Open Forum

Feedback from high school colleagues

  • 1.  Feedback from high school colleagues

    Posted 05-29-2019 14:01
    I need to get some feedback on what happens with other high school programs.
    1. Do you have an administrator at your performance or at least someone in charge who is in the building on your Sat. evening shows. I ask because my new administrators, of which there are 4, do not attend any of my productions or the improv shows, short-film festival, or Open Mic nights that we host. Neither do they make seem ask about our Thespian competitions.  I don't like this situation but I am dealing with it. What is a bigger issue for me is the liability issue in being left alone in the building. Fridays there are custodians somewhere on campus cleaning who I am to contact if needed. On Saturdays, there is no other adult on campus. I am no OK with this, especially since there is an admin at every sporting event with their walkie talkies on hand. So I am wanting to know what the norm is. A former board member expressed surprise that I was left alone, so I thought I would reach out and ask you all.
    2. For those who teach both Drama classes and run the theater arts program at your school, how many other classes do you teach. When I started at my school 10 years ago, I taught 1 English, a speech class and 3 drama classes. For the past 2 years I have assigned 4 English classes, Drama 1, and Advanced Drama. I am having a hard time getting my admin to understand how burned out I am getting. I run the program by myself with no tech director to pick up production duties for me. I asked for a lighter teaching schedule but I just received my schedule and it is the same. I want to know how many of you have a similar load or did. Any talking points to help me. I have explained my hours and responsibilities in running a drama program but I do not feel heard.

    Amy Sando
    Minden NV

  • 2.  RE: Feedback from high school colleagues

    Posted 05-29-2019 14:28
    There is always an admin at our performances, though if there is another event going on (usually sports related) they may be going back and forth, but at least they are in the building.

    Ken Buswell
    Drama Teacher
    Peachtree City, GA

    Theater kills ignorance

  • 3.  RE: Feedback from high school colleagues

    Posted 05-30-2019 08:40
    It's a pain that too many of us feel.  Make it clear to both your board and the principal that you are uncomfortable with the liability issues.  I found that when I did that several years ago, not only was there an administrator at my large events, we also had our SRO on hand.  In time, I did have to cover the the cost for the added security through my Fine Arts budget.  The added expense was tough at first, but it was a necessary expense for my own piece of mind.  In addition, when the parents in my community saw that we had our friendly police officer attending our theatre events, it actually helped boost the profile of my program in a very positive way.

    I still do my smaller shows (improv, coffee houses, holiday events) without additional administrators on site, but several of my fellow faculty members have kids in the shows so there are usually several other "adults" on hand to help out.

    I highly encourage you to reach out to other faculty and see if any would be willing to help be "watchers" - an extra set of eyes and ears backstage or in the house for your events.  With enough folks murmuring at the faculty lunch table about your shows and the lack of administration support, you may find that the help you need will soon materialize.

    Break a leg!!!

    Josh Ruben, M. Ed.
    Fine Arts Head
    Northwest Whitfield HS (dba, The Northwest Theatre Co.)
    Tunnel Hill, GA

  • 4.  RE: Feedback from high school colleagues

    Posted 06-01-2019 17:58
    I would just talk to my administrators and ask them to come.  I think often they do not realize that it is important.  Another thing that can help is to invite them to be recognized by the troupe at a performance for their contributions to the department's successes.  Also, I think building bridges can be helpful.  Maybe some of the more outgoing students in the program could make it a point to get to know an admin or two.  We have an active parent group in our space, so that helps a lot as they serve as box office admin and serve concessions, etc-- work in the greenroom to provide a hospitality station for actors and techs, etc.  Parent support can help a great deal and I have been in similar situations be/4-- I think in my case, it was just a simple case that the administrators did not think they were "needed"..  We now have great support with someone at every show/performance as well as a central office person many times as well.  And I am very thankful for our admin team.

    Hope that is helpful

    Michael Johnson
    Trinity NC

  • 5.  RE: Feedback from high school colleagues

    Posted 05-30-2019 18:31
    It is required that there always be at least one custodian in our building and that we are able to be in touch with them whenever any event is held in all district buildings. This is also required for outside groups or for public events in any of our buildings. We have some administrators who attend our events and some who do not. We never know who might come when, but there is usually always at least one administrator who sees each production.

