What Happened? Highland Park Cutting Theater and Debate Programs
Social media tell the tales. If something happens, it doesn't take long for the information to spread like wildfire.
That seems to be what is happening with Highland Park. The husband of a teacher at Highland Park shared on his social media that his wife was told that she would no longer have a job. After working at Highland Park ISD for over 17 years, HPISD is closing the theater program.
A petition was also created to ask for Highland Park ISD to reconsider removing Debate and Theater from the curriculum.
The petition on Change.org reads:
Highland Park ISD has made it known this week that they will be cutting their UIL, Debate, and Theatre programs.
Arts programs allow students the ability to become well-rounded individuals and enhance their ability to succeed in post-secondary education. They play a vital role in the opportunities of students that do not compete in athletic activities. They encourage cooperation, and critical thinking, and allow creative expression.
For many Alum of HPISD, these programs were places of growth and inclusion. The dismissal of these programs is a clear statement that Highland Park does not value the opportunities and choices of all their students.
Alexa, the creator of the petition reached out to us through email:
As an alumnus of Highland Park who benefited from the program, and an educator in a neighboring district, I am outraged and heartbroken. Speech and Arts programs are a vital part of student success. They provide college opportunities for many who would not make it on athletic merit alone. They provide a creative outlet and increased school spirit and community. I have created a petition and are working with others to bring attention to this in hopes of convincing Highland Park ISD to consider ALL of their students.
Looking through the agendas and minutes from Highland Park School Board meetings, it doesn't show anything specifically to identify a decision to terminate the theater and debate programs. However, the minutes from all 2023 board meetings have yet to be posted.
UPDATE: Highland Park Superintendent Cannon issued a statement,
Over the last few years, the District has seen a significant decrease in the number of students enrolled in the District. The reduced number of students has significantly impacted certain school programs more than others and has reduced the District’s budget for maintenance and operations. Further, student preferences and participation in District-offered programs has shifted over time. Therefore, the administration and Board have been evaluating District programs in comparison to staff and employment areas so that we can more accurately align personnel with District needs. This realignment will require elimination of certain programs, reassignment of some staff to different positions, and a reduction in expenditures commensurate with anticipated enrollment.
Read the full statement here.
As with most school districts, sports are the focus of extracurricular activities. A lot of money is budgeted and raised for sports. When the budget doesn't allow then it programs like theater, debate, and music, get cut. Mainly your fine arts programs.
What most school districts don't realize is that a lot of time, theater, debate, and music are an outlet for those kids who are not into sports. It is an outlet and passion for those kids that they cannot get anywhere else. Theater and debate (and music, which isn't being cut from HPISD), are a community for these teens to feel included instead of excluded. By removing these certain areas of study, these students don't have an outlet for creativity.
If the decision has been made it is very unlikely that it will be reversed for the upcoming school year.
Money talks when it comes to school programs. If the funding can be found or raised to continue the programs it is quite possible that you will see them on the curriculum once again.