UPDATE: CR Jefferson show choir heading to national competition - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

UPDATE: CR Jefferson show choir heading to national competition

West Side Delegation from Jefferson High School West Side Delegation from Jefferson High School

The director of the Cedar Rapids Jefferson High School West Side Delegation Show Choir says the group will perform at a national competition in Chicago.

Kent Keating made the determination after meeting with the students this week.

"We met with those students who are able to attend and determined that re-blocking the show would be doable," Keating said in a written statement. "The students are very positive about the process and have been working very hard. We are all looking forward to continuing to rehearse as we polish the performance."

On March 16, the group competed in an event in Orlando, Fla., as part of the Show Choir National Championship Series and placed third. That qualified them for the National Show Choir Finals in Chicago on April 26 and 27.

Last month, KWWL talked to members and their parents who say they were disappointed when they learned that principal Charles McDonnell made the decision that the group could not travel to Chicago to compete in a national competition because the academic decathlon, prom and the Drake Relays were on the same day.

A couple of days later, Superintendent Dr. Dave Benson said that the district would review the decision.

Last week, Benson released a statement saying that members of West Side Delegation "may still attend the FAME show choir competition." He said Keating would need to determine how many members would attend the competition and if it was possible to re-block the show with the participating students.

He says that Keating and Chris Deam, Jefferson Activities Director, met with members of WSD. They said that all expenses for the trip will be covered.

FAME, the organization putting on the competition, will pay for hotel and registration fees while choir boosters will cover transportation costs.

They also say that Jefferson's performance will be scheduled late enough in the day that students can also participate in the national academic decathlon.

They also announced that Washington High School has said that Jefferson High School show choir members can attend Washington's prom on April 20. 

The district says that about three-quarters of the WSD students said they were interested in participating in the national competition.

Keating and Deam stressed to students that each person's individual decision should be honored.



Jefferson High School's show choir, West Side Delegation, lost its chance at a national title because the principal announced the students wouldn't be attending.

A few weeks ago, the choir placed third in a regional competition held in Orlando, Fla. As a result, the choir earned a trip to compete for the national title in Chicago next month.

But Jefferson High School Principal Charles McDonnell sent a letter to parents stating the following:

"The administration regrets to inform you that we will not be participating in the Chicago Choir trip. The reason for this denial is that it puts so many students in conflict. We have students that have invested in their senior prom. We have students that have commitments to the spring musical.

"We have some students that have commitments to Decathlon and still have a lot of preparation to do. We have many students that have significant financial responsibilities left over from travel and choir expenses and in many cases have difficulties meeting these responsibilities.

"Add to this the need to finish the year strong academically and we reach a breaking point for some students. In spite of a majority vote I cannot support a trip that puts so many students in a stressful position.

"Please revel in the Florida experience and be proud of your accomplishments. To Jefferson you are national champions."

KWWL extended an opportunity for McDonnell to further explain his decision on Thursday, but he refused to comment, only stating he stands by what he wrote in the letter distributed to choir parents.

Meanwhile, students are left feeling like their hard work wasn't worth much in the end.

"We qualified and then there's no point anymore," said Rylie Waite, a senior at Jefferson High School who has been a member of West Side Delegation for three years.

Parents are also frustrated.

"This is such a rare opportunity for them to compete at a national level, and it was just taken away from them," said BJ Franklin, the mother of a West Side Delegation member.

Franklin said Jefferson High School released early for a state basketball game, and she's disappointed the show choir hasn't received similar support.

"There's a culture with show choir, and they become a real family," she said.

"To have somebody outside of the 'family' come in and tell them that they can't perform and basically reap the benefit to their hard work, that just is not fair," she added.

Elijah Foreman is a senior West Side Delegation member who was also frustrated.

"We worked really hard," he said.

Shannon Carberry said she doesn't think the choir trip cancellation is reasonable.

"Sometimes it feels surreal because it's a huge deal," she said.

"This team has become my family and the directors have become my family. So it's just hard to know that it's all over because the administrators said 'no,'" she said.

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