Concerned over program funding
A large contingent of parents and students gathered June 17 to voice concerns to the school board over the perceived lack of monetary support for the theater program. The majority of the meeting consisted of parents and students speaking to board members, who largely listened without comment.
Prior to public comment, Solicitor Mark Fitzgerald asked everyone to keep their comments limited to three minutes because of the number of people in the room.
The first parent to speak was Jennifer Altemose, who has been vocal at school board meetings in the past. Fitzgerald asked her to cease several times after she ran out of time. Altemose shot back that in 15 years she had never been asked to stop speaking. Another parent even offered up their speaking time so Altemose could continue. Ultimately, Altemose spoke for approximately 10 minutes. Altemose’s argument centered on the lack of funding for theater productions, especially with the elementary and middle schools now putting on their own theater productions for the second year in a row.
Altemose said, “Essentially the high school budget is paying for these other two large productions,” and explained that outside funds are collected via donations, fundraising and local business sponsorships in the form of ads. She said without these funds there wouldn’t be enough money for sets, audience programs, costumes and a community dinner. She summarized her argument with an analogy, saying, “when you hire a football coach and you pay his salary; you don’t then ask the students to pay for their uniforms and their pads and their training equipment and their transportation.”
Throughout the meeting other parents went to the podium and addressed the importance of the Saucon theater program and how it has positively impacted their children. Another parent, Shawn Kerbein, stressed the number of students now involved in theater is sizable and if Saucon continues with the current budget for theater, the district will lose students to surrounding districts.
In addition, current and former students spoke to the board. One such student is Evangelos Hahalis who was one of the lead performers in this year’s high school spring production. Hahalis voiced his support for the theater program, in particular the elementary school program, which he said he wished he had had the opportunity to participate in.
Toward the conclusion of the meeting, Superintendent Dr. Craig Butler summarized some of the financial support. According to Butler, the district pays $25,900 in stipends, $6,800 for the elementary musical and fall programs, $17,000 in supplies, $15,000 for other items and will be spending $323,000 for auditorium improvements. He said the district is looking at possible sound improvements. The district’s final budget must be approved by June 30, with notice to the public by June 20.