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“Voices In Conflict: The Administrator’s Cut” April 13, 2007

Posted by Jeff in Drama in Wilton, Legit, Theater.

Now that it’s official that a version of Voices In Conflict compiled and performed by the students of the Wilton High School Theater Arts II class will be performed in June in New York City and probably in Connecticut, the Wilton Board Of Education has announced the upcoming production of their version.

The Wilton Bulletin and Wilton Villager websites have accounts of Thursday night’s meeting of the Wilton Board Of Education. From the Bulletin:

James Presson and Timothy Canty looked away from each other as the two almost bumped into one another before the start of the Board of Education meeting last night.

James is one of the students expected to go off-Broadway to stage “Voices in Conflict,” and Mr. Canty is the principal at Wilton High School who requested more work be done on the script before it goes on stage at school.

More than 50 people packed into the meeting at WHS Thursday night to listen to comments about “Voices in Conflict.” Nearly half of the audience spoke to the school board about how they feel about the issues surrounding the play.

“This is the first time this board has met as a board since the March 24, issue of The New York Times,” said Karen Birck, board chair. She made comments before public comment about how the Board of Education handles public comment. The board would hear what the public had to say, she said, but wouldn’t necessarily comment or answer questions. That was the only remarks the school board made regarding the play.

“Just because we’re not doing the play at the school as of right now, we still feel that the war is an issue that needs to be addressed in the school,” said James, who was the first member of the public to address the board.

He said some of the students at WHS can vote, and are handed Army recruitment brochures at school. He said students need to be informed – in soldiers’ own words – what exactly enlisting in the Army could mean for them.

“It is something we should be thinking about, it is something we should talk about,” James said.

Also speaking at the meeting was Marine Sergeant David Mills, a 2001 graduate of Wilton High School, who said he has completed four tours of duty in Iraq.

“We’re focused too much on death and destruction… and not why these men and women go into harms way,” he told the school board.

Following the public comment session, the majority of the audience left the meeting. When it came time for the superintendent’s report, Dr. Gary Richards spoke about “Voices in Conflict.”

“In recent days, some have called for the board to intervene and rescind Mr. Canty’s decision, to conduct investigations, and even review his performance,” Dr. Richards read from a statement.

“Boards of Education act through the superintendent of schools. State statute provides that the superintendent has `executive authority over the school system and the responsibility for its supervision,’ ” he said. “Courts, not local boards of education, interpret the constitution.”

He said at WHS, faculty members are working with Bonnie Dickinson to revise the script.

“When the project is completed, a review committee led by Deborah Low, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, will be appointed to determine that the project meets curriculum standards and can be performed in a context that provides appropriate background and support. The review committee will consist of administrators and faculty from subject areas related to this project, including Mrs. Dickinson,” Dr. Richards said.

(Deborah Low was Tim Canty’s immediate predecessor as WHS principal, and in the same issue of the Bulletin it was announced that she will soon be named as Ridgefield’s superintendent of schools.)

From the Villager:

Glen Clancy, the father of one of the students in the play, said the town will look silly if the student-written piece is performed in the Off-Broadway venues that have offered to put on the play in June, but a faculty-approved version is performed in school.

“Frankly, the town is looking ridiculous,” he said. “I hate that.”

It also raises the question of who’s going to be left to perform the faculty-approved version … Barbara Alessi and her daughter?

I don’t know how the review committee could improve on this.

More on the Voices In Conflict controversy here.

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