The two principles that we focused on this year were to:
-Foster mutual commitment and responsibility in collaborations between arts organizations and schools.
-Build appreciation and support for arts education in schools and communities.
We chose these principles on which to focus with the intention that our main goal this year was to reach out to other schools and districts and see if we could replicate our model for instrument coaching. We had every intention to make this happen and a lot of hope that we would be able to get there. However, it has been quite a challenge; including trying to sustain the program we do have without any additional funding from outside agencies or grant money.
We are definitely at the “emerging” stage of mutual commitment and responsibility. Springfield has done a good job of retaining arts programming during the financial ups and downs of education funding in Oregon. However, there is little partnership with outside arts organizations and it is only happening in very small situations.
We had hoped that we would be able to find some additional funding and strategies to keep our program going and perhaps move in to some other middle schools; however, we have found that to be an inordinate challenge. With the struggles for educational funding, the priority is not on supporting programs such as ours and we are forced to look outside our systems for additional funds. This can be challenging and time consuming–especially when both the building principal and the lead of an art foundation are so consumed with thousands of other projects. Unfortunately, I don’t think we got very far with this. I do believe that we could have focused more time and energy in this area; but I believe it would have to be with the assistance of someone else who isn’t working a job that consumes you.
We believe that we are at the “deepening” stage in the building appreciation and support principle. This may be linked to the thoughts above, because we believe that there is great appreciation of the arts in our community and we would anecdotally state that it has specifically grown in our school community.
Our performances are always well attended, families are excited and happy to see what arts programming the school offers; however, when it comes to supporting the arts with additional funds or money–that is where the challenge lies. Perhaps we did not message the impact of the program as well as we could, because I do not believe it is that students and families do not value what has been provided–they just now simply see it as how we do things. If we are unable to provide any individual coaching next year, it will be interesting to see if there will be a response.
The principles that we have worked to identify through this grant are good and sound. Implementation of them is incredibly challenging. We were in a unique situation in which our arts organization was not directly tied to our school community–perhaps that has had some impact on our results. We are incredibly proud of our results and I know that our students, staff, and families have benefited. We now have an incredibly robust band and orchestra program at our school and it would have taken years to do this without this support.
-Jeff Fuller, Principal, Agnes Stewart Middle School