(Click on the link to see a video of Janesville School District "Fame" cast interviews).
I went to see "Oklahoma!" last weekend with my eldest child. It was a fun production and I had an opportunity to see talent I hadn't had a chance to see before. Andy Soetart has a voice of an angel, and I had only seen his directing skills previously. Collin Rehfeldt was a pretty scary Judd Frye. Sarah loves theater and many of her friends were in the production, or behind the scenes. When I asked her why she didn't participate, her comment was, "Try-outs were the week after Anything Goes finished and I was not in the right frame of mind to think about doing another musical." About the only thing I remember her thinking about was sleep and catching up with Chemistry homework at that time.
Why? Because she fell behind in her school work, especially in the last week before the play, affectionately dubbed "hell week" by the drama crowd. They're not the only ones who go through hell, let me tell you. It is expected that every kid in the production clear their calendars to stay until necessary (often 11:00pm) to get the play stage ready. Then they get to come home to 2-3 hours of homework. This approach to co-curricular activities is in direct conflict with district policy #370, which states "The total length of time of the activity is not so great as to impair the curricular achievement of the students involved." How can anybody reasonably expect kids to soft-pedal or cease school work for over 10% of the quarter without being in violation of this statement in the policy? To be fair, drama is only one of many co- and extra-curricular programs with this philosophy. Have homework? Why, you can do it back stage (or on the sidelines, or wherever the activity takes place). Really? Ever try to concentrate on a multi-variable plot of pressure vs. volume chart in Excel surrounded by a bunch of semi-hysterical drama afficionados who have yet to develop a sense of perspective? Not possible.
Most people with whom I've discussed this issue flatly state, "Drama has always been this way and always will be this way. You're fighting a losing battle." Truth be told, I well recall my days in drama, which after the 8th grade were confined to the pit orchestra for many of these same reasons. As I sat in the PAC waiting for "Oklahoma!" to begin, I was struck with one of those AHA! moments. I recalled reading an article in the Gazette a few weeks previous about Janesville School District's summer musical "Fame." How about if Evansville adopts Janesville School District's approach to staging their musical in the summer as a summer school program. My God, it's so simple! They could switch the ECT production to the spring and have the district program in the summer. Maybe some of the surrounding schools who aren't so lucky to have a great drama program would send some of their kids over for the play, too!
1). No competition with curricular activities.
2). Policy is being followed.
3). Kids often waste time in the summer evenings. This would give them something productive to work on.
4). Less stress on the kids (and parents), more fun on the set.
5). No competition for the music directors' time during solo and ensemble state season.
1). I don't know how this would go down contract wise. These activities are already compensated by co-curricular contracts, so this shouldn't be an issue. The maintenance staff are already paid for the time during the school year, so this shouldn't be an issue either.
2) It's possible kids would have a hard time working around all their summer activities and jobs.
3). To quote Tevye: "Tradition!" Most people consider it a right of passage or a badge of honor to "survive" musical season. Take away the challenges and what would they have to complain about?
If anybody has any other ideas to add to the pros and cons of trying this idea, please comment. I'd like to propose this idea to the school district and need some constructive criticism to strengthen my proposal. Thanks for the input!