We need a little help here

I just stopped down at Aycock Middle School and ran into chorus director extraordinaire Jimmy Cheek and simply asked, “how’s it going?” Jimmy has been on the front lines for keeping several of Aycock’s more recalcitrant students interested and involved in school and his mission has been harder this year than most.

Jimmy asked if I had heard about his drum line. As I knew he is a choral teacher I assured him that I had not but would love to know what he was up to. He said, “come on”, and we started towards his classroom.

He showed me a drum line recruitment poster in the hall that he had made and related how he started the group with 8 boys and told them if they showed up after school two days per week and practiced that he would take them to an A&T football game… they did… and they grew.

I went in the chorus room and there were 24 guys there including two “tough guys” who joined today saying that they “need to belong to the line”. Jimmy told me that many of them were considered “problem” kids in school, but they weren’t a problem for Jimmy and J.R. (a drummer from N.C. A&T who is instructing them).

The rules for membership: no grades below a “C”, no “U’”‘s in conduct, all homework must be completed. If any of these are not met the guys can still come to practice on Mondays and Wednesdays but they can’t hold a drumstick until they are in compliance. Jimmy says that a couple of kids who had straight “F”‘s and all “U”s in the first grading period now have mid term reports that meet all the rules.

The problem is, they have no drums… Hell, most of them don’t even have drumsticks but I will take care of that by Wednesday. They are currently beating on the backs of chairs and desktops but they are starting to sound real good. This is all being done on a volunteer basis but they are going to need some help to thrive.

I am going to see if we can raise some money for these guys over the next month or so to get them some proper drums and some t-shirts. I will contact all of my band director and music store contacts to see what I can “drum up” for equipment donations but this is going to take some cash to really be successful.

Jimmy Cheek’s Aycock Drum Line is exactly the right prescription at exactly the right time at this inner city middle school. Want to help? All donations will be greatly appreciated by these guys. Reply or call.  336-273-2384

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  1. By Hogg’s Blog » Drumlines are the answer on February 4, 2007 at 8:54 am

    [...] As our school board wrings its hands and scratches their collective heads trying to figure out how to close achievement gaps and reduce the number of disruptive students in our classrooms, some of our finest middle school teachers are fixing things on their own time.  And for the most part, they are doing it on their own dime as well.   I’m talking drumlines here.   At Aycock Middle, choral teacher Jimmy Cheek started one three years ago.  He saw what everyone else was seeing; ‘at risk’ students with time on their hands after school and headed for trouble.  Many times, those same kids came to school wearing street-wise attitudes on their sleeves.  Exhibiting little educational direction coupled with scant regard for anyone that smacked of authority, “those kidsâ€? were “the problemâ€?.   Jimmy’s rules are simple, yet firm.  To participate you must keep passing grades, do your homework, have good conduct marks, and not miss school.  If the criteria are not met, the student still attends rehearsals – but is sidelined until things improve.  You see, Jimmy is a practical man and wanted all of his charges under his wing after school no matter what … and those kids really want to play… so they right themselves with the rules pretty fast.   After several months of utilizing desktops and cast-off drums as playing surfaces, some folks in the community donated enough money to buy the group proper instruments.  But, because they are beat upon, drumheads break and drumsticks splinter.  Keeping Aycock’s drumline drumming requires money – but how much do you figure has come Guilford County School’s coffers? That’d be zilch.  No sir… it’s bake sales and car washes and begging and pleading that is keeping ‘at risk’ Aycock drummers involved in school.   Then there is Welborn Middle School’s Dr. Jane Van Middlesworth.   Readers of Sunday’s N&R Life section got to know ‘Dr. V’ and the good work she has done.  While Tina Firesheets’ article focused on the special relationship between Dr. V and once-in-a-lifetime student-instructor Brandon Davis, the article’s message to our educational bureaucracy should be clear: Welborn’s drumline, like Aycock’s, is making a dramatic impact on children’s lives.   One would expect such excellence and dedication to be fully supported by our school system, but we find that Dr. V “…(bought) drums out of her own pocketâ€? and “…personally pays most of the expensesâ€? for her program.   Now I’m not sure just how much it costs to keep just one ‘at-risk’ student in a holding-pen-like, “alternative environmentâ€? such as our SCALES program for a year, but I’ll bet it ain’t cheap.  Let’s call it $10,000 for argument’s sake.   For that same $10,000, our school board could order up a bunch of drums.  They can then rest assured that every middle school has a Jimmy or a Dr. V in their midst who would jump at the chance to reach out to recalcitrant children if they only knew they wouldn’t go broke in the process.   Aycock and Welborn’s after school drumlines are shining examples of what can be accomplished when dedicated teachers feel empowered to do what needs to be done – despite the considerable expense of time and money required to make it all work.  Van Middlesworth and Cheek are involving children back into education by hook and by crook, but it shouldn’t be that way.    Middle school programs such as drumlines should be initiated – and funded – system-wide as a tool to help reduce gaping achievement gaps that just aren’t closing nearly fast enough.   Or, our school board can just keep wringing their hands wondering what to do about “those kidsâ€?.David Hoggard (www.hoggsblog.com/, dhoggard@triad.rr.com) is a local blogger, business owner, and bi-weekly citizen columnist for the News & Record. [...]