Spotlight on SPARC: Advocating for the Performing Arts

The Performing Arts: Building a Critical Set of Skills for Our Students

We believe that the skills learned through the performing arts enhance our students’ academic and life skills. The performing arts provide students skills in: creativity, confidence, problem solving, perseverance, focus, non-verbal communications, receiving/accepting feedback, collaboration, dedication, accountability and teamwork.

Summit Performing Arts Resource Committee, Inc, (SPARC) founded in 1999 by a small group of performing arts teachers and incorporated in 2003 as a non-profit organization in NJ has been supporting the performing arts in Summit public schools ever since. The Board of Trustees are parents of current students but the membership is composed of current families, alumni and their families, and community members.

The performing arts in the Summit Public Schools includes: theater, technical theater (lighting, sound, costume, makeup, construction, stage management), cabaret, speech & debate, TEDx, and STEP. Because many of the performing arts students also participate in the music programs at Summit HS, SPARC collaborates whenever possible with Summit Music Parents Association (SMPA). SMPA is a parent run organization that provides funding and volunteerism in support of music (band, choir and orchestra) for high school students.

Currently, the school district budget funds the teacher/supervisor salaries and stipends- that’s it! The spaces for the performing arts students to rehearse and perform is the classrooms, auditorium and hallways already existing for academic purposes.

Performing arts attracts and accepts all students – no one is turned away. At the same time, all of the performing arts programs across the district are totally funded by ticket sales, where relevant, parent financial and volunteer contributions for specific events, and SPARC grants for all the programs. Unlike athletics, which are heavily funded by the district with support from the Boosters, SPARCs financial support enables the performing arts to offer the quality programs and opportunities that enhance the award winning experiences for our students and the recognition for our district.


Summit Performing Arts Resource Committee, Inc (SPARC)

Summit Performing Arts Resource Committee (SPARC) is a non-profit corporation. Members of SPARC believe that involvement in the performing arts helps children and teens to become better educated citizens of tomorrow, by developing creativity and imagination, as well as specific skills like problem-solving, teamwork and communications through movement and vocal expression. SPARC was formed for the charitable purpose of supporting and providing programs and activities involving the performing arts in the public schools in Summit, New Jersey, as well as in the community events and programs involving Summit public school children and teens. We promote, recognize and enrich students through advocacy, financial/volunteer support, and educational initiatives in the performing arts. The organization is managed by an Executive Board of officers including President, VP/Communications, Recording Secretary, Treasurer, and Development Officer. The full Board includes the Executive Board and School Liaisons.


Any person who subscribes to the purpose of SPARC and pays the annual dues is eligible for membership. SPARC’s membership drive begins in September but new members are welcomed at any time with the payment of a membership fee. All members are welcomed to attend SPARC Regular meetings which are held four times a year, generally in September, November, January, and May. Membership is critically important to the support provided annually to all 7 Summit school performing arts programs.

Fundraising to Fulfill our Support Mission

SPARC provides funding support to all the Summit Public Schools through a grant process. Each school submits, through a faculty member, grant requests for workshops, instructional activities, support for the performances, fees for tournaments, and capital equipment such as spotlights, microphones, and curtains.

SPARC also funds senior scholarships for students continuing on to 2 or 4 year colleges/universities based on their contributions to the Summit performing arts. And in collaboration with SMPA, we host the Senior Salute event held every year to celebrate our graduating students who have participated in the performing arts and/or music programs of Summit High School.

Beyond membership dues, SPARC raises funds through various events throughout the year. Most notably in the past have been SPARC’ling Evening, and adult event featuring alumni, and the Pancake Breakfast featuring current Summit students. We also have smaller fundraising events such as shopping fundraisers, selling SPARC magnets, and new in 2018 a Murder Mystery Dinner, also an adult event.

It is because of the generosity of our members and friends, that we are able to support the outstanding programs offered at the Summit schools. SPARC has contributed over $370,000 in grants over the last 11 plus years and we expect to grant approximately $70,000 in 2017-2018.


Performance Highlights

Our award winning high school theater performers, speech & debate competitors and STEP dancers start nurturing their talents in elementary school. Annually, Summit schools produce 5 elementary school musicals or plays, a fall play at both the LCJSMS and SHS and a spring musical at both the LCJSMS and the SHS.

2017-2018 theater productions include:

  • SHS’s Love’s Labour’s Lost (fall), Legally Blonde (spring)
  • LCJSMS’s Government Inspector (fall), Once Upon a Mattress (spring)
  • Lincoln-Hubbard’s Wizard of Oz
  • Franklin’s Beauty & the Beast
  • Washinton’s
  • Brayton’s Winnie the Pooh
  • Jefferson’s Hydrangea Albright (an original play)

Other theater highlights at the SHS include Cabaret in the fall, and Director’s Showcase in the spring. Our award winning SHS Speech & Debate teams begin preparing over the summer for intense competitive national and local tournaments from September through May. Many of these competitors start in the middle school by participating in TEDx events. Summit’s award winning STEP team begins recruiting in the middle school and has joint events for the HS and MS throughout the year.

The Summit performing arts programs are led by dedicated teachers/directors at the high school and middle school level and supportive parents across all the schools.

At SHS, Anne Poyner is the director for theater and Speech & Debate. She is assisted by Jim Poyner as Debate coach, Dan King, vocal director for the musicals, Steve Rapp, pit orchestra director, Katherine Winter, costume/ makeup director and Kelly Mott-Sacks as choreographer. At the LCJSMS, Ron Wells is the theater director, Ashley Raven, costume/makeup and production assistant along with Jamie Walter, Maria Wager, choreographer and STEP coach along with Brooke Simandl, Joann Manhart, pit orchestra director, Randy Wallock and Janice Cavanagh, TEDx coaches.

Upcoming SPARC Events

Pancake Breakfast Fundraiser: March 24, 2018 8am -10:30am, Summit High School Cafeteria. Performances from all 5 elementary schools, the LCJSMS, and SHS students. For more information:

Meet the Performing Arts Coaches: June 12, 2018, 6-8pm, Summit High School Library. This event is geared towards parents and students who are interested in the performing arts and are either moving up to the middle school or high school, or are new to the performing arts. It is an opportunity to hear from seniors who have participated in the Summit school performing arts and from each of the MS and HS faculty/directors. After a brief presentation, there will be time for socializing with the faculty for one on one discussions. It is also a SPARC celebratory event so cake will be served.

To Stay Connected with SPARC

Please visit our website for up to date information about our organization, SPARC events, tickets for SHS & LCJSMS performances, news & photos about all the performing arts, and opportunities to donate your time, talent and treasure.

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Interested in joining the SPARC team, contact the current SPARC President, Gloria M Ron-Fornes, at