Beloved East Cleveland marching band director resigns, says the district left him no choice

Published: Jun. 22, 2021 at 10:41 PM EDT
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EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The Shaw High School marching band director has become known as a pillar of the community in East Cleveland. He is also a school administrator, but on Tuesday, he announced his resignation.

Donshon Wilson said he has been unfairly targeted over the last year. He claims it was the actions of the school administration that led to him cutting his career at his alma mater short. He had worked there for 24 years.

“Who else gonna come over and take care of Shaw band? They can’t replace him,” said Monike Hill, a parent of a student in the marching band. “It’s sad.”

The Shaw High School alumnus worked for years as the director of communications and technology for East Cleveland Schools. He was also the director of the high school marching band.

“You know to give back to the same community that gave to me, to be here at this moment is heartbreaking, you know,” said Wilson. “25 years of service, 25 years in the community, you know, and being excited to be here and taking students whose never been to certain places, to be able to take them certain places and just to see families grow, it means a lot.”

Wilson said the district had left him with no choice but to step down.

“With the house bill 70 having a CEO come in and to have complete control and power just to do whatever with any checks and balances, you know I can’t take any more of that,” Wilson said. “You know I’ve tried hard to work with the administration.”

Wilson says not only was he offered a one-year contract instead of his standard two-year contract but he was also demoted.

“Since 2005, I’ve always been offered an administrative contract for two years,” explained Wilson. “I was director of communications and technology. This year I’ve been offered a contract, a one-year contract. I’m demoted from director to educational technology specialist and another employee that we haven’t been the best of comrades if you will, that’s my new immediate supervisor.”

Despite having a squeaky-clean record for over two decades, Wilson says he was the subject of six disciplinary reprimands in the past nine months. All of which he said are baseless.

“I can no longer accept the type of treatment that I’ve been receiving,” Wilson said.

The marching band legend broke the news to parents and students in the school’s parking lot Tuesday afternoon.

“It makes you feel like you’re somebody,” said Shayla Sharp, a senior in the marching band. “It gives you a reason to live, to keep going like without the band, I don’t know where I’d be because I changed so much from being in the band, and I’ve grown so much. And without Mr. Wilson and all of them, they made us who we are. They pushed us, they motivated us, when we didn’t have nothing, they was there. They pushed us to be better people, give us a better chance, a better life, keep going now I feel like everything is just gone. We don’t got nothing left to look for.”

Many parents also blame the district’s CEO, Dr. Henry Pettigrew. “Dr. Pettigrew has managed to come in here within a year, 9 months and destroy a legacy,” said Tanya Cleveland, a band parent, and Shaw alumnus.

“Mr. Wilson has been a pillar to this community, to this school for over 24 years. He hasn’t had any issues any problems. He took these kids from state to state, competition to competition to China we go to Mardi Gras every year. The kids are learning a lot you know they come out, they’re disciplined, they’re strong, they’re motivated to do what they have to do and now all of the sudden it’s just over with.”

19 News asked the district for an on-camera interview, they declined but instead sent us the following statement,

“The East Cleveland City School District announces that Mr. Donshon Wilson has resigned as the director of communications and technology and the director of The Mighty Shaw High School Cardinal Marching Band. Mr. Wilson, a member of the Shaw High School Class of 1988, officially assumed the mantle of director in 2004 though his work with the Battle of the Bands dates back to 1999.

During his tenure with the band spanning more than two decades, the marching band received local, state, national, and even international acclaim performing at such venues as the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, the 2006 All American Army High School Football Game in San Antonio, annual appearances at the Mardi Gras Krewes Festival in New Orleans, the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers Championship parade, and countless other events in northeastern Ohio. Under Mr. Wilson’s leadership, the Mighty Shaw Cardinal Marching Band has earned more than 250 first place honors in local and national marching band competitions.

The district wishes Mr. Wilson the very best in his future endeavors. The road he paved and the examples he set will live on among the band for years to come. Mr. Donshon Wilson epitomizes the very best of what the Mighty Shaw Cardinal Marching Band has to offer. Once a Cardinal...always a Cardinal; you are Shaw High School, you are the definition of success.”

As far as what’s next for Wilson, he’s not sure but says he has some things in the works and that he would consider staying at Shaw if the administration offered him his previous contract.

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