Yesterday [Monday, Dec. 9], following Trumbull First Selectman Herbst’s public statement on the radio that RENT would be brought to Trumbull High School, we were encouraged. We issued a short statement in support of Mr. Herbst’s efforts to broker a positive outcome, but raising a note of caution in light of indications the show might be postponed until later in the academic calendar, where it would run up against many competing curricular and extracurricular activities.
We also sent THS Principal Marc Guarino a letter expressing our deep concern that any delay would be unworkable, urging him to keep focus on the primary concern here: the best interests of the THS students who would be involved in this production. We sent a copy of that letter, which is provided here, to Superintendent Cialfi and to First Selectman Herbst. Although some of us were fortunate enough to have a meeting with Mr. Herbst this morning, he made clear that he was not the decision-maker here. He indicated that he would speak with Dr. Cialfi on our behalf, and we presume he did, but we received no further word from him, from Dr. Cialfi, or from Mr. Guarino before today’s announcement that the production would be postponed to the end of April and into early May. Indeed, despite Mr. Guarino’s expressed desire for “dialogue,” he again unilaterally issued a decision to the detriment of our children without responding to our letter and without offering to speak with us to address our concerns.
The announced schedule for RENT is unworkable. Many of the students who would be in the musical will be spending their spring break, in the middle of April, in England on tour with THS’s Concert Choir. Preparations for that tour will be intense, and make rehearsals for the musical difficult, to say the least. A popular time to take the SAT and SAT Subject tests will be on Saturday, May 3, right in the middle of the scheduled show weekend, which follows the intense week of final rehearsals. The following week, AP exams begin. On top of these obstacles, students who would like to participate in other demanding extracurricular activities, including athletic and music activities, as well as the curricular We The People competition, may have to make a difficult choice whether to give up those activities or the musical.
All of these conflicts arise because Mr. Guarino insisted upon delaying the production by approximately 16 school days in order to pursue an ambitious educational agenda around RENT. No explanation has been provided why this agenda could not take place around the show, rather than before it. Nor has there been any meaningful explanation why the school edition of RENT is so “sensitive” that an entire curriculum must be arranged around that musical. Rather, it appears that delaying RENT is the fig leaf required to allow Mr. Guarino to reverse his unpopular decision, which has made Trumbull a laughingstock throughout Connecticut, and far beyond.
Because some of the media has been reporting that Trumbull has solved its RENT problem, we must be clear that Mr. Guarino and the THS administration have continued their unpopular and untenable practice of deciding first, issuing public statements later, and ignoring the clearly expressed wishes of those whose interests their decisions should be serving. Students and parents in Trumbull do not believe that a solution has been reached, nor a genuine compromise. What has happened instead is a game of politics, with students as pawns, and many of us consider it a travesty.
If Mr. Guarino is looking for educational opportunities around RENT, perhaps he should seize this opportunity to demonstrate what true leaders do when they recognize that they have made a mistake. He should admit it, restore RENT to its proper place on the academic calendar, and bring his campus together to heal.Jonathan Tropp