Sherman ISD Board of Trustees votes to reinstate original cast and version of ‘Oklahoma!’

The Sherman ISD Board of Trustees met on Monday night amid controversy surrounding decisions the district made about its theater program.
Published: Nov. 13, 2023 at 11:02 PM CST
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SHERMAN, Texas (KXII) - The Sherman ISD Board of Trustees met on Monday night amid controversy surrounding decisions the district made about its theater program.

After 65 people took the podium to address the board, trustee members met in a closed meeting with their attorney to discuss the theater program.

Following the closed meeting, a board member, Wendy Vellotti, put forward the motion to reinstate the original version and cast of the production as it was before the gender rule was created. The board unanimously voted to pass the motion.

Last week, the district announced a new rule it would implement in Sherman High School’s upcoming musical ‘Oklahoma!’ where students could only play roles that match their birth genders.

This led nearly 20 students to lose their roles, including a transgender male, Max Hightower.

On Friday, the district released an additional statement retracting the gender rule for the production but said it would switch to a more age-appropriate version of ‘Oklahoma!’.

One of the people who took the stand in Monday’s meeting to address the board was Phillip Hightower, the father of the transgender student.

“This decision by Sherman ISD Superintendent Dr. Tyson Bennett that he made ultimately without the school board’s input has crushed all of these young kids,” Hightower said.

Many expressed that the new version of the musical may be intended for a much younger cast.

“This new version is described on the script website of Concord Theatricals as being, quote for pre-high school students with content edited for shorter attention spans, unquote,” said one woman who took the stand.

Others said the new version is also much shorter and removes many of the student’s roles altogether.

“The students do not need a dumbed-down production, they do not need to audition again,” said the same speaker.

One theater student sat in the audience listening to each person who addressed the board. Max Hightower, the transgender male at the center of the whole controversy.

“Nobody stood up in opposition,” Max Hightower said, “Nobody did anything like hateful against me.”

Thankful for the support and hopeful it will be enough to put him, and his castmates out of the spotlight - and back on the Bearcat’s stage.

“I’m hoping that things change for the better,” Max Hightower said.

Max Hightower’s faith would prove to be true, but things did change. The board also called a special meeting to be held at the Sherman ISD Support Building on Friday at noon, with legal present, to further discuss this issue.

News 12 will continue to follow this story.