Community Arts Advisory Council Report To HSD School Board Is June 2nd

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by Sandra Locklear

Mark your calendars: For the first time since 1992, Highline School District’s Arts Advisory Council in Burien, will be presenting a Fine Arts report to the school board, at a special Work Study session on Wednesday, June 2 at 6:00 PM at ERAC (district administrative headquarters), located at 15675-Ambaum Blvd SW in Burien (across the street from Azteca and next to the bowling alley).

The link is:

For interested readers, a bit of history might be helpful here. The current Fine Arts report is the culmination of the ongoing work and efforts of school district arts staff and community stakeholders over the past several years, ever since the radical decline of arts and music programs began in 2003. In the HSD, the last time a similar report was issued was back in 1992 when Kent Matheson was superintendent.  Then, in the spring of 1992, a Fine Arts Committee consisting of 22 people, was charged to “develop a set of goals and recommendations to establish a direction for Highline’s Fine Arts Program for the next 5-7 years.”   The Vision Statement even back then was that “The Arts must be considered as Basic Education.” The Mission Statement was: “All students must be given comprehensive, sequential K-12 instruction in visual arts, drama, music and movement” (verbiage taken from WA state Fine Arts law; unlike after-school athletics, the arts are state law).

The 1992 Fine Arts report further contains the sections:

  1. Belief statements
  2. Requirements for Excellence in a Fine Arts Program
  3. Recommendations
  4. Public Perceptions Subcommittee Report
  5. Staffing/Scheduling Subcommittee Report
  6. Facilities/Equipment Subcomittee Report
  7. Enrichment Opportunities Subcommittee Report
  8. Curriculum and Assessment Subcommittee Report

19 Recommendations in the 1992 Fine Arts Report include:

  1. Employ a full time arts education coordinator (Paula Hawkins became part-time coordinator after this report was issued, until the position was axed in 2003 and the downward slide in music/fine arts programs began with the convergence of site-based decision making at Small Schools, WASL pressures including double-dosing, No Child Left Behind, etc.)
  2. Increase the public awareness of the district’s belief in the value of arts as basic education (via state law and district arts policy, see below)
  3. Continue to develop alternative schedules that provide students equal opportunities to the fine arts classes during the regular school day.
  4. Assure that funding for Fine Arts be included in technology planning.
  5. Establish a fair and equitable budget plan for the Fine Arts.

Now, back to the current century. In the Fall of 2008, HSD’s music department was charged with submitting a list of prioritized recommendations regarding reinstatement of lost music programs, to Superintendent Welch and the School Board. A consensus of 42 music teachers came up with these recommendations that were submitted to the School Board in the Winter of 2009.

  1. Arts Policy adoption:  Adopt a HSD Fine Arts policy that follows the legal pathways set in place by our state; such policies are in already place throughout the U.S. A bona fide HSD arts policy statement would provide the support and structure necessary to place band, choir, general music and other Fine Arts programs squarely within the regular school day, and would take the power for arts hiring and program decisions out the hands of principals.
  2. Fine Arts Director: Reinstate a Fine Arts Director to oversee elementary and secondary music/arts programs.  Duties would include overseeing a centralized budget and hiring arts teachers. Currently the Highline School District employs a half-time Athletic Director.
  3. Reinstate all music programs: Reinstate all bands and choirs at all HSD secondary schools (and orchestras where appropriate) during the regular school day.  Not to be arbitrary and left to the discretion of principals, like now.
  4. Hiring Highly Qualified Teachers: Hire only highly qualified (certificated) arts teachers and do a national search if need be, like what is done for science and math teachers.
  5. Centralized budget:  Reinstate the centralized budget, from which monies can be equitably dispersed for instruments, resources, etc. instead of monies being put in specific school/site budgets.
  6. Double-dosing:  Stop “double-dosing” kids in reading and math to the exclusion of an arts/music elective. This has been shown to be ineffective and results show that this does not improve WASL scores. Indeed, what’s also been proven is that kids lose interest if they don’t participate in the arts.

In April of 2009, after receiving these recommendations, the School Board felt that further study was required through the formation of a Highline Arts Council, comprised of stakeholders to include Fine Arts teachers, principals, the city of Burien, HSD administrative personnel and various community members.

On March 31, 2010, all HSD community members were invited to an Arts Council forum at ERAC, where they gave input and showed their priorities in terms of how and where dollars are spent toward Fine Arts programs. The room was packed and the one larger group was divided into several smaller groups for discussion and survey purposes.

On Wednesday, June 2, 2010 at 6 PM, the culmination of this data and the Arts Council recommendations will be presented at ERAC. Please note that Work Study sessions are not structured for community input; however, people are invited to observe and be present in case someone on the board seeks input.

Please mark your calendars!

It is worth noting that the 1992 Fine Arts report was unearthed long after the 2008 recommendations were submitted; not surprisingly, they are similar in content. The brain-based research on the positive impact of the arts, particularly music, in all areas of academics, has been out there for so long and is so complete and prevalent, that this author feels that a strict research-justification model for the arts, while necessary and useful, is somewhat outdated, as on a societal level we’ve entered a new paradigm of creativity that demands the return of the spirit and soul dialogue in regards to the arts.

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