    For course loads, all of our teachers have a maximum of 5 courses to teach and generally only two or no more than three different preps. They have a 6th required duty (usually a study or tutoring block), a prep, and a professional learning community meeting to attend the other 3 blocks of the schedule for a total of 8 blocks.

    Jill Campbell
    Gifted Support Teacher
    State College Area School District
    State College PA

  • 6.  RE: Feedback from high school colleagues

    Posted 05-30-2019 06:24
    1. There is an administrator present for our fall production but not for rehearsals, build days (weekend) our one=act or cabaret style performances. They do not attend our awards at the end of the year either.
    I work often with diabetic students and got permission to have a small fridge in the backstage girls dressing room so I can keep juice and water cold. I also have peanut butter crackers from the school nurse in a mouse/insect proof container.
    A few years ago, I started asking for copies of emergency medical forms for my cast and crew since we are here after hours.

    2. When I started teaching 26 years ago, I taught 3 speech and 3 drama classes per semester. The certifications changed, our school "needs" changes and now I teach: 2 drama classes (2 Drama I first semester and 1 Drama I and 1 Drama II second semester), 2 Honors English 9 classes, 1 College Credit Plus Public Speaking course and 1 American Literature II (Senior English elective) or regular English 9 class each semester.
    I agree with you, it's a LOT when you consider my 5 preps plus after school activities compared to any colleague in my department with 3 preps and no extra curricular activities. I know we went into this knowing the after school commitment, but boy, has the curricular part ever changed.

    Irene Imboden
    Teacher/ Drama Director
    Troy City Schools

  • 7.  RE: Feedback from high school colleagues

    Posted 05-31-2019 08:09
    1.  There is to be an administrator at every after school event.  Concerts, plays musicals, sporting events.  In the past we would have an administrator at every show.  for the past 2 years I have seen an administrator at 3 events.  Now we do 5 concerts a musical and a play, both the musical and the play have 3 performances.  Now if you go to a sporting event there is always at least 1 administrator plus the 1 of the 3 athletic directors.  For me I don't mind to much but the kids see it and feel that the school only cares about athletics and not the arts.

    2. As far as Teaching I teach 6 math class, run the morning announcements team, I am the theater manager, I direct a musical and play each year, I am also the technical director and the set designer and construction manager.  Needless to say I run the whole theatre department by myself with student help.  I am at every single event that goes on in the auditorium. 

    Charles Puetzer
    Math Department
    Stage Manager
    Michigan City High School
    8466 W Pahs Road
    Michigan City, IN 46360
    (219) 873-2044, ext. 4360

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  • 8.  RE: Feedback from high school colleagues

    Posted 05-31-2019 11:20
    It's similar here.  My job is to teach English, but I run three of four big productions each year.  (Our choir director produces the musical, thank goodness.)  This keeps me in the building until 9:30pm every night from August until late November/early December.  The late hours begin again after the musical ends in March for another eight weeks.  Many nights I'm the last one out of the building, waiting on the last kid to be picked up.  Like athletic games, there is an administrator at each or our performances, but again, like athletics, there is not an administrator at in the building during all of our rehearsals.  As part of the condition of putting on these shows, I do need to have a cell phone on hand in the event of an emergency with one of the kids, but I don't get a fancy radio.  Who would I call if I'm the only adult around anyway?  In the past we have had issues with needing band-aids etc... and not have the nurse available.  We're remedied this by purchasing our own first aid kits that we've stationed around the performance space.  I have to call an ambulance for anything bigger than a minor scrape, which luckily I have not yet needed to do.  I'm responsible for lighting, sound, set building, and painting- pretty much everything... and I teach English full time.  Because I'm not technically in our performing arts department (this is reserved for band and choir), I'm not able to teach theater classes, which means tech needs to happen on the weekends or over the summer, or it doesn't get done.  Of course this is on top of three preps of English, two of which are new courses that I need to design from the ground up next year.  I have found solutions, though.

