After Founders Fired, New England Center For Circus Arts President And Director Step Down

Jul 14, 2017

The executive director and president of the board of directors agreed to step down from the leadership of New England Center for Circus Arts.

The board announced Friday afternoon that it had accepted the resignation of Michael Helmstadter as director following a week of turmoil.

Serenity Smith Forchion, left, and her twin sister Elsie Smith started the New England Center for Circus Arts in Brattleboro.
Credit Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR

The board of trustees earlier this week fired the organization's founders, Serenity Smith Forchion and Elsie Smith, leading to staff resignations and outcry from parents involved with the school.

Helmstadter will work until July 28 while the board looks for a new interim director.

According to the press release the board sent out Friday NECCA is now on the verge of closing because so many people had demanded their money back.

"It is imperative that you reach out to your supporters and friends to reverse the negative effect on the financial situation," the board wrote in the release.

In a letter sent to NECCA coaches dated July 14, 2017, the board wrote:

In an effort to resolve the impasse that currently exists, we offer the following.

The executive director and President of the Board are placing the well being of the organization above their own. To that end, this morning they agreed to step down from their current positions.

The board has accepted the resignation of the executive director to take effect at the end of the working day, July 28. This, to allow time to find an interim executive director. Concurrently, we will begin the search for a full time executive director.  

In addition, the president of the board has stepped down as president. The board has accepted newly returning board member, Mel Martin, to the president’s position effective immediately.

Due to the impact of the sudden withdrawal of students and demands for refunds over the past four days, it is important for you and the community to understand that NECCA is on the verge of closing its doors within a week. It is imperative that you reach out to your supporters and friends to reverse the negative effect on the financial situation.

We, like everyone, want to save NECCA.


The NECCA Board of Trustees

Friday evening, co-founder Serenity Smith Forchion weighed in on the board's announcement:

“I have just now seen the press release from NECCA informing us of changes in the leadership team," said Smith Forchion. "I am cautiously optimistic — cautious only because I fervently hope that the Board offers conversation and inclusion to the voices of the many people who have expressed their concern."

"It is important that this is an open door to including and welcoming the coaches team in the framing of the future of NECCA," she went on to write. "It is vital that their voices are both heard and honored as the Board seeks to move NECCA forward. I believe we still need reassurance that the community will be a part of the decision making process in the next 2 weeks as plans for the future are made and I hope that the era of closed board room doors is over.”

This story will be updated.