Students act to save drama teacher’s job

Parents and students stand together in support of their drama teacher and department. Photo by Phil Corso
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Parents and students are stirring up some drama in support of a school’s theater department.

After learning IS 119 at 74-01 78th Ave. in Glendale might send a beloved drama teacher, Evan Belhivanis, packing for budget reasons, supporters came together and decided to step out into the neighborhood to spread the word and save his job and the department.

“Mr. B. is a wonderful teacher and he inspires all of his students,” said Jesus Valdez, father of student Elina Valdez, who starts seventh-grade this upcoming school year. “It is bad enough to lose a teacher like that. It is phenomenal what he gets out of the kids. His work positively affects other classes. These kids perform better because of it. This is a big deal.”

Supporters said they have secured more than 30 letters for the teacher since learning about his possible departure last week.

Darlene DiSanti, a parent and member of the School Leadership Team, said losing Belhivanis puts the entire theater department in jeopardy because the teacher is such an integral part of the program. She also said losing performing arts classes could be detrimental to the students’ academic performance.

“The fine arts program is the secret to students staying in school and being creatively alive while in school,” said DiSanti, who sent a letter asking for his help to state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), who said he is looking into the situation. “The students in theater not only sing, dance and act, but they also present several concert programs throughout the school year.”

DiSanti said Belhivanis has worked with more than 300 students in his nine years at the school. During this time, she said, he has enriched their lives and given them a creative outlet in which to express themselves.

“We are fortunate to have a theater program,” she said. “Whether donations are materials, costumes or just time and support, the teachers, students and parents pull together and make a great effort to put together some great work.”

Now they are pulling together to support the one teacher they believe is the sole reason the program is such a success.

“Without Mr. B., we wouldn’t have a program at all,” said Elina Valdez.

Elina’s mother, Cristina, said her daughter essentially chose the school so she could work with Belhivanis. She said the benefits of a good theater program not only help the school, but also the community in which the students call home.

“The musical department is just a huge part of the community,” Cristina Valdez. “Middle school is key to getting into a good high school and kids need to develop their special talents at this time.”

The school’s principal, Jeanne Fagan, could not be reached for comment.

Phil Corso contributed to this story.

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Updated 8:44 pm, August 15, 2012
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Reader feedback

SFJ from GLENDALE says:
Are we the least bit surprised that Fagan couldn't be reached. How would she be able to justify one of the most horrific decisions of her reign at 119 (and there have been many). I guess having a PH.D doesn't always translate to having common sense. Shame on you Mrs. Fagan for depriving the students that you so call care about.
Aug. 19, 2012, 6:11 pm
former119staffer says:
No surprise. Mr B. is obviously a special breed and there for his students if he has stayed through this regime. I had to leave directly as a result of the transfer of power, which has corrupted absolutely and was interfering with my ability to help students.
Aug. 21, 2012, 7:55 am
Mom of 2 Former Students says:
Mr. B. is a GREAT teacher! He really puts his heart & soul into his teaching, and knows how to relate to the students. He opens a new world for students who didn't have any direction, and points them to their future. Letting Mr. B go would be letting his students and community down!!! I know a few teachers that left this school because of this Principal, UMMM....What does that say!!!! KEEP MR. B. & MAKE HIM THE NEW PRINCIPAL!!!! How many votes for that!!!!!
Aug. 28, 2012, 8:08 pm
Current student from Glendale says:
I LOVE MR.B. Although I am not in his class, I work with him after school on musicals. I used to be this shy girl
But he helped me and now im out going and willing to take risks. There are many other students who shy and Mr.B can really help them. I was looking forward to auditioning for the musical again but if he's gone, I don't think there will be another musical. IS119 is known for its theatre program and taking away that from us, is like losing a bug peice of a puzzle which can never be completed. In other words, Mr.B completes this school
Aug. 29, 2012, 6:31 am

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