CATAWISSA RR - Earlier this year, parents, students and taxpayers of Southern Columbia Area School District packed public meetings and influenced the school board not to cut any programs or teachers from the music department.

Now, there's a new battle to fight to keep the arts funded.

The SCA music department, which has 350 students this year, is a finalist to win $50,000 from Clorox "Power A Bright Future" grant program, and they need the same kind of passionate support from the community shown months ago.

"The fight is going to have to continue," Lori Kriebel, fundraising chairwoman for the music boosters, said Wednesday.

"We want, whether we win or lose, to give people an opportunity to support the arts," said Letha Stone, who teaches fifth- through 12th-grade choir and organizes the school musical.

In other words, said Stone, "We need people to vote."

Vote daily

The competition started Nov. 12 and ends at 11:59 p.m. Dec. 19. Adults and children 13 years and older can vote online or via text once a day.

The program with the most votes will be awarded a $50,000 grant. The next top vote-getters in the three categories of Play, Create and Explore will each be awarded a $25,000 grant. Clorox's judging panel will select three additional schools from each category to win an additional $25,000 grant.

More than 5,000 schools applied for the grant, and SCA was one of 2,500 schools chosen as a finalist.

Any time the music department can get a grant, the money can be used to supplement what the school gives them, Stone said.

Furloughs, 'fight'

Business Manager Mike Sokoloski said the four music teachers are paid approximately $360,000 in salaries and benefits, and there is $25,000 dedicated to the fine arts, which include the music department and technical education, to spend on instrumental repair, general classroom, festival fees and equipment upkeep.

Superintendent Charlie Reh said $163,000 was spent in 2005 to upgrade the sound system, sound board and lighting in the auditorium, and $28,000 was spent in 2009 for new band uniforms.

When the school board was attempting to balance the $17 million 2012-13 budget in the first half of 2012, there were two music teaching positions among at least 16 employees being considered for furloughs, including Stone's position.

Stone, however, would have remained employed because she is also certified to teach elementary students.

In February, nearly 180 students, alumni, teachers, parents, booster representatives and concerned citizens piled into the high school library where public meetings are held to rally in favor of the music department. The students even sang "We Will Fight" by Charles Master in the hallways before the meeting.

Most of the positions, the music department's included, were eventually saved, but taxes for property owners in Northumberland County increased by 2.08 mills, and by 4.67 mills for Columbia County property owners.

SCA wish list

If Southern wins the $50,000, Stone said there are plenty of large or expensive instruments that could be purchased or repaired with the money.

Kriebel said some of the instruments are "starting to show their age," but the grant would not be enough to replace every instrument.

She said it's possible the department would likely be used to replace the timpani and two choral risers.

The timpanis, or kettledrums, have pedals that no longer tune, and the risers, which the students stand on during performances, are worn out, Kriebel said.

Furthermore, music is an important part of the curriculum to students, she added.

"It's a good teaching tool and they get discipline. It makes them better students and better people in life," she said.

It would be a "real advantage" to be the recipient of this grant, band director Joel Thomas said.

"Everybody should vote. Hopefully, we'll win," he said.

At this point, Kriebel said there aren't many contingency plans if the school doesn't win the money, including planning more fundraisers and applying for other grants.

"We're doing what we can to stay afloat," she said.

In order to vote for SCA via cell phone, text 1114pbf to 95248 once a day until Dec. 19. To vote online, visit and register at https://powerabrightfuture.clorox.com/nominees/detail/?nid=1144.