Yesterday afternoon, in response to a caller on WICC Radio in Connecticut, host Jim Buchanan reached or was contacted by the First Selectman of Trumbull, Tim Herbst, regarding the situation regarding the production of Rent at Trumbull High School, which was announced as cancelled by school principal Marc Guarino on Monday, November 25 and reiterated, via a letter from Mr. Guarino that was read at a Board of Education meeting, on Tuesday, December 3. The following is a partial transcript of Mr. Herbst’s comments from a recording that was created sometime after he began to speak on WICC.
“He wanted it to be an educational opportunity where we teach not only our students, but all of our citizens, a lot of the fundamental principles that are derived from this musical. We want to teach our kids acceptance, responsibility and tolerance. He wanted to make sure that if this went forward, that there were programs integrated into curriculum at the high school, through homeroom teachers, through the English department where a lot of these issues were raised in advance of the production so it was done in an appropriate manner. Let me just tell you some of the due diligence Mr. Guarino showed. He went to Amity High School, he went to Greenwich High School, which put these productions on, to ask their staff, their theatre director, their school intervention specialist to ask what did you do to make this a successful production. And they told him what they did. And it was a collaborative effort across disciplines, across departments with the entire faculty working together.
It’s going to happen. What’s holding it up is getting it to a place where Mr. Guarino and the staff are part of the production and integrating it the way itself.”
Mr. Herbst then repeated a story about Mr. Guarino only learning of the production from a conversation he had in his hometown of Guilford. Mr. Buchanan asked whether the drama program had ever been required to seek prior approvals before, which Mr. Herbst acknowledged had not been the case. When Mr. Herbst spoke of open communication, Mr. Buchanan asked why his caller had been unable to get any response from her inquiries to the school, with Herbst replying that he couldn’t speak to that.
Mr. Herbst continued:
“It is my strong hope that tomorrow, we are going to have an announcement that addresses everybody’s concerns so we can move forward as one community together and god willing settle this and get this production this year so these graduating seniors can participate, but do it in a way that gets to where Mr. Guarino wants to be, making this an educational, learning opportunity for not only the kids at Trumbull High School, but for the community where we teach the fundamental principles of tolerance, acceptance and responsibility.”
Mr. Buchanan asked, “What time might we expect an announcement”
Mr. Herbst replied:
“I’d like to get it by early afternoon. I’ve basically canceled all of my appointments for the morning to dedicate my efforts to getting this resolved, it needs to be resolved. Maybe this will be a nice Christmas gift for everybody knowing that this has been resolved. But this needs to come to a head. But this has to be resolved, the play should go forward in a responsible way that addresses the concerns of the administration. I’m confident that working together we can get to a place that everyone’s going to be happy with.”
I am delighted that the net result of this situation is that Rent will likely be performed at Trumbull High School. But while the recording I’ve heard is missing the very beginning, I hope that what is not lost here is:
1. Mr. Guarino, in his letter to the Board of Education, placed the blame for the situation on a member of his faculty, who even Mr. Herbst acknowledges was following the exact procedure she has in prior years. There needs to be a statement of support for her efforts and dedication on behalf of her students and a repudiation of the prior statements which, many have said, essentially took a veteran teacher and “threw her under a bus.”
2. There needs to be an acknowledgment that this resolution is due to the extraordinary efforts of the Thespian troupe at Trumbull high, since Mr. Guarino twice stated that the production was canceled, with the Board of Education expressing their support for Mr. Guarino’s decision. If it were not for these students, Rent would not be so close to being restored to Trumbull High School. They may have learned a big lesson here, but they have also taught one.
3. Mr. Herbst cites Mr. Guarino’s visit to Amity High School as part of his “due diligence” to insure the production happened properly. While it is true that Mr. Guarino met with staff at Amity, it should be noted that the meeting took place on December 3, hours prior to the reading of the letter at the Board of Education which reaffirmed the cancelation. The show is being restored because students and parents kept up pressure until the school and the town realized how damaging it was to not let the show go forward, since the Amity meeting certainly didn’t prompt Mr. Guarino to withdraw his letter, which spoke of delaying the production until at least next school year.
4. Mr. Guarino, please speak publicly yourself as this is resolved. You have been silent since you met with the students in November, and to lead your school from this point forward, everyone needs to hear from and be able to speak with you. That will go a long way to insuring an positive, open communication in your school.
I await the official announcement this afternoon, like so many others. I look forward to a season of love at Trumbull High School.