Blast From the Past gets green light on facility rental

Published 3:57 pm Wednesday, October 20, 2021

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By JOYANNA LOVE/ Managing Editor

The Chilton County Board of Education discussed the future of the annual Blast From the Past musical production during a board meeting on Oct. 19.

Blast began as a production at CCHS and was performed for annually for more than two decades. Participation has since been opened to students in all CCS high schools.

The meeting began with an appeal from former performers for the program to receive permission to use Chilton County High School’s auditorium and ended with the facility rental being approved.

The vote was unanimous with one abstention. Board President Pam Price abstained on the vote.

“I am going to abstain from this vote because I sat in on a meeting the other day, which was very unfair to our CSFO (Chief School Finance Officer),” Price said. “There were questions asked that I believe should have been asked prior to, and I think there should be more in this contract.”

She said she was not against the program, but wanted more details to be worked out.

The meeting Price attended was about what to do with the $19,000 previously raised through Blast for improvements to the CCHS sound equipment and auditorium.

However, Price said when the program was opened up to all the high schools, board members were told a plan to split the money among the schools would be developed.

“The auditor said that if that was said, its public funds, then it needs to be split,” Price said.

Chilton County Schools Superintendent Jason Griffin said he has supported whatever the current CSFO has said to do with the funds.

“When we allowed everyone in the county to participate, there was some discussion about if funds were raised, they would be split or given to the schools or whatever — that was never put in writing,” Griffin said. “… Legally, those funds are at Chilton County High School because the previous CSFO said those funds had to be maintained at Chilton County High School. The Blast was asked to make themselves a separate entity outside of the school. They have done that.”

A vote to approve the request at a May 25 meeting failed amidst concerns that the Blast From the Past organization had not completed the process to become a 501(c)3 nonprofit. Since then, it has become a nonprofit, according to Griffin.

Board member Diana Calloway asked CSFO Alisa Benson for clarification.

“Those are public funds,” Benson said. “They are in the school’s account. Ultimately, they are at the discretion of the principal of that school that fall under the legal expenditures for public funds, which is extremely limited.”

Benson said Sheri McKee, one of the founders of Blast, had requested some of the funds for startup costs for the nonprofit. Benson said the funds could be used for expenses for the new separate program, if it used a purchase order through the school.

Benson emphasized that she was not working for the school system when what to do with the funds was first discussed.

Calloway asked if CCHS Principal Ron Pinson “could use that (the funds) to satisfy everything, everyone is talking about.”

Benson confirmed Pinson could choose to spilt some of the funds and allow some to be used for the nonprofit startup cost.

“I feel pretty confident that people are going to do what’s fair,” board member Keith Moore said.

The vote was only to approve the facility rental, and did not dictate anything to do with the funds.

At the beginning of the meeting, original cast member Wendy Linderman Dale recounted how the program gave a student the confidence to apply for and receive a vocal college scholarship and the impact it has had on many students since.

She asked the board to ensure the tradition could continue.

“Personally, I can recall several cast members who have moved on to L.A., Hollywood, Nashville and American Idol,” Dale said. “Blast is given credit in their journeys. As an adult, I see the greater impact that blast has on our students. It teaches them responsibility, commitment and time management.”

Some of the students that were able to participate because of this also spoke. Logan Mitchell said the opportunity allowed him to learn from other people interested in the arts.

“Let us have this opportunity because there may not be another one like it,” Mitchell said.

Emily Hayes said she was “incredibly thankful” to have been a part of the production in 2020 because she wants to be a singer and entertainer.