Downers Grove High School

Students at Suburban High School Look to Save Band Teacher's Job

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A group of students at a suburban high school is hoping to save the job of a band teacher, but there is some pushback from other students who question the teacher’s methods.

DaJuan Brooks is the band director at Downers Grove South High School. Brooks’ contract is up for renewal, and he recently learned that he will likely be removed from his position.

“I started crying. My whole world stopped,” student Annie White said.

White and a group of her friends are now looking to help Brooks keep his job, circulating a Change.org petition to try to convince school leadership to change its mind. So far the petition has accrued nearly 3,200 signatures, with a goal of ultimately reaching 5,000 signatures.

“He’s just an amazing person. I’ve never met anyone like him. He’s just so inspirational to me,” White said.

Parents of some of the school band’s members have spread the word on social media about the petition, and they are demanding to know why the school is potentially letting Brooks go. Dozens showed up at a school board meeting to voice their concerns during public comment.

“They gave impassioned, powerful, tear-jerking messages about Mr. Brooks,” band parent Cinda Lester said. “My daughter is 110% in marching band just because of Mr. Brooks. [He] has connected with my son in such a way that he’s able to calm him down and help him out. He gave him a home in the marching band,” said Lester.

Despite the outpouring of support, some parents and students believe the band teacher should be let go. Some Facebook posts have also been critical of Brooks’ teaching methods, criticizing him for “singling out” some students in an effort to hold them accountable.

Other students dismiss those complaints, saying that the majority of their classmates disagree with the decision.

“I hope they can see our viewpoint because they’ve said they’ve gotten complaints about him, but that’s only a few people compared to the whole group,” freshman Kellar Lambeau said. “The rest of his students appreciate and support him.”

“It’s good to have critique in life. If you don’t get that you’re setting yourself up to fail,” said another student, junior, Alaina Garcia. “He lets us know everything in a nice way but still pushing us,” Garcia said.

In a statement, the school said it could not comment on Brooks’ case specifically, but shed light on the criteria they use to determine whether to retain teachers.

“All new teachers are evaluated based on their planning, instructional practices, relations with students, and professionalism,” the school said. “Individual students or parents may see a portion of each of these, or none at all, in their interactions with a teacher. All of these factors, along with other employee performance measures, are used by the administration to determine if teachers in their first four years are brought back for the next year.”

There is no word on when a final decision will be reached on Brooks’ status for the 2020-21 school year.

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