By Michele Gruba


BELVIDERE – On Wednesday, Sept. 16, the faculty of the fine arts department at Belvidere High School (BHS) discovered they no longer had access to the Performing Arts Center (PAC) which also served the classroom, performance venue, and rehearsal space for theater arts students.

Dan Holmes, Belvidere High Schools theater arts and theater tech teacher, had previously served as the manager of the PAC from 1999 when it opened until May 2015 when he resigned his position as PAC Manager.

“This will be my last year of teaching. I wanted to lighten my load and focus on teaching my students,” Holmes said regarding his resignation as manager of the PAC.

On Monday, Sept.14, the board of education approved Adam Walsh d/b/a The Studio as the new manager of the PAC. He will receive a stipend of $14,004 for the 2015-2016 school year.

The Studio has been a frequent renter of the PAC. According to documents on the board of education website, The Studio began renting the PAC in Sept. 2014 and has been a recurrent customer through the current school year.

In an email response signed by Co-Interim Superintendent Dr. Larry Weck , the question as to if Adam Walsh d/b/a The Studio being one of the most frequent renters of the PAC is a conflict of interest, was not answered. The following information about Walsh was provided.

“In response to a resignation, the District hired a new PAC Manager on Sept. 15.  Adam Walsh has a B.S. in music from Bradley University and has been involved in every aspect of theater since the 1990’s.  Adam and his wife, Courtney, have built dinner theaters from the ground up and have produced and musically, technically, and artistically directed numerous shows for a variety of companies.  They are co-owners of The Studio, a performing, and visual arts studio in Cherry Valley, and have utilized the Performing Arts Center on a rental basis on multiple occasions over the last year.”

Faculty from Belvidere High School and Belvidere North High School are now required to submit a written request to use the PAC. Faculty members were not consulted on these new procedures or given advanced notice of their implementation.

“Faculty members from both BHS and BNHS cannot access the PAC without submitting a written request to Shannon Hansen [District 100 Communications Coordinator], who then contacts Adam Walsh. Neither Adam Walsh nor Shannon Hansen work on site during the school day. There was no communication or collaboration about these changes with faculty or consideration on how they could impact student learning,” Holmes said.

Formal introductions between faculty and Walsh have so far not taken place. Weck’s response contained information on how Walsh was introduced to school staff; however, why formal introductions were not an immediate priority was not included.

“Individuals with scheduled PAC rentals during the 2015-2016 school year, as well as all building principals, were introduced to Mr. Walsh on Sept. 16 by email, and he will be making formal introductions as he settles into his new position.”

It remains unclear who authorized the locks being changed on the PAC or why faculty of BHS and the fine arts department were not given any notice this change would occur.

According to the response from Weck, locks were changed as a security measure.

“Locks on the perimeter doors around the PAC have been changed in order to safeguard the facility, including the light and sound equipment and their programmed settings, costumes, sets, and other tangibles housed within the PAC.”

Until Wednesday, Sept. 16, the fine arts faculty all had keys to the PAC. Theater arts, band, chorus, and art teachers all used the PAC in a variety of ways to enrich student learning while providing a hands-on learning experience.

However according to a source that would prefer to remain anonymous this is no longer the case.

“These changes have not just affected theater; band, chorus, and art are also impacted. Theater class is now being held in an art room without the benefit of learning on a stage. Creating and designing sets is difficult in the constraints of a classroom and also affects the learning environment of students in the adjacent classroom. Chorus and Band cannot practice in the PAC without completing paperwork and waiting to see if it fits into The Studios practice schedule. ”

While no direct response was provided by District 100 regarding the accusations that reduced student use of the PAC and classroom relocations is having a negative impact on student learning, they did provide the following information on the change in use of the PAC.

“While some changes have taken place over the past year, some things have remained the same.

Schools and student organizations have the first opportunity to schedule events; Space can be reserved for classroom use as needed. Otherwise, music, band, art, and theater teachers have designated classrooms. Students from Belvidere High School and Belvidere North High School have opportunities to provide sound and lighting technical assistance for productions.”

On Thursday, Sept. 24, the only document available on the PAC page on the District 100 website was a seating chart and a link to the PAC calendar. The following day Friday, Sept. 25, a uniform rental agreement was created at 1:34 p.m. by Hansen.  However, the response from Weck on the scheduling process and rental agreement had been put in place over the past year.

