Thames Valley trustees to vote on Prom Queen musical funding tonight
Funding to the Grand Theatre's High School Project was pulled after concerns with the script
Ahead of Tuesday's meeting of the Thames Valley District School Board, trustees continue to speak out about theatre funding decisions they say were made behind the curtain.
London District Catholic School Board trustee Linda Steel has added her voice to the chorus of trustees who say they were left out of discussions regarding the $30,000 in funding for a production of "Prom Queen: The Musical" at The Grand Theatre.
Steel says she was surprised when she heard the board wouldn't support the production.
"I mean we are responsible for the budget and administration is responsible for following our direction and administering the budget," she said. "But I think in certain circumstances the board of trustees should at least be consulted saying, 'hey what do you think about this?' I don't like surprises."
- How did a school board with a track record of standing up for gay rights reject Prom Queen: The Musical?
Steel, who has been a trustee for eight years, says she's never seen the high school project as a line item in the board's budget.
Tonight, Thames Valley District School Board trustees will ask that the funding be put back into the project, overruling a unilateral administrative decision they say they knew nothing about.
For the last two decades, the Grand Theatre has worked with the Thames Valley and London District Catholic school boards, with each board contributing $15,000 toward the production.
Trustees were left out of the funding decision for the play - a choice that left a $30,000 hole in the production's $250,000 budget. Their decision also raised questions about the school boards' stance on inclusiveness and LGBTQ rights.
- London, Ont., school boards pull funding for musical about gay student fighting to take a date to prom
Prom Queen: The Musical is based on the story of Marc Hall, a gay teenager who won his 2002 battle with the Durham Catholic School Board to take his boyfriend to the prom at a school in Oshawa, Ont.
Thames Valley District School Board trustee Jake Skinner said he learned of the boards' decision through social media.
"That's not how I like to learn about things as an elected official of the school board," said Skinner.
School officials said they pulled their funding based on the content of the script, its language, and how the story portrays school boards, teachers and other adults in a negative light. They said the play's theme of LGBTQ rights was not the issue.
Now that the decision has been made, Steel says she hopes the money that should have gone to the production will go to good use.
"I do think that now that we're not spending that $15,000 on supporting the grand theatre student production that we should still continue to support our students with that money through the arts and the social justice clubs, said Steel. "Well just to support their work on inclusion to send the message like, 'hello! We really do care!'"
Following the initial announcement the school boards pulled their funding on Jan. 17, a local business started a crowd funding campaign which has raised nearly $58,000 to date for the high school musical.
The Thames Valley District School Board meeting starts at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 23 at the board office on Dundas Street.