United District Debates Play Admission Policy

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ARMAGH -- United School District's recent decision to waive requested donations for admission to school drama presentations during the school day was meant to ensure all students have access to the cultural events, regardless of ability to pay, district officials say.

But parent Sharon Robson told the school board Tuesday she is concerned the new policy could cut into the funds available to support drama club productions.

Robson, whose 10th-grade daughter had a role in the school's recent production of "It's A Wonderful Life," said she was among those questioning why a $1 donation could not be collected from students attending a daytime performance of the play.

"I'm fundamentally opposed to charging kids to get in during the day," school board President Robert Dill said. "If this is part of our curriculum, students should have equal access," including those who don't have spare pocket money.

He said the admission practice was changed following a drama production last spring, which prompted complaints about the $1 donation.

Robson suggested the school drama club stands to lose $500 as a result of the change and questioned how that loss would be offset. She argued that students who can't afford the fee could be encouraged to instead take part in the production.

High School Principal Lewis Kindja noted some students felt obligated to pay the donation when a sign was posted listing the $1 amount. He said the drama club's lost income has been offset with a $1 increase in the ticket price for evening performances.

Evening admission prices for "It's A Wonderful Life" were $6 for adults and $4 for students.

District Superintendent Dr. Kathy Myers Wunder noted United has supported the arts in its schools through budgeted equipment expenditures.

She suggested that program advisers bring any funding needs to the district's attention during annual budget preparations.

"I don't think this board has ever denied anything to the arts," Dill said.

Looking forward to the 2008-09 school budget, as required under Pennsylvania's Act 1, the board Tuesday adopted a resolution stating it will not raise taxes next year by more than an allowed index of 6.4 percent. Any higher tax hike would require approval through a voter referendum.

United accepted a $2,500 donation from First Commonwealth Bank to purchase play equipment designed for 4- and 5-year-old students.

The school board, which recently approved two consecutive agreements with Midwest Internet Consulting Group, to host an upgraded district Web site, rescinded the second agreement, which would run from next July 1 through June 30, at a cost of $2,900.

An initial six-month agreement and $1,450 fee remain intact. …