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Elementary fine arts in TX schools

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From: Pam Stephens (pgstephens_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Thu Feb 13 2003 - 15:00:06 PST


In the midst of budget cuts here in Texas, we have some good news out of
Austin where elementary fine arts were threatened. The following was
received in my email this afternoon:

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Current Program Has Overwhelming Public Support-Superintendent Says Austin
Elementary Schools Will Retain Current Three-day Rotation for Art, Music and
Physical Education-District to Launch 'Initiative for Healthy Children'

Superintendent Pat Forgione announced today that the Austin School District
will continue with its current program of providing art, music and physical
education in a three-day rotation, and using Physical Activity Time during
recess and under the direction of the classroom teacher to meet the state PE
requirements at the elementary school grades. Dr. Forgione said 91 percent
of all those surveyed by the District favored
retaining the current structure.

At the same time, Superintendent Forgione says the School District and the
Austin community must do more to address childhood obesity and to foster
healthy lifestyles for students. Towards that end, AISD will soon be
developing an "Initiative for Healthy Children," working with the District's
School Health Advisory Council.

"Austin elementary schools presently have very strong curriculum-based
programs in art, music, and PE, which are each highly valued by our
community. Continuing the three-day rotation best represents the values and
expectations of Austin," Dr. Forgione said.

"While budget deliberations may require that we increase class size in these
subjects for the coming year, we are firmly committed to continuing the
current three-day elementary school rotation for art, music, and PE, and
using the Physical Activity Time to fully satisfy state requirements."

As a result of Senate Bill 19, passed by the 2001 Texas Legislature, the
State Board of Education now requires 135 minutes per week of
curriculum-based physical activity in the elementary grades. Those
requirements were implemented by AISD at the start of the 2002-2003 school
year last August.

In December 2002, the School Health Advisory Council (SHAC) presented to
Austin School Trustees a Proposed Alternative calling for PE every second
day, and for art and music on every fourth day. The Proposed Alternative
would require a shift to hire 48 more elementary PE teachers and 24 fewer
music and 24 fewer art teachers.

Before reaching his decision, Superintendent Forgione and Dr. Darlene
Westbrook, Deputy Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, conducted
two Public Forums on the issue. In addition, the Superintendent surveyed
all Austin elementary school principals and the Campus Advisory Councils to
obtain their recommendations on the current art/music/PE curriculum and the
Proposed Alternative.

"Our survey results were overwhelming," Dr. Forgione said. "Ninety percent
of our elementary school principals, 88 percent of our Campus Advisory
Councils, and 93 per cent of our surveyed parents support the current
system. When all people surveyed are combined, 91 percent favor the current
program.

"In bringing forth its Proposed Alternative, SHAC also performed a very
valuable service, by articulating the message that childhood obesity is a
serious problem for our community.

"Therefore, we will be working with the SHAC to address this issue, both
within the school day and after school in our campus-based extended-day
programs. In addition, we must seek community support to engage parents and
families in supporting healthier lifestyles, especially for our young
children," Dr. Forgione said.

The Superintendent said the District's Administration will begin meeting
with SHAC members this Spring to receive their best advice and collaboration
in developing the new "AISD Initiative for Healthy Children."

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