    1.  I choose my shows early and complete all the clerical duties months in advance (buying the rights, creating the promo materials, organizing tickets sales).  You don't want the legal and financial things sneaking up on you at the last minute.
    2.  I design modular sets (flats, walls, periactoids) that can be recycled year after year once repainted.  I also design my fall shows in the spring/summer so that all set-building can happen over the summer, and since it's modular, it's easier to store.
    3.  I crowd source labor from eager backstage kids to do things like paint, organize, and clean.  I don't trust them with too many tools (we don't have a shop class that can teach kids some basics building and safety techniques at our high school), but painting, hanging costumes, organizing the prop closet, and sweeping the stage saves me hours a week.
    4.  After blocking is finished, I have a trusted upperclassmen "student director" run rehearsals so that I can be backstage handling whatever other tasks (costumes, sets, props etc...) need to be done.
    5.  I design the lighting of the show outside of rehearsal using only 2-3 stand ins.  This ensures a bit more focus and maximizes rehearsal time.
    6.  I pass on many decisions to the kids themselves.  For example: if we do a Medieval show, I pull all our costumes from that era and tell the kids to find a costume that fits them AND their character.  Of course, I hold veto power, but I'm usually quite pleased with how many kids make great, conscious choices about their costumes... and it saves me hours or deciding these things on my own before having the kids try them on.
    7.  I know my performance space and my kids like the back of my hand.  I've been working on this stage with this population since 1992, so I understand the perks and its quirks.  I'll never have fly space, so when I choose a show, it can never have rigging.  Understanding the benefits and drawbacks of both your space and your kids narrows down what types of shows you can do.  Once I consider these, then I read scripts like crazy until I find the right one.

    Christopher Engler
    English teacher
    Theater director
    Loves Park IL

  • 9.  RE: Feedback from high school colleagues

    Posted 06-03-2019 17:12
      |   view attached

    You wrote:  "I don't like this situation but I am dealing with it. What is a bigger issue for me is the liability issue in being left alone in the building. Fridays there are custodians somewhere on campus cleaning who I am to contact if needed. On Saturdays, there is no other adult on campus. I am no OK with this, especially since there is an admin at every sporting event with their walkie talkies on hand. So I am wanting to know what the norm is. A former board member expressed surprise that I was left alone"

    This is certainly NOT an acceptable situation, both from a moral support standpoint and a safety and security standpoint.  If you are looking for some reinforcement for the need to have trained staff in the building, NFPA 101 Life Safety Code , Chapter 13 - Existing Assembly Occupancies, Article 13.7.6 Trained Crowd Managers might give you some leverage.  There needs to be a minimum of 1 Trained crowd manager per 250 persons.

    Although not called-out specifically, IMHO, there needs to be at least one TCM backstage and one TCM in the house / lobby areas, as there are largely separate operations.

    Crowd Manager training is available from numerous web sites and from the International Association of Venue Managers (

    Another concern is that many theatres are arranged on a campus to be isolated from the rest of the building after-hours by means of locking doors or gates, however, the Fire Code requires that the Fire Alarm Control Panel (FACP) must be accessible when the building is occupied.  The FACP is frequently in the main office, which is unoccupied and locked during evening and weekend events.  There may be and auxiliary FACP in the Box Office or backstage, but you need to know where it is, have keys to it, and know how it works.  Similarly, AEDs and First Aid stations should be available in the auditorium wing of the building and not locked-up in a Nurse's office.  Note that I used the plural form of AED and First Aid Station -- you need one of each in both the lobby and backstage.  In the event of a cardiac or First Aid emergency no one has time to make the round-trip run to the other end of the building!

    Also, read-over the attached white paper on liability exposure in theatres.

    Erich Friend
    Theatre Consultant
    Teqniqal Systems

  • 10.  RE: Feedback from high school colleagues

    Posted 05-30-2019 07:16
    In answer to your first question there is always an administrator at each of my performances, but in addition there are always 4 chaperones assigned to monitor hallways and the auditorium itself.

