And the winner is… Chatham High thespians

CHATHAM – The school’s production of “Guys and Dolls” was honored at a school board meeting this week, and the board discussed supporting the state’s second try for federal money through the president’s Race to the Top initiative.

The First Annual Maureen T. Cort Columbia County Theater Awards, or Trish Awards, were presented to several people involved with the “Guys and Dolls” production at the board’s Tuesday, May 25, meeting. Maureen Cort was a Germantown resident very involved with high school theater. Her daughter, Tara Cort, created the awards after her mother died last year from breast cancer. Local judges for the awards attended high school productions throughout the county and decided who should receive the prize.

Two of those judges, Andrew Baker and Christine Abitabile of Upstage Productions in Hudson, were at the meeting Tuesday to hand out the awards to Best Actress Samantha Conte, who played Adelaide, Best Supporting Actor Jon Tenace as Nicely Nicely, and Best Vocal Performance to Brittney Gerber for her role as Sarah. The production also won Best Ensemble Performance, Best Choreography, Best Production Number for “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat,” Best Sound, Best Director for Teri Conte and Best Show.

Mr. Baker said the awards were created to “give our students the recognition they deserve.” Schools that participated in the Trish Awards this year were Taconic Hills, Germantown, Hudson and Chatham high schools.

Both high school Co-Principal John Thorsen and school Superintendent Cheryl Nuciforo mentioned problems the production faced early on. But in the end, said Mr. Thorsen, the obstacles were overcome, and the show went on.

The board went on to discuss the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top program, which is offering states up to $700 million to help reform their education programs. New York did not receive any money in the first round of funding, but it was ranked relatively high on the list of applicants and will apply again in round two.

State limits on the number of charter school and laws restricting teacher evaluations must change before the state can be considered, and Ms. Nuciforo said that the state legislature may adopt those changes soon. She said she has not yet received an official memorandum of understanding, which the board will have to sign to show its support of the state’s bid for the Race to the Top funds. But she assumed that the memo would soon arrive, so she wanted to take a straw poll of what board members think about the grant application.

Ms. Nuciforo told the board that regardless of the federal decision on the state’s round-two application for Race to the Top funds, once the state changes the education laws to comply with the application’s requirements, school districts like Chatham will have to obey those laws “but get no money.”

Board member Fred Hutchinson worried that even if the state received the funding for the federal government, the schools may not see the money because of the bureaucracy in Albany.

Board member Elizabeth MacFarlane said that this money was “a baby step toward reform” but saw no reason not to support the state’s efforts to obtain the funds.

Also at the meeting, Ms. Nuciforo reported that the school recently hosted a “Town Hall Meeting” to discuss underage drinking and substance abuse. She said attendance doubled for this year’s meeting compared to last year, and she called the meeting very informative. “We’ll be continuing the effort,” she said, adding that the issues would also be discussed in school.

The next school board meeting will be Tuesday, June 8 at 6:30 p.m. in the High School Library.

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