IRON RANGE — The Hibbing High School drama director resigned last month. The departure left school officials scrambling to find a replacement, but with no qualified applicants, turned to their neighbors to the north. In response, administration from both schools approached Chisholm High School Drama Coach Megan Zubich — a HHS graduate — to launch the first ever Chisholm-Hibbing musical production in the history of either school.

While some students and their parents have since applauded the joint-effort, others have moved to address school officials about their territorial concerns over funding, roles and transportation.

Last Friday, CHS students told the Chisholm School Board they feared they or their fellow actors for may lose their acting roles to HHS students. “We have put in countless hours and have put in our dues in this program,” said CHS senior Jonah Giermann, who added that students learned about the joint-effort plans less than a week before tryouts. He suggested more open lines of communication, or a slower transition may have helped alleviate pre-production drama.

Another student named Zachary Quirk, a junior, demanded a “rock solid plan” from the school board moving forward to protect the CHS Drama Department. A plan, he added, should involve feedback from the school’s students and parents.

In response, Bob Rahja, Chisholm school board director, told the students that “competition is a part of life and “you have to compete for roles, you compete for jobs and if you’re good — which I think our kids are — you’ll win.”

Chisholm City Councilor Jim Varda, who is a parent of a CHS student, spoke in favor of the collaborative effort. And Kirk Lewis, a parent from Hibbing and director of Hibbing Community Education, thanked the Chisholm School Board for allowing students from both schools to participate in the musical.

But other parents were not as smitten with the idea.

Zachary’s mother, Jeannie Quirk, opposed the combination of drama clubs since it was a “hiring crisis,” and not due to lack of participants — had HHS been short on participants, she said she wouldn’t be opposed to pairing and sharing. Despite her opposition, she told the school board that she still felt there was a way to come up with a plan to make the joint effort work.

“I really believe hearts were in the right place when this decision was talked about, but you got to understand our hearts were in the right place with our kids,” she said.

During the meeting, Chisholm Schools Superintendent Dr. Janey Blanchard identified a “serious concern” about the way some parents have been “bullying” Zubich and Hibbing Schools Superintendent Rick Aldrich on social media. (Aldrich is a HHS graduate and former CHS principal.)

As she told it, Blanchard witnessed adults doing “exactly what we tell students not to do” on Facebook. She continued, “[Parents] have not come in and talked to me. They have not gathered all the facts. Instead they have taken to social media, spoken incorrectly and upset other people… I hope that you are mature enough to realize you handled the situation wrong and I pray you are brave and mature enough to apologize not only to the adults you bullied, but to your children because the example you set was not a positive one.”

Meanwhile, HHS Activities Director Meghan Potter shared at the special meeting on Friday that there were no internal candidates to fill the position, nor were there any qualified candidates from outside the district.

“It was a big loss to our drama department,” Potter said.

After some discussion, the Chisholm School Board voted unanimously on Friday in favor of allowing HHS students to participate in the fall musical of the CHS Drama Club.

Back on Sept. 9, the Chisholm School Board discussed allowing HHS students to join the CHS Drama Club and voted to post for an assistant drama coach to help out Zubich. Musical tryouts were held the following day, with 29 students from HHS and 31 from CHS participating. No parts were cast, however, as school officials awaited the outcome of the special meeting.

“I'm hoping that we'll be able to move forward with both groups, as I really think it is the most beneficial outcome for our students,” Zubich had told the Tribune Press before that meeting.

During the meeting last Friday, Potter told of the difficult time that Hibbing staff have had in the past four years in securing a drama director. Potter said the hope was the two school districts could share resources for the drama club.

“Never were we looking to take away things from either school,” Potter said. “In hopes of moving forward, could we create a community event where we could get both buildings and both towns together to support these talented kids?”

After the meeting, Zubich sent a follow-up email to the Tribune Press: “I'm glad the school board has our students' best interests in mind, and I'm excited to move forward and bring a high-quality musical production to our community.”

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