Monday, October 20, 2014

Rising Like a Phoenix!


Last week, TETA Secretary, Scott Allen, posted an article about transparency. If you haven’t read it, please do so! I think you will find it informative and inspiring. Scott wrote about the importance of cultivating an atmosphere of transparency within TETA and the need to face reality, to address our problems, and embrace our challenges. With the help of many people, all of whom deserve a large thank you, true transparency has been initiated over the past year. That transparency has led to important discoveries but has also revealed some painful and hard to face facts. Like alcohol poured on an open wound, those facts, revealed by true transparency sting, leaving us with feelings of confusion, guilt, and humiliation. However, honesty and openness bring about true healing. It has always been my philosophy that adversity vanishes when faced boldly. With this in mind, I offer these thoughts on the indictment of Gene Dickey, former Treasurer of TETA.

As many of you may know, on June 20, 2014, Gene Dickey, was indicted by a Travis County Grand Jury for the unlawful misappropriation of TETA funds in excess of $200,000, a first degree felony. The criminal case is now pending in a Travis County Criminal District Court. In late September, the Travis County District Attorney’s Office filed a notice in the case outlining certain factual allegations against Mr. Dickey based on evidence obtained through its subpoena powers. The allegations outlined a systematic scheme to deceive TETA involving fraudulent financial statements, other falsified documents including false independent audit reports, and other misrepresentations and fraudulent acts used to cover up a continuing misappropriation of TETA funds each year over a nine year period that totaled in excess of $1.6 million dollars. The criminal case is currently set for trial in November although the case may be reset to a later date.

After recently reading the list of allegations filed by the Travis County District Attorney against Gene Dickey, I was taken aback by the audacity and the scope of the fraud by which the man apparently planned and carried out his scheme. My anger and frustration grew and I felt tears welling up in my eyes. But at the very moment I was at my lowest, the phrase “Phoenix rising from the ashes” popped into my head. Initially, I didn’t know why at that particular moment I would think such a thing but after doing a bit of research I understood. As the story goes, the phoenix is a mythical bird with fiery plumage that lives up to 1000 years. Near the end of its life, it settles in to its nest of twigs which then burns ferociously, reducing bird and nest to ashes. And from these ashes, a fledgling phoenix rises—renewed and reborn. After reading the story of the phoenix, it suddenly dawned on me that TETA had experienced a similar journey in 2013, especially the part about burning ferociously. The organization had been defrauded by a duplicitous individual who had served the organization for many years in a trusted capacity, leaving the organization seriously burned but not destroyed. Today, after the horrific storm has blown over, the sun shines brightly, sanity has returned, our Tartuffe has been unmasked, and TETA is moving forward, reborn and renewed.

One question you may ask is: what is the Board of Directors doing to recover TETA’s losses? The answer is, in fact, that we have done and are doing all that we can. TETA brought a civil suit against Gene Dickey that resulted in a bankruptcy filing. The bankruptcy filing stayed the civil proceedings. At a creditor meeting in the bankruptcy case, Mr. Dickey stated that he had destroyed all the financial records of TETA that he had in his possession and that appears to be in fact the case. TETA has had to reconstruct its financial books and records which has been a very difficult process. We will eventually seek to obtain a judgment in our civil suit but unfortunately, as it stands Gene Dickey has no assets against which a judgment could be satisfied. Any decision to order restitution in the criminal proceedings is at the discretion of the Travis County DA. TETA’s Board of Directors has no control over the criminal case. However, as noted by the Travis County DA and our own legal counsel, it does not appear that there are any assets from which restitution could be paid. We have abated the civil suit as the criminal proceedings progress but it is still pending. While I cannot be sure if we will ever recover anything that we have lost, I can say that the Board of Directors is determined to do everything in its power to restore transparency and honor to TETA.

Reflecting on the past few months, I am filled with a surprising sense of peace and excitement about the future. We can now look forward with fresh eyes. The fog has lifted and the dark clouds have moved on. TETA has left this troubling experience behind, and the Board of Directors has taken steps to prevent this kind of thing from ever happening again. We have revised the Bylaws to ensure transparency and thanks to the diligent leadership of Rachel Mattox the Board has adopted a projected yearly budget (a document that did not exist under Gene Dickey’s leadership). The organization has retained an independent outside accountant. The board intends for that person to provide reports in person to the Board of Directors and not just to one individual. We continue to be financially solvent and we look forward to the most memorable convention we have ever had. TETA is “a phoenix rising from the ashes,” alive and well and excited about the future. With the promise of a bright tomorrow ahead, now is the time for everyone who cares about the future of theatre education in Texas to band together and support our attempt to restore a culture of dignity and transparency to the organization. Now is the time for us to unite as a single, powerful team, dedicated to what is most important to us all: the training and education of our teachers and students. As Scott Allen wrote, we want to become “the greatest theatre organization in the world.” I urge you to find a way to contribute to TETA and join us at TheatreFest 2015. We cannot reach our goals and dreams without YOU. In closing, I leave you with a quote from Henry David Thoreau who reminds us that “All misfortune is but a stepping stone to fortune.”

