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Cameron Flener of the Velcro Pygmies performs in a concert at Colbert County High School last year. The band will be part of two concerts in April that Decatur City Schools students will promote. [JIM HANNON/FOR THE DECATUR DAILY]

Decatur City Schools students will plan two rock concerts next year to get real-world experience.

The project-based learning initiative will involve promoting concerts that will be held in April at the district’s two new high schools.

A unanimous school board Tuesday approved a $70,000 contract with nonprofit Reach and Teach, a program designed to let students gain skills by participating in every phase of planning and promoting a rock concert.

“This is a great opportunity for our students to see all the jobs that are available in the entertainment industry,” said Shelton Cobb, who started in January as the district’s first full-time supervisor of career and technical education.

The school system’s Career Academies of Decatur already has academies related to the construction, finance, marketing, health science, electrical and culinary fields. All of these career paths are part of promoting and holding the rock concert, and the tasks will be done by students.

“The culinary students will prepare a hospitality room, while construction students can help set up the stage and electrical kids will help with the sound system,” Cobb said.

The same vote that approved the contract for the concert also hired April Clark. She's a marketing teacher at Colbert County High who in 2016 co-founded the Reach and Teach curriculum with Cameron Flener, founder and lead singer with the band Velcro Pygmies. 

Cobb said Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, obtained a $50,000 state grant as seed money for students to plan and market the concert, while the district is using $20,000 from its general fund to pay Clark to guide students with a curriculum that’s connected to state standards.

Orr said he obtained money for the stage and attended a Reach and Teach event at Danville last year. He said he talked with educators after the concert and realized the planning phase's educational value in getting students “plugged in” who were ordinarily not engaged in school.

“This will become a statewide program, but will be housed at Decatur City Schools,” Orr said.

Board vice president Donnie Lane questioned Cobb about how many hours Clark will spend with DCS students.

Cobb said Clark will start meeting with students in January and will be in Decatur at least two times per week. He said the concerts, featuring the Velcro Pygmies, will be family friendly with no profanity or inappropriate content and will target young and old people.

Cobb assured Lane that DCS would benefit from its $20,000 investment because of the opportunities Reach and Teach makes available for students.

“Our kids are going to learn about marketing, personal finances, planning and a host of other things,” he said.

Clark organized the program while looking for a fundraiser for Future Business Leaders of America students at Colbert County High who qualified for the national FBLA competition.

Cobb said he expects the two concerts in Decatur — the first at Austin on April 2 and the second at Decatur High on April 3 — to generate about $5,000.

He said DCS will start recruiting students to participate in Reach and Teach when they return after the holidays in January.

- or 256-340-2469. Twitter @DD_Deangelo.
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