EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Mighty Marching Candinals’ attention grabbing, hair-raising, dynamic sound consistently reverberates from Shaw High School and across East Cleveland, and it’s all thanks to Donshon Wilson.
"He’s the one that gets us out there, he puts Shaw’s band out there, he exposes to different things,” said band member Dezzarae Kyles.
The director's impact dates back over two decades and has touched hundreds of students and parents—but at the end of next month, he will no longer be in that role.
“He speaks into us,” said band member Nathaniel Radcliff. “He teaches us stuff about life, it’s not just about band with him, it’s everything.”
Word of Wilson’s resignation has left some heartbroken.
Several student and alumni said the director has literally changed lives; from getting students college band scholarship to taking them overseas to Beijing for the 2008 Olympics.
Many said Wilson isn’t just a band director—he’s a pillar in East Cleveland.
"[Donshon] turned it from nothing, to what it is today,” said band alumni Tanya Cleveland. “Using his own money, his own time, his sacrifices and all the energy and effort that he put into those kids. He poured into those kids."
"Donshon Wilson made it happen, he took kids from this area all the way across the world and he has been doing this for years,” said Mario Riley who is also a band alumni.
In a letter, Wilson announced his final date with the district is July 31:
On Tuesday, June 22, 2021 I, Donshon Wilson, submitted my letter of resignation from my position as Director of Communications and Technology for East Cleveland City Schools (ECCS) and consequently from my role as Director of the Shaw High School Mighty Marching Cardinal Band. In lieu of the administrator’s contract that I was expecting and feel I am deserving of, I was extended a one year “specialists” contract. I rejected this contract and my last day as an employee in the district will be July 31, 2021.
A proud product of East Cleveland Schools from elementary through high school, I was excited to return to the district as a substitute teacher in 1997. As an ECCS student, I participated in many organizations, one of the most impactful being the renowned Shaw High School Marching Band, where I learned the importance of integrity, discipline, teamwork, dedication and determination. I used these foundational tools as a basis to teach in both the classroom, on the field as the marching band director, and then in my role as Director of Communications and Technology. In my 24 years of service to the district, I have had the joy of impacting hundreds of students and families, in large and small ways-- be it through talking and visiting with students and their families, connecting them with community resources, introducing them to opportunities at historically Black colleges and universities, leading travel to more than 10 states domestically and abroad to Beijing, China for the 2008 Olympics, enabling students to win hundreds of trophies and accolades, or simply providing safe and productive spaces for underserved youth to develop their skills and talents. Aside from my family, my role as an educator and motivator of East Cleveland youth has been my greatest and proudest accomplishment.
Unfortunately, my role as a tenured administrator and director must end prematurely. Due to the current leadership of the district, emboldened by permissions instituted by Ohio House Bill 70, I find that the values and integrity that are central to my personal beliefs and those that necessitate my job roles have been chipped away. Since the establishment of the current administration in 2019, it is my opinion that I and several of my colleagues have been undervalued and consequently unable to perform our job duties to the best of our abilities. Over the last two years, I have over-extended myself in attempts to work in tandem with the current administration only to find those efforts to have been in vain. I feel I have also been the target of many baseless claims of under performance, heightened by the many "fact-findings" brought against me, including my unresolved administrative removal on February 3, 2021. Prior to the establishment of the current administration, my personnel file was absent of any written reprimands. Between October 2020 and February 2021, I have received six reprimands, all unresolved.
It has truly been my pleasure and privilege to work with the students and teachers of ECCS. It is my hope that our district receives the passionate and empathetic leader we deserve; one that is appreciative of those who have given so much with minimal resources to our students; one thatis supportive of our students and readily available and present to service their needs; one that is an outward advocate for students and not for self; leadership that is about the business of the district without sacrificing collaboration and transparency; one that is fair and encourages, educates and motivates employees.
East Cleveland is a small community with a huge heart, unique in our ability to be spirited and celebratory through adversity. Many times, we have shown our resilience through abuse, neglect and exploitation. I am truly saddened by the need to once more churn these wheels of survival. Although my employment with ECCS has come to an abrupt and untimely hault, I will forever remain an advocate for our youth and will continue to provide opportunities for growth, exposure and scholarship to East Cleveland students, who continue to be my passion and my commitment.
An East Cleveland district spokesperson sent News 5 Cleveland 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.
At this point, the future leadership of Marching Cardinals is unclear. Students said they won’t be participating in the program if Wilson isn’t the director.
“If he gets a replacement, there will be a lot of rebuilding to do because a lot of kids say they are going to leave,” said Kyles. “Mr. Wilson is the reason why some kids stay, I would be in another district probably."
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