Southern Regional High School Takes Steps to Start Offering Formal Theater Classes for 2019-20

Dec 19, 2018

At the Dec. 12 Southern Regional Board of Education meeting, several students from the recent production of “Harvey” were given the opportunity to share about their experience. But what Superintendent Craig Henry announced a bit later made their faces light up. Southern soon will have as part of its academic curriculum courses in theater and theater dance.

“Tonight we will be expanding our program offerings,” Henry said. “We will be verbally approving the expansion of the theater arts to include a formal Theater 1 class and a Theater Dance class. They will be added next year to the program of studies, and we plan to expand that to Theater 2, 3 and 4 throughout the progression of the next few years.”

The announcement and subsequent unanimous approval by the board came after several months of internal research and discussion. Interestingly, it was the loss of the school’s spring musical director that ultimately led to the decision.

“Our spring musical director stepped away because of various things that were going on in her life,” Henry said after the meeting. “We posted for the position, and one applicant came through with incredible credentials, with several degrees and certificates in theater and theater dance. When we saw these credentials and realized these programs that existed could be part of our program of studies, we started looking into it.

“These are programs we didn’t offer, and we should because we have a sizable enrollment potential with our student body.”

Henry said the district checked out the performing arts academies at Red Bank Regional High School and Ocean County Vocational Technical School to get an idea of their course offerings and how they might fit in with Southern’s curriculum. He said there was no reason to think the district couldn’t replicate such coursework.

“They do run these types of courses –  Theater 1, 2, 3 and 4 – and they have very distinct, articulating, scaffolding skill sets that they build to,” Henry said. “And the Theater Dance courses are similar. They start with ballet and move on to more-contemporary dances.”

Following discussion with the school’s instructional council, it was determined that Southern’s student body had plenty of potential for filling the classes throughout the progression of a four-tiered program. Last month, Henry pitched the idea to the school board, and it was met with “absolute enthusiasm.”

The superintendent said Theater 1 and Theater Dance 1 will be offered for the 2019-20 school year, and if the student enrollments match projections, the district will seek to hire an instructor for the courses. From there, Southern will look to build the theater course curriculum to include Theater 2, 3 and 4 and Theater Dance 2, 3 and 4 during the coming years.

“The board is very interested in making the commitment to expanding these areas as long as the student enrollment matches the projections,” Henry said. “We’re excited about the potential, and we already have great feedback from some students.”

Another addition coming to the Southern district – albeit a bit sooner, in the spring – is a middle school boys volleyball program. The board took the initiative to create a coaching stipend and clear the way for whatever funding is needed for uniforms, officials fees and such.

Henry said the Middle School Athletic Directors Association has proposed an Ocean County league for middle school boys volleyball, and as long as it formally takes shape, the Rams will be a part of it.

“We’re one of five schools, so far, that have committed to it,” he said. “We’ve already done the homework to make sure we can fund the coaching stipend, official salaries, uniforms, etc. Now we’re just waiting to see if the league actually forms.”

The board’s next meeting is slated for Wednesday, Jan. 2, which is the annual reorganization and first meeting of the new year.

— David Biggy

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