Dr. Marion Castleberry
President of TETA

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Text Notifications

TETA now uses Remind to send text notifications.
If you are interested in joining our notification list follow the directions below.


WHAT IS REMIND AND WHY IS IT SAFE?
Remind is a one-way text messaging and email system. With Remind, all personal information remains completely confidential. TETA will never see your phone number, nor will you ever see theirs.  Visit remind.com to learn more.

What’s BEST about THEATREFEST?

I was sitting in rehearsal with my choir director last week and we were talking about the scene 13 in our production of Guys and Dolls Jr., “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat.” She asked me if I was going to have parent volunteers make the six sturdy benches we need for the scene. I said, “No, I’m picking them up from FWAFA this weekend.”
“How do you know the theatre people from FWAFA?”
“TETA. Don’t you know the music or choir people there?”
“No. I have no idea. You know a lot of theatre people, don’t you, because of TETA?”
“Yes, all across the state. I can count on my Texas theatre family for anything!”

What do I think is one of the best parts about attending our convention? As TETA President-Elect, Travis Poe, said in his most recent article, it’s about YOU! Because of convention, I have the privilege of meeting people- teachers, administrators and business vendors from all over Texas who care just as much as I do about Texas theatre. The whole idea of joining TETA is to join together and attend or participate in fantastic workshops aimed at honing our craft, network amongst other educators for professional and personal support, and share innovative ideas that will encourage us to continue in our common goal of producing quality theatre experiences for Texas K-16 students.
As Chair of the K-12 Committee, I was allowed to look at some of the workshop proposals for TheatreFest 2015. There are so many new and exciting workshops! Here are a few that I’m looking forward to:

Laban: Middle School Students Define Characterization
Staying Legal: Ins and Outs of Royalties and Performance Rights
Reaching For New Heights through the Fine Arts TEKS for 6-12
No More Binders or Textbooks: It’s all About Interactive Notebooks
K-12 Reception (snacks, exhibitor demonstrations, fashion shows, door prizes and more!)
AND especially the TETA Awards Banquet!

Here’s a special challenge for you: Invite a colleague who’s never been to convention! Invite your Fine Arts Director or Coordinator and tell them to join TTAC! Their life and professional career as a teacher or administrator will forever be changed for the better!

We are very excited to announce our dates, location and theme for SummerFest 2015 at convention. Thank you so much for attending SummerFest 2014 in Abilene. Ah…we will always remember it fondly. Our K-12 Committee is stronger than ever and truly committed to YOU and to this organization. We have several qualified individuals who have been nominated for the following positions which are up for re-election: K-12 Chair-Elect, High School at-Large, Middle School at-Large, and Elementary Interest Chair. Depending on the levels you teach, please attend either the High School Interest Meeting (grades 9-12), Middle School Interest Meeting (grades 7-8), or Elementary Interest Meeting (grades K-6). DON’T forget to also attend the K-12 Interest Meeting where two lucky attendees will receive a SummerFest 2015 Registration Waiver!
Wait…there’s MORE?!? What’s that you say? There are MORE Give-aways? YES!!!
Details please…

Two lucky TETA members will have a chance to win three FREE nights at the Hyatt just by registering for convention by November 1st? AWESOME!!!

In closing, I must express my gratitude for the current TETA Board of Directors. I continue to be in awe of their passion for Texas theatre, selfless positive attitude, professionalism and integrity. It’s been a road with many twists and turns the past two years, but together with a like-minded spirit focused on making TETA transparent and sensational again, so much has been accomplished. The newly revised Manual of Operations and an approved budget to say the least! It has truly been an honor to serve TETA in my position as VP and Chair of the K-12 Committee.

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”- Henry Ford

Please join us for TETA TheatreFest 2015: Together Toward Tomorrow!

In service of this great organization,
Sara A. Schochler
TETA Board of Directors
K-12 Chair

Auditions

Dear HS Theatre Directors,

Just a friendly reminder as you are busy into classes and productions this fall:

TETA TheatreFest is scheduled for January 29 - February 1, 2015, at the Hyatt Regency, Houston, Texas .

So, believe it or not, TETA Auditions Submissions are just around the corner! The preferred deadline is November 15, 2014, and the absolute deadline is December 1, 2014.

We will be utilizing getacceptd.com again this year, an online registration for auditions. However, convention registrations will remain separate and need to be mailed to the new Houston address.

All updated audition information can be found on the TETA website, or at getacceptd.com/teta .

