Sweetwater District reverses decision to cut nationally-renowned music program

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CHULA VISTA, Calif. – In a surprise move, the Sweetwater Union High School District reversed its decision to cut a nationally-renowned-music program.

Southwest High and Middle School’s steel drum band and mariachi band looked like they were done for good, despite the steel drum band playing the Super Bowl and for two U.S. Presidents. That was until the band’s director and dozens of former and current students turned out at a school board meeting to ask the council to reconsider.

“It was like watching a movie, on the edge of my seat,” said one student who turned out for the meeting.

It took a couple weeks, but ultimately the district decided to change its mind and allow the clubs to continue into the 2021-2022 school year.

“They listened to the kids and the community, and God bless them for that,” said Keith Ballard, the band’s director.

The decision to keep the program around comes as Ballard enters his final year before retirement. The one-time National Music Educator of the Year feels he’s done it all over the years, but even in his final chapter, he’s finding new lessons to give his students.

“It goes to show you, if you have a problem with the district, you organize and you can go to the school board and speak,” he said. “There are ways to get things you want.”

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