What Makes a 'Gold Standard' School?
GOLD STANDARD SCHOOL – with professional staff. Washington.
Our high school theatre is considered the gold standard in our area. We are fully staffed with a Theatre Manager and about 10 over-hire professional theatre technicians – 2 to 4 technicians are scheduled per event as needed. The Theatre Manager is involved in scheduling the theatre, holding production meeting with events (school, district, outside), creating and maintaining polices and procedures – including the safety program, and overseeing the larger events (technicians oversee smaller events with fewer technical requirements). The technicians are specialized in the areas of lighting, sound and stage/rigging. When school groups come in to use the theatre for events that have student stage crews, the students are expected to run their shows themselves, but are mentored and overseen by the technicians. Some students also come in to work district or outside events under the supervision of the technicians, and that way receive ‘real-world’ training. If they are vocational students, their experience looks great on college and job applications. Sets for the school shows are built in the scene shop during the school’s theatre department’s CTE Tech Theatre class, and then loaded into the theatre at the start of their ‘rental’ period. Classes and most rehearsals (except for tech week which is in the theatre) are held in the school’s black box theatre. No one is permitted to use the main stage theatre without theatre staff present, and because of this the school district required outside events to hire district technicians, and provides theatre staff for all school and district events - the district pays the Theatre Manager’s salary (the highest in this area) and the technicians for district and school events.
GOLD STANDARD SCHOOL – with student crew. Colorado.
My school is rather unique and has become the model other schools are now trying to mirror. I became a CTE instructor 3 years ago. I have beginning, intermediate and advance level course offerings. The beginning students are probationary and spend the whole year being vetted and trained. They must pass a series of tests in order to advance to the intermediate level course. Students in the intermediate level course are then processed into payroll and are employees of the school district and can work at the 8 other high schools in the district. Most of the time they work rental gigs as I hone their training into specialties. At the end of the school year the Intermediate students must pass a second battery of tests and then are admitted to the Advanced level. The Advance students are leaders in the Stagecraft CTSO but also student managers for all in school events. The advanced students get paid to run the music department concerts and other events sponsored by the school. I have an Articulation Agreement with the local community college- students who pass all three years of stagecraft can apply for and receive 3 college credits for the Technical Theatre class. Any employees between the ages of 18 to 21 we keep on payroll and they mostly work rental gigs. Once they have turned 21 we can advance their pay grade into adults and they can work as theatre mangers in the district.
GOLD STANDARD SCHOOL – combination. California.
The high school I went to had a 950 seat theatre. The theatre was used by the school and also rented out to outside events; everything from movie nights to full operas. The theatre was run by a Theatre Manager, and there were three professional theatre technicians who worked there. Us students were paid by the school district to work as crew for the outside events under the mentorship and leadership of the theatre technicians. This to me is the ideal combination of professional staff and paid students which makes a high school theatre safe, functional and educational. This was in 1979!
GOLD STANDARD SCHOOL – combination. California.
The current staffing model at my theater is what I consider to be above average for number of personnel. We have 4 permanent salaried positions (although each permanent position is multi-faceted), 1 part time position, and a non-profit production company for the school theatre program.
Firstly we have a Theater Manager(TM), who is also the Executive Director of Facilities of the entire school. He runs the theater, focusing on getting it used as much as possible. School events have priority, but since the TM is also in charge of all facilities, if the group that wants to have a "sports team parent meeting" is small, he can allocate them a different space on campus, using the theater for only larger groups. The TM also communicates with various dance studios and other groups who use the space, renting the theater out for revenue. To assist him, we have a part-time Events Coordinator, who helps manage all the paperwork and contracts of the various outside groups using the theater (and the rest of the campus).
The rest of the permanent staff work under him at least for part of our day. The Assistant Theater Manager and Facility Technical Director (who is also a School Counselor for half his day). I'm the Master Electrician (ME) and lastly is our Audio/Video Engineer (she's full time in the theater).
One thing I love about our current staff setup is that there are 3 (FTD, ME, A/V) of us who can manage the school events (assemblies, large parent meetings, college prep nights). To safeguard our space but also to provide each school group with minimal headaches, we organize our schedules so that 1 of us 3 is ALWAYS here for the duration of any school event. The theater building is actually keyed differently than the rest of the campus and the average teacher could not get in once we lock up for the night. We have told many horror stories about unsupervised people coming in to our administration who have "Master" keys, and so they will call the TM any time they need the building.
The last thing I want to comment on is our staffing for outside rental groups. The Theater Manager is always present for rentals, along with 2/3 of: the ATM, me (the ME), and Audio/Video Engineer. We then hire from our professionals, trained staff, and occasionally students to get a full minimum crew of 7 - this is the minimum crew required to assist the size audience we can handle in case of an emergency. So no matter if the rental group expects 50 or 900 people, we have at least a crew of 7. For our bigger rental shows, we have had crews of 15-20; it depends on the number of people backstage and how complex the shows are what we need to keep everyone supervised. We have had incidents when our minimum crew has seemed like barely enough: power outages; evacuating the house; a photographer backed off the edge of the stage and hit her head on a seat as she fell; medical emergencies in the lobby as the show continues uninterrupted. We never have to justify "that one guy who just sat backstage" on the bill to the rental group after there has been a technical issue or emergency, because the renter can see how quickly “that guy" jumps into action.