Joint Statement Re: Upper Darby Summer Stage

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Joint Statement from Upper Darby Township & Upper Darby School District regarding Upper Darby Summer Stage
October 10, 2021

Good Afternoon:

Upper Darby Summer Stage is and has always been fully funded and operated by Upper Darby Township in strong partnership with the Upper Darby School District. That model has sustained nearly 50 years of excellence, and both the Township and the School District are thoroughly committed to 50 more years of outstanding programming.

Over the last several months, the Upper Darby School District and Upper Darby Township Officials have been in communication with members of the Upper Darby Arts and Education Foundation over the continued support and future of the Upper Darby Township’s Summer Stage program. We understand that there is some confusion, frustration, and misinformation circulating on social media regarding Upper Darby School District and Upper Darby Township’s involvement with and support of the program.

The misleading communication on social media seems all the more strange as it is coming from someone well aware of the actual information and situation. Upper Darby Summer Stage is not in jeopardy. This false social media narrative is a manufactured “crisis”. In fact, the Township and School District have been discussing opportunities to provide even more access to members of our community.

The District and Township have uniformly and consistently indicated during discussions that they are in favor of the Summer Stage program that has existed for nearly 50 years continuing on the High School site. In fact, the Upper Darby School District Administration and Board of School Directors worked with Upper Darby Township leadership for the 2021 season of Summer Stage to ensure it could provide live performances this past summer in the midst of a pandemic. While the terms of use of facilities in the High School’s performing arts wing must be sorted out, the District has every intention of figuring out a plan to grant a use of facilities request for this summer and anticipate continuing to do so in the future.

This support for the Summer Stage program and the performing arts within the District should not be news to anyone involved in this discussion. The District has had several conversations with the Foundation both alone and in conjunction with the Township. At every meeting, the District has said it supports the performing arts within the District. But that support is not limited to only the Summer Stage program. Instead, while the District consistently states its support for the Summer Stage program, it also supports other District focused programs, to the point that the District hired someone specifically to oversee and expand such programming and activities throughout the District. The Township has also had many conversations with the private Foundation alone and in conjunction with the District.

The Township is committed to the future of Upper Darby Summer Stage as part of its overall Recreation programming goals. When public assets are privatized as the Foundation currently proposes, the costs for the participants and audience members greatly increase. The Township and the School District both contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars a year that are not recouped by the ticket price and program fees. A privatized summer stage will not be able to support the real costs of facilities and personnel associated with operating this invaluable public program.

A private foundation could have an expanded role, but that would require genuine oversight, transparency, and partnership with Upper Darby Township and the Upper Darby School District. Regardless, the District’s facility is ready to continue Upper Darby Summer Stage in its historic home in the High School’s performing arts complex.

Therefore, the District and Township will continue to hold discussions with any willing partner over any required terms for the Summer Stage program’s use of the District space, and we are very confident that everything will work out and Upper Darby Summer Stage will continue for years to come.

Signed,
Daniel P. McGarry, Ed.D., Superintendent, Upper Darby School District
Vincent A. Rongione, Esq., Chief Administrative Officer, Upper Darby Township