Harford County drama students to protest participation fee for theater productions

Posted at 6:41 PM, Jun 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-24 18:41:22-04

Harford County drama students and their supporters will gather Monday before the Harford County Board of Education, protesting plans to charge students a participation fee to perform in theater productions.

Ryan Nicotra, development director at Single Carrot Theater in Baltimore and an advisor to theater students in Harford County, said students will stage a peaceful protest at 5:30 p.m., before the board’s meeting.

The plan is to sing, said Nicotra, a Harford County native who first got involved in theater productions when he was 13 and later studied theater in college.

The fee, along with an increased sports participation fee for student athletes, was included in the Harford County Public Schools’ 2017 budget, which passed June 13. Students will pay $100, up from $50, to participate in sports.

Nicotra accused board members of a lack of transparency.

“There was no prior indication that drama students would be targeted,” Nicotra said.

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Neither Nancy Reynolds, president of the Harford County school board, nor vice president Joseph L. Voskuhl returned requests for comment Friday.

Nicotra cited research from Americans for the Arts, which found that students involved in arts were more likely to be recognized for academic achievements, school attendance and participation in other school activities.

Nicotra said he is concerned that many students can’t afford the $100, adding there’s no exemption for students who are eligible to receive free and reduced lunches.

He said if he had been forced to pay a $100 participation fee, he wouldn’t have been able to be involved in theater.

“I’m not from a rich family at all, and I knew what $100 meant to my family,” said Nicotra, who went on to start his own theater company and is now a graduate student at Goucher College. “My heart goes out to the kids who can’t afford the fee. That’s sort of an emotional trigger for me.” 

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