An email from Kathleen Banks Everett of Decatur School of Ballet circulated widely amongst the Decatur population last week, stating that the Ballet had been priced out of using Decatur High’s new auditorium for an upcoming performance after months of involvement with the school system about renting the space. (If you haven’t read the email yet, it can be viewed in full after the jump.)
And since I have not yet received a reply from CSD on this matter, I had to dig up my own info.
When the Decatur School Board approved the new High School Auditorium rates back in January ($150 per hour includes one required technician; plus $80 fee for technician set up and breakdown; $50 per hour for each additional technician), the note from Maintenance Director Gene Ponder included this caveat…
The new auditorium at the high school is technically sophisticated. The space requires a district trained staff technician to operate the lights and sound. It has already been determined that even for a basic presentation, that it takes a technician one hour for light and sound set up and a half hour after the event for break down. So use of the auditorium will require at least one technician.
So, just from reading this explanation, the lesson here seems to be that if you build a state-of-the-art facility, you’re going to end up pricing some folks out of the market. It’s that simple. However, there are still relevant, unanswered questions. For instance, is CSD just covering operating costs for the rental or are they also trying to raise revenue in a very tough economic climate? Which is preferable to the city population?
Also, these rates were set back in January, but Ms. Everett’s note says that CSD told her that rates weren’t set until mid-February. Why is there a discrepancy?
We need to dig up some answers to these questions before we can put on our well-worn judgment hats.
March 30, 2010
Dear members of the Decatur School of Ballet and Decatur City Dance community,
Many of you have asked about the possibility of Decatur School of Ballet and Decatur City Dance performing in the new Decatur High School Performing Arts Center. All of us are very interested in having our dancers perform for our community in our community. I am writing to bring you up to date on this subject. This email is rather lengthy, but bear with me and please continue reading.
The crux of the story begins in July of 2007 when Sheri Breunig (Director of Community and Public Relations for the City Schools of Decatur at that time) requested that we submit information to Dr. Phyllis Edwards (Superintendent) about our needs and interests concerning the use of the new Performing Arts facility. We submitted this information and attended meetings. We expressed how excited we were about a venue where our school and dance company can perform in the heart of the community they serve. We were delighted to know that the City Schools of Decatur envisioned the Decatur High School Theatre as a venue that would be available to the community. Ron and I offered to help the City Schools of Decatur however we could.
Over the past two and a half years, we attended meetings of the Oversight Committee (a group of community leaders who were invited to give input about the Decatur High School Master Plan). We contacted Lauri McKain-Fernandez (Principal of Decatur High School). We talked with Gene Ponder (Director of Facilities and Maintenance). On October 7, 2009, we attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony. We emailed and called Dr. Phyllis Edwards (Superintendent of City Schools of Decatur). We attended a special meeting of the City Schools of Decatur Board of Education. The purpose of the meeting was to address community questions and concerns in an informal setting. I addressed the board, saying “We want to know when the arts community can get answers about availability of the performing arts center.” In September 2009, we submitted requests for usage of the theatre for April and May, 2010. We met with Valarie Wilson (Chair of the Board of Education of the City Schools of Decatur). We recently met with the Finance Committee. All along the way, Ron and I offered to help the City Schools of Decatur. We have experience in many venues in our metropolitan area and beyond. We have decades of experience in the ﬁeld of performing arts. All along the way, different representatives of the City Schools of Decatur have expressed their interest in forming partnerships with community arts and making the theatre available to the arts community. We see this as a win-win opportunity.
On February 10th, we were notiﬁed that our request for usage of the theatre for April 17 and 18 had been approved for Decatur City Dance to present “The 10th Annual Swinging Night of Tap.” However, the rental fee had not been established. Of course, we explained that we could not book the space until we knew what it would cost. On February 23rd, we were notiﬁed of the rental fee, but we explained to Mr. Ponder that the fee was not affordable. As a point of comparison, the fee quoted was more expensive than the fee that Decatur City Dance pays to rent the theatre at St. Pius X Catholic High School.
As you may already know, Decatur School of Ballet has been a Partner in Education with City Schools of Decatur for many years, offering tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships for children identiﬁed by school social workers as interested in dance and needing ﬁnancial assistance. Decatur School of Ballet has purchased ads in the yearbook, the athletic program and Carpe Diem (the news magazine). Decatur School of Ballet has been a contributor to the Decatur Education Foundation. And, Decatur School of Ballet has many dancers who are students in the City Schools of Decatur system.
Needless to say, Ron and I and the members of our faculty and staff are very disheartened about the difﬁculties we have encountered in pursuing usage of the space. We wanted our dancers, parents, friends and supporters to know we have been diligent in pursuing the possibility of our school and company presenting dance for the community at the Decatur High School Performing Arts Center. Feel free to forward this email to anyone you think might be interested. Also, we welcome your comments and suggestions. Ron and I are happy to talk with you at any time.
Kathleen Banks Everett
Owner and Director, Decatur School of Ballet
Artistic Director, Decatur City Dance