Saturday, January 21, 2006

We'll Be Watching This Very Closely

It was only a matter of time before concerns about the Indian River School Board, the district's budget, and the fate of the Southern Delaware School of the Arts hit the newspapers. Molly Murray reports on the situation in a story in today's News Journal (Parents fear arts school will close).

We know that the Board is looking for ways to save money. Recently, they very publicly decided not to cut the Junior ROTC program in the district after parents of kids in that program became vocal. In at least one news story on that decision, it was reported that the Board would look at other programs for savings. The list of programs under consideration included the School of the Arts.

That stirred up quite a few of us who have children at that school. Karen works at the school, though I don't worry about her finding a good job if the school closes. Karen is very good at what she does.

The other day, I drafted a letter to the members of the School Board. I forwarded copies to a number of local legislators and I'd like to share it with you, as well.
I am deeply concerned about suggestions that the Indian River School District might consider closing the Southern Delaware School of the Arts as part of an effort to save money. This would be a tragic mistake.

I have supported the School of the Arts from the days when it was only an idea under consideration by the District. I felt then that it was one of the best ideas for improving education that I have encountered. Since then, the School of the Arts has proven that a school that fosters academic progress through integration with the arts can produce students who excel academically and artistically and show advanced social development.

My wife and I enrolled our oldest daughter as part of the first first-grade class in the School of the Arts in the fall of 1998. We used the School Choice option to move her from the Cape Henlopen School District, and schools just down the street from our home, to the School of the Arts, almost an hour away from our home. Over the years, her consistently high scores on the state tests, her success in the Academic Challenge program, her progress as a dancer, her growing skill as a musician, and her selection to the Junior All-State Chorus have shown me that the educational approach pioneered by the School of the Arts works, and works wonderfully well. Our youngest daughter is now in fourth grade at the School of the Arts. Her academic and artistic development are on pace to match her sisterĂ‚’s.

I'’m a proud parent; I will always think my children are above average. And I stand in awe of my wife's ability to help our daughters take full advantage of their classes and homework. But I also know that my children have been blessed to have had a chance to take part in an arts-integrated school. The staff at the School of the Arts includes some of the best academic teachers and arts instructors that I have ever encountered. Their working together to integrate the arts and academics has helped my girls reach their full potential.

They are not alone. Students from the School of the Arts score very well on the state tests; the school itself is rated as a Superior School.

Our experience has proved to me that the School of the Arts must remain an option for education in Sussex County. As members of the Indian River School Board, you have a responsibility to provide the best educational opportunities to the people of the District. The Southern Delaware School of the Arts is one of the best you have.

It would be a terrible mistake to risk damaging a school this successful.
In today's story, Molly includes a quote from the School Board President, Charles Bireley, who says "I can assure you we have no intention of closing the School of the Arts."

That's promising, but I don't think we should relax just yet.
. . . a few weeks ago, [PTO President Candace] Thune and some other parents attended a finance meeting and learned that district officials consider the arts school a special program.

"We want everybody to know we are considered a program and not a core school," she said.
We'll keep an eye on the Board and try to make sure that they don't play around too much and mess up what is a wonderful school.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

is there a link to the southern delaware school of the arts? am interested in learning more about this innovative school. thanks. teresa

Mike said...

Anonymous, no there isn't really much on-line from the school itself. There is a web presence for the school district (http://www.irsd.net/). I've talked about doing a web page for the school, but haven't had time to follow-up.

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