Principal responds to Rent cancellation in letter

A letter Principal Marc Guarino gave to the Board of Education for Tuesday night’s meeting was made public Wednesday.

Guarino, who has not commented to media on the students’ campaign to perform Rent, writes in his letter that lack of proper planning is the reason he has halted the production this year.

The entire letter is below. It was shared on the Keep Trumbull Real Facebook page.

Dear Trumbull students, parents, and community members.

My decision regarding the spring 2014 musical Rent: The School Edition was a difficult one and understandably caused much disappointment. I truly believe that successful and supportive schools are those that nurture strong relationships between the school and its community. Programs which foster student learning, growth and creativity require support from all aspects of the school and community.

With that said, I understand the responsibility I have as Principal of Trumbull High School to assure that our school is a safe, supportive environment for all students to learn, grow, and create. I first learned Trumbull High School was producing Rent: The School Edition not from the theatre arts department, but rather from a member of the community where I reside. Mrs. Spillane neither informed me nor consulted with me regarding the selection of Rent: The School Edition during the meetings we had in July and August. I appreciate that Rent is an important piece of American musical theatre. It presents educational opportunities for our students, staff and community members to explore themes like acceptance, love, and responsibility.

Rent: The School Edition also presents challenges — both in content and execution. There is no evidence that an open communication, collaborative process — with either my predecessor or me—was considered to further explore Rent: The School Edition’s inherent opportunities and challenges. Open communication would — to the best of the school’s ability — provide a safe environment educationally, artistically, and emotionally for all of our students. Whether or not a formal approval process was required in the past, these opportunities and challenges should have been shared with me, especially given the fact that I am new to Trumbull High School and the Trumbull community.

Since this decision has been made, I have met with students and have read their messages of support for this production. I have met with parents and received correspondences from community members and concerned individuals from around the country. The commonality I share with all these groups is the potential Rent: The School Edition has to promote our district’s mission statement and our school’s core values and beliefs. To date, I have not been presented with a plan to make this a reality for our students, staff, and community. Without a thought out plan, Rent: The School Edition will be a missed educational opportunity. Without proper planning, Rent: The School Edition has the potential to become a speech rather than a meaningful dialogue to capitalize on all significant themes it presents. I am committed to developing this plan to best meet the needs of all students.

Trumbull is a wonderful community and our students continue to impress and amaze me. I am honored to serve as Principal and will always focus my efforts to support all aspects of student growth and development. I have already spoken with Dr. Cialfi, Dr. McGrath, Mrs. Spillane, and Ms. Bolan regarding my intentions to develop a collaborative process based on open communication to bring Rent: The School Edition to Trumbull High School. This process will require input and feedback from various groups. Most importantly, it will take time. Based on my research with various schools, this process will not meet the timeline for the spring of 2014. As I told our student leaders, Mrs. Spillane, Ms. Bolan, Dr. Cialfi, Dr. McGrath and some parents, I fully support Rent: The School Edition. We will bring Rent: The School Edition to Trumbull High School following a model that has proven to be successful at meeting our intended learning goals.

Thank you.

Marc W. Guarino

Principal, THS

The student-run had 6,359 supporters Thursday morning. The cancellation and students' effort have gained a lot of attention, including a story yesterday in the New York Times ArtsBeat blog.

Thespian Society President and high school senior Larissa Mark, thanked supporters Wednesday, saying they will follow the administration’s decision.

“While this story develops I will try to keep this page updated with the most recent information,” Mark wrote. “I thank you all for your support, and hope that a production of RENT: School Edition will happen at Trumbull High School, if not this year, soon.”