Band directors Gretchen Weaver, Shane Ellsworth terminated following allegations of hazing at camp


Photo courtesy of Madison Dabrowski

Alexis Albright and Orbiter Staff

What happened

Band directors Gretchen Weaver and Shane Ellsworth were terminated January 24 at a Board of Education meeting following allegations of hazing at Camp Muskingum in August.

Page 10 of the Redacted Report on the Streetsboro City School’s website said the following activities occurred during camp:

  • A lake toss
  • Skit night
  • Water balloons
  • Campers squirted with silly string

Though these activities are known as band traditions, a report claimed these activities made a band member feel harassed.

After the report had been filed, on August 14,  the directors were placed on paid leave, and an investigation ensued.

Nearly five months later, school board members decided upon termination during an executive session.

Member Kevin Grimm abstained from voting because his children are in band.

Four of the five voting members said “yes” to the termination of Weaver and Ellsworth.

The reaction

Backlash was immediate.

Junior Kaitlyn Biada was among the first to start crying. She said parents were appalled, students were crying and hugging, and parents even started telling board members “they should be ashamed of themselves.”

Freshman Tate Raub said no one in the room was happy.

Senior drum major Jeremy Grabowski said students saw the termination coming.

“With [Weaver and Ellsworth] being gone for so long the first semester,” he said, “it didn’t seem like they were trying to wrap it up to get them back. It seemed like they were just trying to push them out.”

He said from the board’s perspective, he can see why they made the decision to terminate. Grabowski said he wished that during the investigation, however, officials would have interviewed band members as they said they would. Since this was the first (known) band incident brought to the attention of the board, he also said he wished they had not been as harsh.

“I’m not saying they should just get a slap on the wrist, either,” he said. “I feel like being out for a semester was punishment enough, and having their character degraded from being on the news, and all that spreading like wildfire — that was bad enough; that was punishment.”

Emotions erupt on social media

Former band member Maddy Hall said she did not like to hear students bashing the board members and superintendent Michael Daulbaugh.

“I feel that you should respect them as they had a hard enough decision,” Hall said. “If…people could learn to accept that things don’t always happen the way you…think they should…it doesn’t mean the decision is wrong.”

Hall, through a series of tweets, said she and her brother had been interviewed as a part of the investigation.

The situation was handled professionally, she said.

Sophomore Fidelina Rivera also saw the blatant outrage on Twitter. She said she felt annoyed by people’s angry reactions.

Rivera tweeted: “Continuing to push the band stuff is like trying to resuscitate a fish that’s been dead for three days. Not letting it go will divide us further.”

Students cope

“It’s easier now that a decision has been made,” Biada said, “although, it wasn’t the one we were all hoping for.”

She said having a teacher like temporary band director Mason Smith helps with the healing process. She said she can tell he really wants to have a strong bond with the band like Weaver and Ellsworth did.

“I don’t think there was another teacher more suited for this band with our given conditions,” she said. “All we can do is look up and go from here, and try to be the students Weaver and Ellsworth would have wanted us to be.”

Given the current situation, Smith is trying to unite the band.

He said in his experience with the Marine Corps., the best way to unite a group is to bring them together behind a common goal.

“In band, our shared goal is to create excellent music and put on excellent performances,” Smith said. “We spend hours and hours working tirelessly to create a half-time performance that only lasts about seven and a half minutes, and the more effort and harder we work, the closer we become as a team.”

What’s next

Principal Jamie Hogue said the band director positions will be posted online some time in April.

In the meantime, officials are reviewing the group’s needs for next year.

After applications are reviewed and candidates narrowed down, a committee interviews the applicants, and the number of candidates dwindles again. Finalists then move on to second and third interviews.

“It’s not always the most qualified,” Hogue said of the selection process. “It’s not always the most talented; sometimes you consider ‘fit’ — what our kids’ needs are, and what an applicant’s strengths and weaknesses are, come into play.”

He said Smith had to go through this process as well, and was originally recommended by a peer from Solon.

Smith said he will apply for the Rockets band director position; however, he said, for now he only sees himself as an interim director.

“I…fully trust the district to hire the best possible person for the position,” he said.

Moving forward

Hogue said he does not want students to forget the last nine years of their time in the Rockets marching band.

“There are some great things that happened,” he said. “Some great contributions were made, and I think we’d be wrong to try to forget that or look past that.”

He said mistakes were made, and when emotions die down, he hopes the community can think of those mistakes and try to improve on them.

“It’s a new era,” he said. “Sometimes those things happen abruptly, and there’s a grieving process, but I know if there’s 100 kids that really want to play instruments and really want to march, and there’s a leader with a vision that’s passionate. Everything’s going to be fine.”

Grabowski compared the band to a family who sticks together through hard times.

Photo courtesy of Erica Howard

“Band is the place where you have your friends and you consider them family,” he said. “Yes, there’s problems with family members, but as a majority…we all support one another, and we all have each other’s backs.”

He said to move forward, they have to focus on how to better themselves for the future.

“It’s time to move on,” Grabowski said. “That’s in the past, and this is the present.”


**Superintendent Michael Daulbaugh and band director Shane Ellsworth were also contacted for this story, but could not comment.

Additional Resources:

Media release report
Redacted report