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The Commons

'Students should have a voice'

Originally published in The Commons issue #417 (Wednesday, July 19, 2017). This story appeared on page 0.

BRATTLEBORO—On July 16, hours before a group of estranged NECCA coaches and students were to rally on the Town Common, Blair Belt was planning how she was going to rehearse her fabric routine before she was to perform with fellow members of her circus community.

Belt said she would seek out a swing set from which to do the rigging. “At least, we know it’s safe for children,” she observed. She dismissed the alternative of using trees as “wildly dangerous.”

The 25-year-old circus school student — and, until July 14, when she went on strike, a receptionist for NECCA — no longer can rehearse at the institution that brought her and her fiancé to town a year ago.

Belt and other members of the NECCA community said the twins deliberately sought out business staff and board members to move the school into the next phase of its growth, with the understanding that the founders would work “side by side with the people with the vision.”

And she finds it difficult to believe trustees’ concerns that ousted founders Serenity Smith Forchion and Elsie Smith inappropriately blurred the school’s business with that of their company, Nimble Arts.

“I saw they were making painstaking efforts to keep Nimble Arts separate,” said Belt, who illustrated her attempt to purchase a piece of equipment from Nimble Arts with a check issued to NECCA.

She said Smith Forchion not only made her write a new check to Nimble Arts but also insisted that the purchase take place off school grounds.

She characterized students as “scared, angry, and stressed” over the uncertainty of the school’s future. “Even if the school moves forward from this, they are fearing they’re going to be paying $10,000 for a very broken program.”

She said more than 30 students in the professional training program have rescinded their enrollment, demanding a full refund of their $3,200 enrollment fees.

“At the end of the day, students should have a voice,” Belt said.

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