  • 11.  RE: Feedback from high school colleagues

    Posted 05-30-2019 09:23
    For your first question, there is always an administrator during my performances.  We do two full length productions a year.  I agree with the liability issue here.  Stress the importance of safety here.  I am assuming that the performances are open to the public, so you never know what might happen.  Plus, if you are selling tickets at the door, your students and/or parents are handling quite a bit of cash.  Better to be safe.

    For your second question, your schedule is almost identical to mine.  I was hired as an English teacher and then was asked to run the Drama program too.  I also do not have any other teachers helping me run the program.  Our choir teacher teachers the vocal music for the musicals, but that is pretty much it.  Any other help I need (choreographer, tech director) I have to hire.  I teach for bells of English II, and two bells of Drama.  My first year, I taught English I and English II, but I requested only teaching one level of English, so now I only have two preps, which is much better.  Considering I am primarily and English teacher, I don't feel like this is an unreasonable schedule.  I wish I had more help for the after school Drama program, but that isn't what my main job at the school entails.

    Jennifer Gunther
    Colerain High School
    Cincinnati OH

  • 12.  RE: Feedback from high school colleagues

    Posted 05-30-2019 09:23
    I usually have at least one administrator attend at least one of my performances.  But usually is it just me and the custodians.  I also have a full time teaching schedule, with a mix of English and Drama classes depending on enrollment, luckily my numbers are still good enough so that I'm teaching MOSTLY drama classes.  It is really rough, and I question who besides a custodian I should see in case of an emergency.  I'm usually told to just give Admin a call if something happens. :(

    Brooke Phillips
    Teacher/Director of Theatre
    Millard West High School
    Co Chapter Director-Nebraska Thespians

  • 13.  RE: Feedback from high school colleagues

    Posted 05-30-2019 09:38
    I am in SW Ohio. Any after school event, game, production MUST have at least one administrator present on the grounds. It is part of their duties. Our 1 principal and 3 assistant principals choose what they want then split the others. My principal comes from a dance/theater background so does all ours. If there is a conflict, then they switch with each other. This is my 5th school and they all ran the same way or close to it.

    As I recall NV is one of the states having a hard time locating teachers. This will most likely not allow the adm to lighten up your load significantly. I am not the drama or English teacher, but I have 2 others who assist me because they want to be part of it all. They do not get paid and most of it is after hours. You might be able to find 2-3 teachers willing to help, especially if you reach out to the middle school faculty, too. This also builds a great bridge for incoming ids to know your program and you. Is it possible to get some parents to help?

    Kati Heintzman
    Thespian Advisor
    Middletown City Schools
    Middletown OH

  • 14.  RE: Feedback from high school colleagues

    Posted 05-30-2019 09:39
    Check with your athletic department. How do they handle games at night? There should be a similar policy for your program.

    I'm right with you on the teaching. I'm in a private high school. I went from three sections of fine arts to one. I may actually get 2 next year but I have to alternate between a year of tech and a year of performance classes. It's all based on what students sign up for. Unfortunately more and more classes are required leaving little room for the electives. My other subject is PE so I am definitely at the bottom of the totem pole!

    Kelly Cardall
    Theatre Arts
    Health and PE Chair
    Mount de Sales Academy
    Baltimore, MD

  • 15.  RE: Feedback from high school colleagues

    Posted 05-30-2019 11:26
    Hi Amy,

    I think it is quite dangerous for there not to be an administrator at your performances. I have always had at least one admin at our performances in the large theatre (1559 seats) but not so in my little 99 seat theatre/classroom.  I did ask to have an admin at the little theatre productions, but it is still not scheduled for an admin at the performances.  When I complained about the situation, I was told "You can handle it!"  

    I have always been uncomfortable not having an admin there for performances.  Lately there has been an occasional admin at the performances, or they are on campus and working in their office. This changed because I had a situation arise where I had to remove a disruptive student in the audience.  A complaint was filed against me and when I was asked why I didn't call the administrator on duty, I responded that I didn't know he was on campus, or where he was.  He certainly never checked in with me nor was he in the theatre.  I never knew he was on campus.

