MILLINOCKET, Maine — Town Council members called on East Millinocket school officials Thursday to keep together the Katahdin region’s award-winning high school Unified Harmony Show Choir.
East Millinocket school officials said at a meeting on April 6 that they are considering creating a Schenck High School choir and preventing students from attending the Millinocket-based unified program at Stearns High School. The officials said the move would give more East Millinocket and Medway kids a chance to perform than they would otherwise in the highly competitive atmosphere. Parents of some students cannot carpool or afford transportation to Stearns, where the choir performs, officials said.
An East Millinocket school official responded Friday that his board aims to provide the best opportunities for the greatest number of local students, particularly the large number, 49, performing with the middle school choir at Medway Middle School.
Of the 31 students who perform with Unified Harmony, five attend Schenck High School of East Millinocket. The rest attend Stearns High School of Millinocket, officials have said.
Speaking during a council meeting in which choir and jazz band members and their teachers were honored with six resolves, several councilors said they favored keeping the Schenck and Stearns high school student group together.
“When I heard that there was even an inkling or an idea to take this apart, dismantle it, I could not believe it,” Councilor Michael Madore said during the meeting. “If you want to have an absolute blueprint of how these communities can work together, and how these schools can work together, you could not find a finer one than this.”
Madore said that the “idea of ever taking this program apart just baffles me.”
“I can’t believe it would ever happen. I hope that smarter, calmer, mature heads prevail in this and Unified Harmony Show Choir gets another 10 years of being together,” Madore added.
East Millinocket School Committee Chairman Ryan Whitehouse said Friday that three performing arts teachers from the two schools are preparing a presentation for the East Millinocket and Millinocket school boards “where they will bring forward their recommendations for how we should move forward.”
“As the performing arts experts in the area, we’re awaiting their input before we decide how best to proceed,” Whitehouse said. “Our aim has never been to destroy Unified Harmony, only to ensure plenty of performing arts and show choir opportunity for the already identified, and wildly talented, 70 kids at the middle school and junior high level in this area.”
Approximately 100 Millinocket, Medway and East Millinocket students are performing in choirs at all school levels, Whitehouse said. Of those, Whitehouse counted 55 East Millinocket and Medway students and 45 Millinocket students — plenty, Whitehouse said, for two Katahdin region choirs.
“We strongly refute any claims that our actions are based on petty, inter-town rivalries,” Whitehouse said.
The teachers hope to have their recommendations ready for the school boards next month. No dates have been set.