bob Coakley who lost his brother Bill in Vietnam, and a grandson who was a Marine.”

One can see why the Lenox Superintendent Timothy Lee may not have had the most pleasant time at Wednesday’s Lenox Selectboard meeting, where Lee went to break the bad news. Pignatelli said Lee and the school were “admonished” by the board.

“It’s a tradition,” Pignatelli said. “The [Lenox] VFW raises a lot of money over the year for scholarships for students. The marching band has played every year since the beginning of time.” Pignatelli said he marched, too, when he was at Lenox High.

He said the town managed to get someone to play the Star Spangled Banner for the ceremony. But Pignatelli is still outraged, noting that plenty of other schools have standardized testing that doesn’t interfere with Memorial Day.

“I don’t blame the kids,” Pignatelli said. “I’m blaming the adults.”

 

The text of Band Director Jonathan Cade’s May 5 letter to Lenox and Lenox Dale parade officials:

Good Afternoon:

I’m writing to let you know that the LMMHS Band will be unable to participate in this year’s Memorial Day Parades.

This is due to a few circumstances. The first is that the HS Band is not scheduled as a group. This means that they rarely, if ever, have the opportunity to practice together. The only way to have a marching rehearsal is to pull them out of their regular classes. With the school year ending so early this year their other teachers are reluctant, and rightly so, to give up valuable instructional time with them.

The biggest obstacle we face at this time of year is the large amount of standardized testing that all schools are faced with. The A.P and MCAS tests make it very difficult to schedule many extras in May.

Principal Knybel has assured me that he is working his hardest to schedule the High School Band in a manner more conducive to being able to participate in events like the Memorial Day Parades.

This was a very difficult decision to make. As the son of a disabled World War II vet, I fully understand how much this day is part of the fabric of both Lenox and Lenox Dale. I am hopeful that this will be the only year that this decision is necessary.

I have arranged for a trumpet player to play taps at both observances and will be in contact with both of you as we approach Memorial Day.

Thanks for your understanding.

Joanthan Cade

Band Director

Lenox Memorial Middle and High School

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