“Over the past year, some processes have been streamlined, and others implemented in order to promote safety and consistency.”

“A uniform rental agreement form was created for internal and external use. This form outlines a user’s needs and is the start of a paper trail for use of the facility. (Internally some schools were following a formal process while others were not.)

A PAC calendar was created and is posted on the district website. Anyone wishing to use the facility can check its availability prior to submitting a request for use, and the community can see what events are available to attend.”

According to the faculty of the fine arts department, the requirement to sending a written request to Hansen to use the PAC during the day for classes or events is new this school year. This is supported by a document located on the board of education website. An excerpt of Department highlights dated Sept. 14 from Interim Superintendent Cheryl Gieseke to the Board of Education under communication.

“Work related to the creation of a needs form to be completed for all events at the Performing Arts Center and distributed same to internal and external users”

The problems at the PAC since the new manager has taken over do not stop at changed locks, scheduling conflicts, and reduced student usage. Concerns have also arisen about potential safety issues.

On Wednesday, Sept. 16, when the locks were changed the students and staff in the band, and chorus classes no longer had access to the hallway behind the stage. That was their designated safe zone in the event of a tornado. In the response provided by Weck, no information was provided on whether students and staff have an alternative safe zone to utilize.

According to multiple sources on Thursday, Sept. 17, during an after-school activity, a student with a medical condition had to urinate outside. This student could not access the bathrooms behind the stage or in the lobby because they were locked.

In the response by Weck, bathroom usage was addressed but what was not addressed was student or staff access during after school activities, or staff use when working at night or on weekends.

“Restrooms in the PAC lobby are open for use during the school day. This change provides more stalls and sinks for students and staff, and the space is checked regularly by hall monitors. Previously only the restrooms in the back hallway of the PAC were available on a limited basis during the day.”

According to multiple sources who would like to remain anonymous, adult volunteers from The Studio have had access to the building, unchaperoned, without checking in with the front office and when Walsh is not on the premises.

In the response from Weck, it never addressed if these adult volunteers have been background checked, or if a policy on volunteers from The Studio having unsupervised access to the building while students are present is in place.

It was discovered on Wednesday morning, Sept. 23, that the PAC had been left unsecured overnight by The Studio or its volunteers, according to a sourse that would like to remain anonymous.

“They had repeatedly been asked not to leave the exit doors propped open. In response to this request, tape was placed over the lock to prevent it from locking and was left on, leaving the building open overnight.”

The only area of Weck’s response that addresses building security in any way is the section relating to lock changes on Wednesday, Sept. 16. Policies or safeguards for securing the PAC when in use by The Studio or its volunteers was never mentioned.

“Locks on the perimeter doors around the PAC have been changed in order to safeguard the facility, including the light and sound equipment and their programmed settings, costumes, sets, and other tangibles housed within the PAC.  Access is provided to requested areas for each scheduled use, and the PAC is secure once vacated.”

Dan Holmes fears that the change in District priorities and student use policies of the PAC do not bode well for the future of the theater arts curriculum offered by District 100. He expressed the following sentiments in a letter written to the board of education on Sept. 18.

“My fear is that these changes are going to have a negative effect on our students and the fine arts communities at BHS and BNHS. I am sad that the theater classes offered in District 100 (one of the best theater curriculums in Northern Illinois) might no longer be available to students simply because we don’t the students in that space. It is sad for me to think that students will learn theatre from a book instead of doing work performing in a theatre,” Holmes said.

“I could line up hundreds of graduates, many who are working in the theatre industry, who would agree with the education experts that “hands-on learning” is much more effective than getting information from at book. It’s what they refer to as best practice. Even if students aren’t doing activities that require “hands on,” the theater is a better environment for learning about theatre than the traditional classroom!”

Many questions were posed to Interim Superintendent Gieseke, School Board President Robert Tolbert, District 100 Communication Coordinator Shannon Hansen, and PAC Manager Adam Walsh. They were all contacted multiple times by phone and email regarding the changes at the PAC. All, but Hansen, declined to comment or respond to any of our questions.

On Sept. 25, in response to questions, Hansen provided a document signed by Weck. The document can be found on the District 100 website entitled, “Performing Art Center experiences increased use resulting in streamlined procedures.

On Wednesday, Sept. 30, after much trial and error, the district reopened the position for PAC manager.


Buy Viagra Overnight Delivery USA.