New program initiatives outlined for Board

February 21, 2014

The new online Theatre Education Community has been a high priority for the EdTA staff for more than a year, EdTA Executive Director Julie Woffington told the Board of Directors in a briefing a few days before the system was opened to members and the public.

The staff will continue to work on building the Community and populating it with new interest groups—indeed, the new online networking tool is at the top of a list of 2014 staff priorities that Woffington reviewed for the board. She also outlined in detail two future ideas that may begin to take shape this year, including an EdTA chapter in China and an effort to seed theatre programs in underserved middle schools.

The middle school initiative, called Jump Start Theatre, is described as “a model to build sustainable theatre programs.” The program would be built around concepts tested in New York by a partnership that included the New York City Department of Education, Music Theatre International and iTheatrics, and the Shubert Foundation. In New York, participating schools received support and materials to establish after-school theatre programs and “boot camp” training and mentoring for teachers while producing one of MTI’s Broadway Junior musicals. Woffington said EdTA will seek grant funding to duplicate the New York program in the Cincinnati area as a model that, if successful, can be scaled to a national level under EdTA’s leadership. Discussions have already been held with Cincinnati theatre companies to solicit their support for the program.

Exploratory talks have been underway since last summer with a Shanghai-based educational management company called Dipont, which operates schools-within-schools that offer English-language instruction to Chinese students. Dipont is interested in establishing a Chinese EdTA chapter that could hold regional and national festivals, organize Thespian troupes and support instruction in Western-style theatre in Chinese schools, translate and publish EdTA publications, send delegations to the annual Thespian Festival in Nebraska, and organize student and teacher exchanges. It is possible a group of Dipont students and teachers might attend this year’s Thespian Festival, Woffington said.

In other business, the board:
  • Received a report on a benchmarking analysis by Director of Finance Doug Sandor that compared key indicators of EdTA’s financial health to five similar arts education non-profits. The study showed EdTA performing better than the peer median in liquidity, value of cash investments, growth in expenses, and net surplus. The one area in which EdTA lagged significantly behind the other organizations was in funding from grants and contributions.
  • Conducted, on the advice of board attorney Ron Christian, a review of disclosures of personal and professional associations by individual board members to identify potential conflicts of interest. None were deemed to interfere with board members’ duty of loyalty to EdTA.
  • Discussed the challenges and opportunities in building EdTA memberships among college theatre students. Staff members will continue on a course of research and exploration of an appropriate membership structure.
  • Directed the Governance Committee to develop an application for appointed board member positions, similar to the candidate vita form that is used for elected directors.
Finally, the board instructed its Nominating Committee to select a minimum of two and maximum of four candidates for each of the four board positions up for election next summer. It outlined as selection criteria strength of leadership, experience, impact on the organization’s mission, and aspiration to serve, and asked the Nominating Committee to continue to seek diversity of thought, age, ethnicity, and gender, and expertise in technology and financial matters.