Archive 2008 - 2019

The Death of Holliston H.S. Theatre

by Nancy Baron

There was no theatre program.  There were shows, but typically they were attended only by the dutiful relatives of cast members, in numbers fewer than those on stage.  But he was the new drama teacher and this is what he’d inherited. 

A decade later that picture has changed dramatically (pun intended).  Theatre at Holliston High School is not only alive and well, but it’s flourishing.  Shows often sell out and the community now enthusiastically supports the high school program.  A quarter of the school’s population is involved in theatre each year, as well as up-and-coming students from the lower grades.  Thanks to Mr. Hickey’s guidance, high quality shows such as The Sound of Music, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Beauty and the Beast are brought to life each year.  His skillful abilities not only ensure well directed and executed shows and through his careful management these lavish musicals are not only self-supporting, but provide the revenue to help pay for the spring play, the state drama festival show and the newly instituted evening of student-produced one act plays.

The School Committee has undoubtedly worked hard to craft their budget for next year, making what they feel are necessary hard choices.  But as we all learned from the endless election season last fall, one set of numbers can be spun in very different ways, depending on what sort of perception one wishes to create.  The rationale for cutting Brian Hickey’s job down by twenty-five percent is that the preliminary course requests for the fall don’t show enough student interest in drama classes.  One class that was cited was Improvisation, which according to the Committee had zero enrollment.  This is true.  What wasn’t mentioned is that enrollment is zero because the course was not offered.  Why would this ‘fact’ be put out for public consumption?  There was no mention of his very popular classes, such as Cinematography, which is in such high demand that it has been offered four times this year.  There was also no acknowledgement that the 200 or so incoming freshmen have yet to choose their classes.  This could change the picture radically. 

The School Committee plans to present a budget of $29.3 million dollars to Town Meeting on Monday.  They hope to help close their budget gap of $372,907 by ‘efficiencies’ such as cutting Mr. Hickey’s hours.  Their savings by this move represents a whopping .067% of the overall school budget, and yet they maintain that this is a fiscally sound choice.  I understand that the School Committee is trying their best to serve the interests of the town, and in a town where no one is interested in running for public office that makes their work doubly difficult. 

Choices are sometimes made that are rapidly reconsidered.  Among the proposed changes is the restoration of the high school band teacher position to three-quarter time from half-time as it has been this year.  Last year it was a full-time position.  The old teacher left. It’s wonderful that an arts job is gaining more hours but this kind of wild see-sawing creates uncertainty, discontent and a lack of loyalty among staff members—and for what?  Fluctuations in class size happen from time to time and if the reaction is knee-jerk cuts of such small size, no good can possibly come from it.  If his job is cut, Brian Hickey will leave without looking back. His investment of eleven years work in developing a strong, vibrant theatre program will be lost forever. 

Funding is not like a water faucet that can be turned on and off.  It’s not reasonable to expect that if the money situation is better next year that the tap can be turned back on and the theatre program will be magically restored to what it is now.  That sort of thing only happens on stage, not in real life.  The School Committee needs to reconsider this bad choice.  Our kids deserve better.

Come to Town Meeting on Monday May 6 at 7:30 in the High School auditorium and show your support for keeping Mr. Hickey where he is—the heart and soul of Holliston theatre.

Comments (4)

Well said Mr. Patel!

HollRes | 2013-05-06 17:30:04

Well said Nancy, Mary, and Former Resident. Right now, outside the HS, there's a group of energized, passionate kids pleading for their program to remain untouched. Please support them. Better still, join them :-)

HollRes | 2013-05-06 15:34:34

I had a very sound technical education through high school and college. What it lacked was the arts and humanities. These subjects are an important part in the overall education picture. Cutting / reducing theater is a very poor choice.

Former Resident | 2013-05-06 14:59:06

I don't understand the whole process of what gets cut and why. It just doesn't seem fair. I was really shocked to see the very high salaries of people in the school administration offices and the big raises they continue to get, regardless of the budget crisis. I am sure they work hard, and put many hours into their jobs, but I hate to see people like Mr. Hickey who has also worked so hard and has been so dedicated be a victim of other peoples bad planning. When is this going to end. Around this time every year it happens....

mary | 2013-05-06 06:59:56