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March 26, 2010

Drama department faces deep debt

by Mandy Xu, News and Entertainment editor
The drama department is currently $8,000 in debt to Montgomery County Public School (MCPS) for play security personnel invoices that have not been paid in three years, according to Blair Financial Specialist Donna Franklin. Drama department head Kelly O'Connor was notified of the debt in the fall after producing "The Merry Wives of Windsor."

Blazers rehearse dance steps for "The Mikado." Lorena Kowalewski
Blazers rehearse dance steps for "The Mikado."
In June 2009, MCPS began sending bills to the drama department dating back to 2006. "[The debt] all happened in a couple of months," Franklin said. “We started to pay the MCPS invoices in June." O'Connor was shocked by the outstanding balance. "I thought we had a lot of money," she said.

The sponsor must manage every club or organization's finances using a running account, according to Business Manager Jim Funk. "Sponsors maintain their own account," he said. "All the expenses go against the balance from the past years." Without knowledge of the security invoices, O'Connor gradually overspent on materials for stage productions. "She did not take into account the costs for security and overspent," Franklin said.

The drama department is cutting back on purchases for the spring musical - Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Mikado" - to alleviate its debt, according to O'Connor. Though the average cost for musical rights is $250, the drama department did not have to pay this year to obtain the rights to music and royalties on behalf of Victorian Lyric Opera, a community group that often puts on Gilbert and Sullivan productions. "A few Blair students have performed at the Victorian Lyric Opera," O'Connor said. "They loaned [the music] to us for free."

In addition, the stage crew is reusing raw materials."This year, we are being frugal and very recycling-oriented," O'Connor said. "A lot of what you see on the stage was used in a number of shows."

O'Connor believes that the "The Mikado" tickets sales will generate enough revenue to eliminate some of the department's debt. "In the fall, we made $500 from the play's ticket sales," she said. "We always make good money on the shows."



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  • Louis Wilen (View Email) on March 26, 2010 at 2:41 PM
    Several unanswered questions come to mind after reading this article. Who in MCPS dropped the ball and failed to send the invoices to Blair back in 2006, 2007, and 2008? Has that person been reprimanded? What other accounting errors did they make? Is this just the tip of the iceberg? Why wasn't this problem caught by an auditor?

    How many other schools also didn't get invoices for security personnel charges? If someone at MCPS "forgot" to send Blair invoices for security personnel, then it stands to reason that the same person "forgot" to send invoices to other schools, too.
    Are other schools going to get a similar surprise bill from MCPS?
    • Lindsey Fernandez on March 27, 2010 at 5:27 AM
      I agree with Wilen. I want to know a lot more how such an egregious error occurred, how $8000 and three years worth of invoices was missed.
  • alum on March 27, 2010 at 1:10 PM
    this is a huge issue and the article barely covered anything
    what's going on sco?
  • thespian (View Email) on March 29, 2010 at 8:23 AM
    Maybe the students don't realize they are being ripped off.
    1. Why should students have to pay for school security? Isn't school security the responsibility of Super. Weast? Students at schools with higher crime rates are being penalized by having to fund security out of their production budgets. No crime problems at other schools means more money for the production.

    2. Student fees can only be collected and used in the same school year. Current students aren't responsible for past debts. The students that those security guards were hired to protect are from the past, and some are gone. Current students don't pay for that under Super. Weast's rules. Anybody read the rules on managing student accounts????????
  • alum on March 29, 2010 at 2:43 PM
    there needs to be a follow-up article on this problem. the drama dept. is a huge part of Blair and more detail is necessary to fully explain the situation.
  • Grody on April 1, 2010 at 2:00 AM
    The Blair drama department needs to do High School Musical On Stage. I'm not kidding. HSM brings in ridiculous ticket sales. Yes, I realize you need to sacrifice some integrity to put on this show, but sometimes you've just gotta bite the bullet.
  • <a href="http://www.getoutofdebt101.com">free debt (View Email) on June 29, 2010 at 5:39 PM
    This is really a huge issue. After three years, still $8,000 in debt?? What about "we've always made good money with the shows"?

    I agree with Alum, there needs to be a follow up article and some people need to be held accountable.
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