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Lesson Plans

School/Community Relations--IL Art Awareness Program

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Tue, 29 Oct 1996 02:44:27 -0500

Looking for some advice/"ammunition" to help defend a middle school's
(grades 2, 3, and 4) monthly (30-min. to 1 hour) community art appreciation
program. Community volunteers--mothers, fathers, grandparents, and residents
without children in the district participate; some have art backgrounds, some
are teachers, some just have a passion for art.

For the past nine years, I have been involved in this activity. Several
years ago, I launched a new program and coordinated it for three years in a
primary bldg. Throughout all nine years, I have been a presentor. (My
background: vocational educator on the secondary and post-secondary level
for 20 yrs.; administrative certification.)

There are seven buildings, grades K-5, that offer this program in cooperation
with the Parents for Education group. (It's similar to a PTA.) Three of the
buildings are intermediate level. All building programs are strong; even the
bldg. in question which was not given a program coordinator.

I have run up against four parents who hold building level leadership roles
in the parent group in one intermediate bldg. These women want to minimize
(set-up/clean-up classroom jobs vs. art awareness/art history presentations
with planned art activity) OR TO DO AWAY WITH IT COMPLETELY!

Since learning of this problem in September, I have met with the principal
one-on-one. Was also invited to present my ideas to a small group. It was a
"lion's den"--principal, three opposing PFE officers, and an apathetic art
instructor (first year teacher), to defend my position. Little advance
notice given for attendance at meeting.

Next PFE mtg. (none in Oct.) is late November. They will vote on this issue.
I haven't been told how the motion will be worded so it will be difficult to
get absentee voting accomplished.

Also, I requested from the principal a list of the 21 volunteers who signed
up for this program at a Sept. Open House. She agreed. Three weeks later, I
had no contact list. A follow-up call to the principal disclosed she still
had no list to share. I made a second request (with a deadline--within the
next week) for this information asking her to be a liason between the PFE
officers and myself. Attempts at communicating to the group's president have
been confrontational. An unenthusiastic, "I'll see," was her response.


Our intermediate bldg. principal:
Elects not to take a stand; will "support whatever the PFE decides."

Intermediate bldg. principal "A""
Pleased with program. 'One class period of art per week is not enough. We
need to expose them to more periods of art. We extend the program beyond the
classroom with bringing in artists and holding art-based assemblies. I've
never had a teacher in my bldg. that didn't want the program."

Intermediate bldg. principal "B":
"All my teachers want it except one, a fourth grade AT (academically
talented) teacher does it himself. All 20 classrooms are covered."

The principal of bldg. in question shared this quote during our private mtg.
When she confronted superintendent about this issue he said, "If it barks,
don't worry about it.
It's not your 'dog.'"

Art Teacher:
This is his first yr. teaching. Never heard of the program. Seems
disinterested and bothered by parent group asking for his opinion. (Former
art teacher backed program 101%.)

Bldg. Faculty:
All 22 faculty received e-mail survey on classroom computer requesting their
input on whether to have art appreciation program or not. Mixed response
from only seven (anonymous) faculty:

1. "Art class encompasses all we need."
2. "Repetitive of art class. Reasons that validate the program originally
are no longer valid." (Note: Reasons never stated.)
3. "I have no one (art volunteer) this year. I hold mixed feelings. I've
had those who are prepared and those who read from a sheet."
4. "The program is appreciated! Hope that it continues. Children gain a
lot about artists and project. Students retain information. Reinforces art
5. "Don't use, not effective, art cut."
6. "Live without it. Some don't get volunteers."
7. "I'm 'swamped;' leave it to art class."

Opposing parents:
Parents should NOT be allowed in the classroom!
Waste of time.
Repetitive of art class.
Have parents assist teacher during art class period or in an after school
program setting up and cleaning up only. (Note: We already have an Art Club
which services only
20 students, of approx. 525 student body, per semester.)

Proponents for continuation of current Art Appreciation Program:
Fine Arts IGAP (Illinois Goals Assessment Project) samples this spring in
grades 5, 8, and 11.
Arts are the core of learning.
Art develops higher order thinking skills.
Art develops verbal competencies in analysis and critique.
Not representative of what community wants (21 volunteers for 22 classrooms
signed up at Open House; not full coverage since some classrooms have moe
than one volunteer; no one has contacted them. No program coordinator
assigned last year. Two experienced women volunteered to chair program; PFE
bldg. officers decline offers.)
Turning down volunteers you've already recruited "sours" your future
volunteer base.
Discriminatory against students who cannot stay after school, in the event of
day program offered after school program instead.
Parent, "art assistants" would be a wast of time; an insult to our
volunteers. Students can mix and clean up own paint at this
Bad PR for district. All other bldgs. have program as do other surrounding
elementary school districts.

I've been in touch with many advocacy groups--IL Arts Council, IL Alliance
for Art Education, surrounding school districts, immediate past,
vice-president of the National Art Educator's Assoc. (who happens to be a
colleague of mine at a local communtiy college), IL State Board of Ed.--Fine
Arts Div., several Internet resources--Kennedy Center,, etc.
I've researched and pulled up ERIC documents for valididty and shared them
with principal, art teacher, and PFE president.

Have I covered all the "bases?" Any suggestions on how to improve my chances
to win this? Anyone up against a similiar situation? How did you handle it?
What were the results? Your input would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance!

Alexandra Kijak Wolfe
e-mail akijak

Would the Business Week article mentioned in a prior communication be of help
to me?
What was the source listing?