The biggest change this year is that High School Juniors from all high schools, not just IM schools, are eligible to audition. Each school may submit one (1) Junior Acting student and one (1) Junior Tech/Design student. Juniors are not eligible to audition for Founder’s Scholarships, however. What a great way for your juniors who know that they want to major in theatre to get ahead of the game and get out in front of recruiters!

After reading the audition information found on the TETA website, please have your students do the following:

1) Take the SAT or ACT ASAP so that their scores are ready before the deadline.

2) Start selecting their material now; they will have to submit titles on the audition form!

3) Read the articles in previous and upcoming Texas Theatre Notes about auditioning; there is a ton of great advice for them!!!

4) Select the correct form from the website for the area they are auditioning and fill it out COMPLETELY and ACCURATELY. Without fail each year a student completes the wrong form. A Senior filling out a Junior form, or an Acting/Singing audition filling out the Acting form (and then no accompanist is available!) Please double check the title of the form. If you have a question, please contact me.

5) Forms will be submitted online through getacceptd.com/teta materials must be uploaded for the students application to be complete. Applications cannot be submitted to TETA unless the application is complete.

6) All payments for auditions must be submitted by credit card through getcceptd.com. No cash or checks are accepted. Checks can continue to be sent for convention registration, however.

7) A clean, focused picture is best for uploading.

8) Counselors and Sponsors will receive follow up emails from getacceptd.com. Please encourage students to notify you and their counselor when they have submitted their portion of the form in order that the counselor and sponsor can watch for their email. Please check your junk mail folder just in case the email has been misdirected.

I would encourage you to sit down with your students to complete the online registration so that you are both familiar with the process.

As always, the other volunteers and I are here to help make this a pleasant and successful experience for all. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.


Dusty Davidson, Auditions Coordinator

transparency

transparency
[trans-pair-uh n-see, -par-] /trænsˈpɛər ən si, -ˈpær-/  
noun, plural transparencies.
1. Also, transparence. the quality or state of being transparent.
2. something transparent, especially a picture, design, or the like on glass or some translucent substance, made visible by light shining through from behind.

I like transparency.  Issues should be out in the open for people impacted by them to discuss.  The word “transparency” gained a new meaning last fall when I was asked to be a part of The Transparency Movement.  A group of individuals who worked for change through positive action, believed in service above self, and acted with courage and conviction, to bring a new chapter to the life of our beloved organization, the Texas Educational Theatre Association.  It truly is a new day, for TETA, but there are still challenges.  The bylaws have been revised to ensure continued transparency.  Changes in checks and balances have occurred in order for history not to repeat itself.
In the spirit of transparency, here are some challenges that face our organization that we would like to share with you:
  • There are no financial records for at least the past fifteen years.  Our Treasurer, Rachel Mattox, has worked tirelessly with a CPA attempting to recreate budgets and records.  We will share more about that and a projected budget for the coming year at our conference in January.  Not knowing how much different things cost or how things were paid for, has made planning for TheatreFest a challenge.  Please understand that the Board is working hard to make your money work for you as we grow, educate, and continue to learn the art of theatre!
  • Contracts for hotels have been secured for TheatreFest through the year 2020 by our past Treasurer.  For good or bad, TETA is locked into locations and dates for the next several years and we are at the Hyatt Houston for 2015 with a certain number of demands and needs that must be met to fulfill our contract with the hotel.  Again, we are working within those restraints to make this the best conference ever for you!
  • One of the expectations of the contract for 2015 is that we fill 500 rooms for Saturday night in the Hyatt…that is a lot of rooms!  Missey Head and Jerry Ivins are working hard to put together programing that is fun, inspirational, and meaningful for the entire membership from session one to the closing session of TheatreFest.  If it is at all possible, we need members to plan to stay until Sunday.  Enjoy the activities and events of Saturday night, relax in your hotel room one more evening, and then head home refreshed and rejuvenated from four days with fellow theatre educators!  This would be a huge help in meeting our contract with the hotel!
  • Programing.  Programing.  PROGRAMING!  We want the best and versatile programing in the history of TheatreFest this coming year.  In order to do that, we need you!  We have experts in all areas of theatre and our members need to hear from you.  You know you have it in you...click HERE to submit a workshop proposal!  Let’s go all out and have the best programming anyone can remember in the history of TETA.  Contact Missy at the link above!


If you have not registered for TheatreFest 2015, do it now! (Don’t forget to purchase your tickets for our Awards Reception!)  Remember that everyone who registers by November 1st is eligible for the drawing for two free rooms for TheatreFest at the Hyatt.

Thanks for being part of the greatest theatre organization in the world!  My life has been changed because of members of TETA and that is why I am excited by the new and exciting path we are on!  We hope to see each of you at TheatreFest 2015…all the way through Sunday!

Artfully yours,
R. Scott Allen, Ed.D.

TETA BoD, Secretary