Yesterday afternoon, Trumbull High School Principal Marc Guarino released a letter in which he announced the restoration of Rent to the school schedule, albeit with new dates. His letter was followed swiftly by a response from a group of Thespian troupe parents. Beyond my headline, I will allow these statements to stand on their own, except to say that in my experience, the Anti-Defamation League can move very swiftly when their services are required, and that I wish Mr. Guarino would speak personally to this issue, rather than simply releasing statements.
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From Trumbull High Principal Marc Guarino:
“The Thespian Club Advisors, Mrs. Spillane and Mrs. Bolan, Dr. Cialfi and I have been in discussion regarding the performance of Rent: School Edition. The objective was to determine when and how the performance could take place in accordance with my original plan for the necessary learning opportunities that are essential as a preparatory process. Rent: School Edition provides opportunity for me to be in concert with the Thespian Club Advisors to implement an annual performance for the Trumbull High School stage.
The learning opportunities are essential. To plan for these, I will be working collaboratively with various groups. Our Intervention Specialist will be key in understanding the significant themes which will carry our cast and crew from production to performance and integrate them throughout the school. We will look to partner with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to provide resources and training for our faculty, staff and students. I will also consult with our student support staff, as well as our Advisory co-chairs to develop appropriate learning experiences through our Advisory program. Groups of students, in addition to the thespians, will contribute to our planned learning experience, such as Peer Leaders and members of the Link Crew. In addition, we are planning community outreach activities to acknowledge these themes. This also provides an excellent opportunity for the THS community to focus its civic and social expectations aligned to our core values and beliefs.
I believe that this process can be accomplished during the 2013/2014 school year if the performance dates can be delayed to Wednesday, April 30, dress rehearsal, through Sunday, May 4, 2014.”
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From a group of Trumbull parents:
“Yesterday, following Trumbull First Selectman Herbst’s public statement on the radio that Rent would be brought to Trumbull High School, we were encouraged. We issued a short statement in support of Mr. Herbst’s efforts to broker a positive outcome, but raising a note of caution in light of indications the show might be postponed until later in the academic calendar, where it would run up against many competing curricular and extracurricular activities.
We also sent THS Principal Marc Guarino a letter expressing our deep concern that any delay would be unworkable, urging him to keep focus on the primary concern here: the best interests of the THS students who would be involved in this production. We sent a copy of that letter, to Superintendent Cialfi and to First Selectman Herbst. Although some of us were fortunate enough to have a meeting with Mr. Herbst this morning, he made clear that he was not the decision-maker here. He indicated that he would speak with Dr. Cialfi on our behalf, and we presume he did, but we received no further word from him, from Dr. Cialfi, or from Mr. Guarino before today’s announcement that the production would be postponed to the end of April and into early May. Indeed, despite Mr. Guarino’s expressed desire for “dialogue,” he again unilaterally issued a decision to the detriment of our children without responding to our letter and without offering to speak with us to address our concerns.
The announced schedule for Rent is unworkable. Many of the students who would be in the musical will be spending their spring break, in the middle of April, in England on tour with THS’s Concert Choir. Preparations for that tour will be intense, and make rehearsals for the musical difficult, to say the least. A popular time to take the SAT and SAT Subject tests will be on Saturday, May 3, right in the middle of the scheduled show weekend, which follows the intense week of final rehearsals. The following week, AP exams begin. On top of these obstacles, students who would like to participate in other demanding extracurricular activities, including athletic and music activities, as well as the curricular We The People competition, may have to make a difficult choice whether to give up those activities or the musical.
All of these conflicts arise because Mr. Guarino insisted upon delaying the production by approximately 16 school days in order to pursue an ambitious educational agenda around Rent. No explanation has been provided why this agenda could not take place around the show, rather than before it. Nor has there been any meaningful explanation why the school edition of Rent is so “sensitive” that an entire curriculum must be arranged around that musical. Rather, it appears that delaying Rent is the fig leaf required to allow Mr. Guarino to reverse his unpopular decision, which has made Trumbull a laughingstock throughout Connecticut, and far beyond.
Because some of the media has been reporting that Trumbull has solved its Rent problem, we must be clear that Mr. Guarino and the THS administration have continued their unpopular and untenable practice of deciding first, issuing public statements later, and ignoring the clearly expressed wishes of those whose interests their decisions should be serving. Students and parents in Trumbull do not believe that a solution has been reached, nor a genuine compromise. What has happened instead is a game of politics, with students as pawns, and many of us consider it a travesty.
If Mr. Guarino is looking for educational opportunities around Rent, perhaps he should seize this opportunity to demonstrate what true leaders do when they recognize that they have made a mistake. He should admit it, restore Rent to its proper place on the academic calendar, and bring his campus together to heal.
Jonathan Tropp, Lauren Tropp, Rick Bolton, Cathy Bolton, Jackie Madwed, Jeff Madwed, Annette Clift, Nelson Clift, Dan Gottschall, Andrea Gottschall, Tim Gallo, Gina Gallo, John Ell, Virginia Ell”