The Arrangement

In a Case Where Failure Means Success, 'Separate but Equal' Dance Program Is Averted at La Guardia

SAB staff declined to comment, but Knorr says the issue of race is not relevant. "They're not being treated well because they're white. It has to do with the chancellor's relationship with SAB. Public education has always been influenced by political swing." The agreement between SAB and La Guardia was a part of a growing trend to involve the private sector in public education. "The perception is that [public] schools have failed to prepare kids adequately and that private industry can offer something that we can't," he said.

In a frustrating flurry of letter writing and endless meetings late last fall, the La Guardia faculty managed to reverse the agreement, and by December felt confident that only a few of the advanced-level juniors and seniors would be exempted from their classes. But by February a new plan, to make a completely separate "supplemental studio" for the SAB students, was in place within La Guardia's program.

"It all became a mess," said King. "We'd get to a certain place and the rug would be pulled out; we were constantly on the defensive."

Dancing double duty: Shamel Pitts
photo: Jay Muhlin
Dancing double duty: Shamel Pitts

Speaking to the New York Post in March, Chancellor Harold Levy said the plan was "at the embryonic stage" and that nothing had been concluded.

The La Guardia faculty again wrote letters and for the second time requested a meeting with the chancellor. But on April 18, without ever being contacted directly by the Board of Ed, La Guardia received a letter from Suzanne Davidson, the president of SAB, saying that it seemed as though a formal agreement between the schools could not be made.

"No one ever did speak to us," said King. "We finally won without ever understanding why."

Ten SAB freshmen have been admitted to the La Guardia program for next year; it remains unclear just what will be expected of them. But for now La Guardia's dance faculty feels victorious and ready for the show to go on.

See the dance listings for full performance information.

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