Students, teacher fight to save steel drum program


CHULA VISTA, Calif. – After a 22-year run, a nationally renowned Chula Vista steel drum band may have played its final concert Monday morning.

“I just don’t understand how it went from a gold staple program when I was in it to being eradicated,” said one former student who showed up at the Sweetwater School Board meeting Monday night.

The steel drum program serves Southwest Middle and High School students, many from underprivileged communities. The band has played for two U.S. Presidents and at Super Bowl XXXVII.

“I’m not a bad teacher, and I got a bunch of people to back me up,” said Keith Ballard, the band director.

Ballard has won more than 20 teaching awards, including being named the national music teacher of the year.

“All he wants is a chance,” a parents said to the school board Monday.

Ballard said news that his class was being cancelled caught him off guard last week when he checked the schedule and suddenly saw the class was no longer on it. He believes it’s partially because of budget cuts, but says he was told it was because not enough kids wanted to sign up for the class any more.

“The program means so much to me because it was an escape from so much at home,” current student Melody Hernandez said.

So many people turned out Monday that some were forced to listen from outside the building.

“I think we made our point,” Ballard said after the meeting. “We took over this school board meeting room. Thank you so much to the parents for helping me.”

Ballard said he expects the superintendent to weigh in on the issue at some point in the near future. Calls FOX 5 made to the district Monday went unanswered as of filing this report.

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