QUESTION: Who prohibited all of the ABSS bands from marching in the Graham Christmas parade and why? I heard it was because of the potential for rain, but all of the ABSS bands marched in Mebane’s Christmas parade Friday night – when it did, in fact, rain.
ANSWER: Alamance-Burlington school officials say they don’t know why ABSS bands – many of which have marched in the Graham Christmas parade the past 62 years – didn’t march in the city’s parade this past Saturday, December 2.
Aaron Davis, director of recreation and parks for the city of Mebane, confirmed for The Alamance News that the bands from Cummings, Eastern, Southeast, and Southern high schools marched in Mebane’s Christmas parade Friday night.
“I would say it wasn’t a downpour but it was more than a sprinkle,” Davis told the newspaper Wednesday.
By comparison, no precipitation was recorded in Graham when the city held its parade Saturday morning, according to rainfall totals from the National Weather Service.
Aaron Noe, who is the band director at Graham High School, reportedly contacted the band directors at other ABSS schools and instructed them not to come due to the potential for rain that failed to materialize Friday, based on copies of correspondence that The Alamance News obtained this week from the city of Graham.
“We were monitoring forecasts throughout the week and made the decision we thought was best for our students,” Noe wrote in an email to Graham city officials at 6:56 a.m. Saturday morning. “As you know, moisture is a heightened concern with all of the mold issues ABSS has experienced this year.”
ABSS officials told the newspaper Monday night that they were unaware that Noe had contacted other band directors, instructing them not to participate.
Les Atkins, the school system’s public information officer, told an Alamance News reporter Monday night that the ABSS administration was unaware before the parade that, Noe, the Graham High School band director, had advised other band directors not to allow their students to march in Graham’s Christmas parade.
Asked how one band director had the authority to make that call, Atkins told the newspaper, “I will have to find that out.”
Atkins subsequently issued a statement, which read: “ABSS is implementing a new protocol requiring all band directors, coaches, and other extracurricular activity leaders to report any changes made to their previously approved activity schedules. This includes any cancellations, date changes, time changes, or location changes that deviate from their previously approved schedule. Going forward, any alterations to these schedules must be communicated directly to school administration for review and approval before being communicated to students and families.”
Graham’s parade, however, wasn’t devoid of the time-honored Christmas standards.
The band from Clover Garden School – a public charter school north of Burlington – marched in the parade Saturday morning.
Meanwhile, Graham mayor Jennifer Talley attended the school board’s latest meeting Monday night and took to the podium to register her disappointment during the public comments period.
“I received notice late Friday that every single band from ABSS had canceled our parade,” Talley told school board members. “I can tell you that, in 62 years, that’s never happened. I was pretty upset. Apparently, one of the band directors took it upon himself…to contact every single band director at ABSS, and they, as an entire unit, decided to cancel.
“I called Les Atkins,” Talley told the board. “He was unaware of this [and] contacted the school board. The principal was unaware of this. I was getting messages back-to-back, where apparently they had sent out messages to all those students to not come to the Graham Christmas parade and that the parade was canceled. I was confused, because we had been posting about the weather. We have a very precise weather forecast – we do it to a very specific area and we also consult emergency Services, as well. We had less than a 2 percent chance of rain.”
“I was having to answer to a lot of people on Saturday and throughout the weekend, as to why they felt there was some boycott of Graham’s parade by the bands,” Talley continued. “I don’t know what needs to be done, but I’m asking the board to kind of investigate to see that doesn’t happen [again]. In 62 years, every single band director has made an independent decision as to whether they will participate, and these kids practice all year long, and their parents look forward to them participating in these events that bring the entire community together.”
“I just don’t understand why you can cancel on a Friday for a parade on Saturday due to rain, which is a 2 percent chance, and then go march in the Mebane parade, and it’s pouring rain,” Talley added. “I can’t understand that. I can’t make it make sense.”
Both ABSS superintendent Dr. Dain Butler and school board member Dan Ingle apologized later that evening to Talley, who remained seated in the audience throughout the five-hour meeting.
Graham High School’s band director Noe, for his part, has not responded to an email message that The Alamance News sent to him on Monday. Nor has he responded to a phone message that the newspaper’s reporter left with the Graham High School receptionist Monday afternoon.
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