Theatre use draws ombudsmen’s complaint

Darrell Cole
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Foundation, board claim community use to expand

Michelle Hicks has filed a complaint with the provincial ombudsmen's office in an attempt to get information out of the foundation that operates the Susan Taylor Theatre at Amherst Regional High School. Hicks and other supporters recently held an extraordinary meeting of the foundation at Parish Hall.

AMHERST – Michelle Hicks has asked the province’s ombudsmen’s office to investigate the management of the Susan Taylor Theatre at Amherst Regional High School.

 “At this point there is so much information they have to digest and then come back to us with what they can do. I have provided four binders of information and they have to go through it and determine where they have authority,” said Hicks, who remains unconvinced the community’s interests are being adequately represented by the foundation established more than a decade ago to run the theatre. “It’s at the early stages at this point because there’s so much to go through.”

Hicks said the group of which she is a member has asked the foundation, the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board and the Department of Education for answers, but has gotten no where. She said her group wants some consistent guidelines on the use of the theatre as well as rental costs.

Several weeks ago, foundation members called an extraordinary meeting of the theatre foundation and elected several new members to the board. However, she said, other foundations members were not in attendance and there have been questions about the previous board will recognize the new additions.

Hicks is concerned the school board is also attempting to alter the community use committee to remove the community’s voice in favour of the board and the theatre foundation.

“When I’ve gone to the board for assistance they have completely shut us down,” Hicks said. “They don’t want community involvement, that’s my perspective. We’ve said we want to help, we want to sit at the table but they won’t tell us anything. It’s got to the point of frustration where we’ve knocked on every door for help and had every door closed. This is a route of last resort to get some help.”

Board spokeswoman Debbie Buott-Matheson said the CCRSB is looking to move forward in a positive way in promoting the arts and making the theatre available to those who want to use it.

“If any changes are made, and I’m not saying there will be changes, it would be made with that in mind,” Buott-Matheson said. “If any changes were made it wouldn’t be to exclude community members because the whole idea behind the theatre is that it’s available to the community. We want to move forward positively and address some of the issues that have arisen in the past couple of months and look to make it the best it could be. There’s no intention anywhere to not have a community voice.”

Foundation chairman Bob Janes said the goal is to increase community use of the theatre and an open house is being planned for September.

“We have no interest in reducing or eliminating community representation in the operation of the theatre. Why would we? It’s a community theatre and our organization has and will continue to have strong community representation,” Janes said. “We want more events in the theatre and we want more community use of it. We need to promote it more.”

Twitter: @ADNdarrell



Organizations: Susan Taylor Theatre, Amherst Regional High School, Central Regional School Board Department of Education

Geographic location: Chignecto

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