District budget cuts will run counter to some of the arduous efforts being made to improve the much-criticized school system.

Eastern High School offers a poignant example.

After many years without a marching band, Eastern found a dedicated band supporter in music instructor Robert Sands, who joined the faculty last September.

Throughout the school year, Sands led a fundraising drive to pay for new uniforms and equipment and a recruitment drive to find talented band members from nearby junior high schools.

A grant from the Crispus Attucks Park of the Arts program allowed bank members to begin rehearsing daily this summer. Grants from private industry and the school board paid for new uniforms, parts of which arrived two weeks ago.

Two weeks ago, Sands' RIF (reduction in force) notice also arrived.

"I'm just disappointed; all of the dreams you set for yourself, all of this goes up in smoke," Sands said angrily, after a final rehearsal last Friday.

"You tell them to aspire to things, to work hard and there'll be a reward. All of a sudden that picture is a lie. They'll come away thinking 'Regardless of what I do, somebody will come along sometime and snatch it away.' That is what this is about," he said.

Eastern High Principal Dennis Jackson said he expects to get a replacement for the instrumental music program but doen't know if the new teacher will have the commitment the fledging band requires.

Band member James Young, a 16 year old trombonist about to enter the 11th grade at Eastern, said he spoke for many of his fellow musicians.

"I feel it's not right. We've been through to much to start over, raising money and getting organized," he said, recounting how candy sales and spare change donations helped pay for the recently arrived uniforms and instruments. "Like, it wouldn't have made a difference if the band had never got started, but now that we've come this far . . . It makes me feel mad. Nobody wants him to leave," he said.