    Talk to your principal, or if that doesn't work go to a board member or the Asst Superintendent  in charge of your high school.  You need to be protected.



    Mack Dugger
    Department of Teaching and Learning
    Pacific Avenue Education Center
    440 W. Lomita Ave., Glendale, CA 91204
    "Totus Mundus agit historionem"
    Bravo award winning Teacher
    Kennedy Center Creative Ticket Award
    Laissez les bons temps rouler!

  • 16.  RE: Feedback from high school colleagues

    Posted 05-30-2019 12:05
    Hi Amy,
    Your situation, unfortunately, is common. I am lucky that there is an administrator at all performances, even Saturday evenings. The liability seems like an issue, especially if there was a true emergency during a production.

    Balancing theatre and English is rough. I did it for six years and burned out on both. I am lucky that I can work part time, so now I have three drama classes only. While I was doing both, I requested freshmen English because it was the least taxing curriculum.

    My Acting I classes each perform once a year and my advanced class performs three full-length productions each year. The school also produce a musical every other year which I direct.

    Do you receive extra pay for the after school drama duties? If not, I would put together a document that tracks your hours directing, doing tech-work, and all the other million little things you do to prepare a show. Then do the same for planning English curriculum and grading papers. Take that to your principal and explain that you are working far beyond a full-time teacher and see if some negotiating can happen. I think sometimes administrators do not fully understand ALL that we do in a typical day or week.

    Good luck!

    Nancy Moran
    Drama Instructor
    Los Altos High School
    San Jose CA

  • 17.  RE: Feedback from high school colleagues

    Posted 05-30-2019 12:20
    Thanks for the feedback. 

  • 18.  RE: Feedback from high school colleagues

    Posted 05-30-2019 13:20
    When I was still teaching, our district required an administrator and a security guard for any event where the public is invited to attend. Therefore every show had both. Some would actually watch the show while others sat in their office the entire time.

    As far as teaching goes, I never taught 100% theatre courses. It was anywhere from 40-80% theatre with English and/or Speech added in to the mix. This was only because I was licensed in those areas as well. Other theatre teachers in the district who were just certified in theatre taught theatre 100%. the years where I taught English and theatre were definitely more of a struggle. I also ran programs without additional staffing, but we only produced 2 shows a year because balance is essential. I refused to be married to my job the entire school year.

    Scott Wilson
    Fine Arts Consultant
    Ohio Department of Education
    Columbus OH

  • 19.  RE: Feedback from high school colleagues

    Posted 05-31-2019 08:58
    Hi All,

    Regarding your questions/concerns:

    1. Administrators are present at our productions. At least one a weekend. With regards to being the lone person on Saturday night, I have a production team member remain until all are picked up. We have a "two deep rule" which we are contracted to uphold for all events. Basically, we will never be in a situation where it is only 1 teacher and 1+ students. As part of my contracts for the production team staff, they are made aware that we are a team and need to make sure we are never alone, especially after a performance on a saturday night. We have not had any issues with having any team member left alone.

    2. Regarding courses, next year I will be teaching an Intro to Theatre course as well as Marine Biology (my primary background). I am also an administrator for the school overseeing all Student Life. Since it has been awhile, does anyone have any thoughts or insights on what would be good units/topics to cover in an intro to theatre course? It is a semester long course.

    Thank you in advance.
    Have a great summer!

    James Fry
    Director of Student Life and the Malvern Theatre Society
    Malvern, PA

  • 20.  RE: Feedback from high school colleagues

    Posted 05-31-2019 16:17
    1.  We rarely have an administrator at a performance.  No custodian is assigned to be on campus while we are performing.  It will be that way until there is a major crisis with only the theatre director on campus.

