Rallies: past and present
November 30, 2017
Friday, Dec. 1 marks the second rally of the 2017-18 school year. Rallies, at Oak Park High School, have had their share of changes over time — some viewed as positive, some as negative.
Cheer and dance teams have regularly performed at rallies, but the school did not have any musical performances until 2014 when current music teacher Zachary Borquez arrived.
“We didn’t have an instrumental music program,” Principal Kevin Buchanan said. “We set about finding a teacher and raising the money to buy the instruments and lockers and all the equipment that you need.”
The band hasn’t been the only group to perform at rallies. Buchanan said that a group of about 20 teachers performed in one of the rallies in 2011.
“We’ve done teacher dances,” Buchanan said. “We did ‘Soulja Boy’ and [‘Low’].”
Oak Park High School alumnus and former ASB co-president Jake Whealen said that one of the most enjoyable rally experiences he had was in his sophomore year in 2015.
“Mr. Martin had a rap battle against a student and he absolutely killed it. He rapped iconic lines that incorporated teachers, faculty and jokes about Oak Park,” Whealen said. “Nobody was expecting him to have such a good flow but he smashed it.”
Due to bad behavior at a rally in 2015, the school decided that next year they would cut one rally from the school year.
“I think that most of the kids understood it was because of the behavior at the last rally of the year. Their senior rally the previous year made us think, ‘Maybe we won’t do as many rallies next year,’” Buchanan said.
Oak Park alumna Maggie Young said that her last rally in 2015 had a lot of problems.
“A group of students in my year showed up noticeably intoxicated. The event as a whole was rather disastrous,” Young said. “If I remember correctly, Mr. Buchanan got in a physical scuffle with a drunk senior, Mr. Martin received a slap on the butt while partaking in a rap battle on stage, and the dancers had glow sticks and other objects thrown at them.”
There were restrictions placed on usage of the lights rallies due to students’ behavior in 2015. In the past, when lights were turned off, students threw things such as small footballs, tennis balls or glow sticks at the rally performers, endangering students.
“I don’t like the lights off because it creates a safety concern, because now the kids can be anonymous, and they throw things, they yell things, and we can’t see who did it,” Buchanan said.
Another limitation the school has is the insurance policies, because, according to Buchanan, the Ventura County Schools Self-Funding Authority — commonly referred to as the Joint Powers Authority — won’t let the school use certain types of inflatables or things that have bungees.
“The kids wanted to get a mechanical bull, and we weren’t allowed to do that because of the [JPA],” Buchanan said.
According to Buchanan, there have also been incidents with the senior classes receiving preferential treatment in the competitions in previous rallies.
“I remember meeting with ASB a number of times in recent years, saying how we’re not going to [give the seniors any special treatment],” Buchanan said. “It seems like this last rally, there was a perception that [the seniors were receiving preferential treatment] again.”
Buchanan said he thinks it’s rude for students in the crowd to act the way they do, because it spoils the work the ASB puts into the rallies.
“I know that ASB has worked very hard to try and make them fun, exciting, and spirited,” Buchanan said.
Whealen said he agrees with Buchanan; ASB has worked hard to make the rallies engaging.
“There is a lot of time and effort that goes into planning the rallies and putting all the pieces together,” Whealen said. “To finally see the end result play out is always very cool, and to be able to lead them in front of everyone was a thrill.”
Whealen also said that ASB had a considerable amount of freedom with choosing competitions for rallies, despite having limitations.
“Of course there are limitations like budget, safety, time constraints, and so on, but most of the activities we wanted to do were very realistic and met with positivity,” Whealen said. “ASB has a pretty good idea of what we’re allowed to do and what’s possible and we work within that range.”
Rallies take out instructional time spent in the classrooms, and this has been a constant concern for the teachers.
“Teachers are always concerned about maximizing instructional time,” Buchanan said. “We only have so much time to deliver the instructional program.”
Science teacher David Sloan said that he agrees with Buchanan’s notion.
“[They absolutely] take away from educational time, but it’s a give-and-take,” Sloan said. “School would be absolutely unbearable if we didn’t have diversions from academics.”
At the first rally of the 2017-18 school year, many students chanted profanity, sparking administrative action and a discussion about the nature of rallies.
“I kind of know that they were upset with the scoring, but I don’t know where they felt [chanting profanity] was okay,” Buchanan said.
According to Buchanan, the ‘go home freshmen’ chanting has a negative impact on the rallies. Buchanan said that this behavior was rather new and he was not expecting it.
“Before it was juniors chanting ‘go home sophomores,’ and seniors chanting ‘go home juniors.’ Now everyone seems to be chanting ‘go home freshmen,’” Buchanan said.
Buchanan said that he wants to see the students be more positive.
“In our athletic programs, when our fans go to other teams or other fans come here, the protocol and the polite thing to do is to cheer on your own people, not put down the other team,” Buchanan said. “What I’d rather see is kids cheering for their own players in the games and cheering for the teams.”
Buchanan said that if the students do not behave at the next rally, he will have no issue with banning rallies.
“I think the students would be making a mistake to test me on this,” Buchanan said.