    2.  I came to this school 19 years ago because this was a full-time Theatre Arts position.  I have made sure to do enough that is cross-curricular to make us a valuable part of the school, which keeps this a full-time position.  My Theatre II students perform for all of our elementary feeder schools each fall, after first doing an on-campus show for our Child Care, Parenting classes, and self-contained EC students.  At least every few years we do something we can invite classes to free of charge.  We've done The Crucible twice, Romeo and JulietMedea, an abridged Second Shepherds PlayA Charles Dickens Christmas Carol, and Macbeth, among others.  I've designed the curricula for 7 separate Theatre courses to follow the state standards while having clear progression.  That allows me to group up to three courses in the same class period (Theatre II, Theatre III, and Theatre IV,) but also to insist that the Technical Theatre class needs to be alone for safety reasons.

    But if your administration doesn't support you having more Theatre Arts classes, or his/her hands are tied by the people holding the purse, you may be powerless to change your situation within that school.

    I taught in a school where I was hired to be full-time Drama, but I was given a big 9th grade English class the first semester I was there, then another the second semester.  At the end of the year, I said I just couldn't build the program if I was spending half my time planning for and grading papers for freshman English classes.  I offered to go one course shy of a full-load upon the assurance that I would be moved back to full-time when there were enough students registering for Drama classes.  Four years later, I was still part-time.  I left, and the school hired a full-time Drama teacher and a full-time technical supervisor (a former student of mine) to replace me.

    C. J. Breland
    Asheville High School
    Asheville NC

  • 21.  RE: Feedback from high school colleagues

    Posted 05-31-2019 17:26
    Hi All-

    A follow up to my previous post:-- When I started at the high school where I was hired as the Drama Teacher, I had two Beginning Drama classes, one Advanced Drama class (during per 6) and two English classes (9th grade). In the next year one of the Beginning Drama classes became a ESL Drama class.  This was suppose to be for ESL level 3,4 and 5.  However, it became a dumping ground filled with students who had just arrived in the United States and spoke no English whatsoever.

    In my third year I was given a third English class (all of my English classes varied between 9th grade, 10th grade and Modern Literature (12 grade)) and my Drama classes were cut down to one Beginning and one Advanced class.  Most of the time my Drama classroom was also my English classroom, not the best situation, but we made it work.  When enrollment dropped, a lot, I had a separate English classroom. However, because of the push by counselors to push all students into the University of California, as well as the dropping enrollment, the numbers for Drama began also dropping.  We went to our feeder schools, we invited middle school students to audition, but nothing seemed to help.  With a new administration, our money from the school dropped to $0.00, and the courses were dropped from the schedule.

    I am hoping that Drama and Vocal Music, which was also cut, will return.  However, I'm not holding my breath.


    Mack Dugger
    Glendale CA

  • 22.  RE: Feedback from high school colleagues

    Posted 07-23-2019 16:17

    I teach at a Catholic Middle School and I must have a 2nd adult present for all Acting Classes, Cabaret Rehearsals, Musical rehearsals including dance & music or we can’t run rehearsal. I run into the most trouble on the 1st Acting Class that is for New Members only as I don’t know who will show up & I can’t call their parents to get a chaperone. I usually end up asking a parent who I think will come & let their kid come to that class even though he/she is a veteran. Then I end up calling the same 2 parents for the other 4 Classes because I can’t get anyone else to say yes. For 10 Cabaret rehearsals, my piano player is an adult. For Musical rehearsals I assign 1 parent to chaperone each rehearsal (each parent gets 1-2 rehearsals). The problem is half of them don’t show up. I don’t worry about it during b-ball season, I just pretend the b-ball Coach, who I share the gym with, is my 2nd adult. After March Madness, I remind the parents that now that b-ball is over, it is imperative that if they can’t chaperone their designated day, that they get a fill in. It really doesn’t help much, but The last 2 weeks I always have my own daughters come & help. The principal doesn’t come to Cabaret & won’t let us have a 20 min. competition team, even though the kids in my last school took Best Production for 7 years running, many Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Soloist, etc. We only had a Forensics Team 5 years ago, even though every year in both schools for 8 years, one of my kids won a trophy. (One year we placed as a Team, also winning 1st place in individuals). No Debate Team even though at my last school we won 2nd place. Very Frustrating! I do always send a reminder email to the principal on Wednesday evening when I am going to be building on weekend, just to cover myself

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