Campaigns

Spring 2015 Arts & Culture Candidate Surveys: Pasadena Unified School District Board of Education District 4

Spring 2015 Arts & Culture Candidate Surveys: Pasadena Unified School District Board of Education District 4

Candidate order: Patrick Cahalan, Sheryl Turner

As part of its work to connect voters and candidates, Arts for LA presents these Arts & Culture Candidate Surveys to promote dialogue around issues related to arts education and its benefits.

Survey responses provided by each candidate are for voter information purposes only. Arts for LA does not endorse candidates seeking office. We are committed to fostering respectful, nonpartisan dialogue about issues relating to arts and culture. For more information, please read about our mission and values or our FAQ.

All eligible candidates were contacted to participate in the survey. If you would like to submit new or revise existing responses, please contact Cristina Pacheco at advocate@artsforla.org or 213-225-7580.

Arts for LA thanks the Pasadena Arts Council for supporting the process as a local partner. The Actors Fund, KCET Artbound, California Alliance for Arts Education, LA2050, LA STAGE Alliance, Latino Arts Network, Otis College of Art and Design, and the Social & Public Art Resource Center (SPARC) served as Regional Partners by promoting Arts & Culture Candidate Surveys throughout Los Angeles County.

Voting for Pasadena Unified School District will be held on Tuesday, March 10.

1 seat is available in this election. Elections are at large; voters may vote for any of the eligible candidates in this election.

For more information on where to vote, visit the Los Angeles County Clerk/Registrar-Recorder’s Office website.

Question 1: Tell us about a meaningful experience you had with art (visual, dance, drama, music) while growing up? (Approximately 75-100 words)

When I was in middle school, my elder sister and I went with our mother to see an art exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. All dressed up for a night in San Francisco, my sister and I were left to explore the exhibit while the adults chatted around part of the show. We wandered the halls for the first time undirected by a docent or tour leader or a parent, and spent our time deciding which pieces we wanted to examine and enjoy. As a parent, I've tried to provide my children with that sort of experience when I've been with them at all sorts of arts events; allowing them to choose their own level of engagement with the experience rather than trying to "make sure they see the Rembrandt", or whatever is the centerpiece of the show.

I grew up in Oklahoma. When I was 12, I was old enough to go to the square dancing events my parents attended. I thought I was grown! I got to stay out late, learn all the dance routines, wear a big skirt and boots. And it was great exercise. It also taught me music, rhythm, mathematics, and my exposure to social interaction was at a completely new level. I learned that community makes great art, that art is fun, educational and generational. I got to teach my brothers and other students at school. Thanks for reminding me...

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Question 2: What role do you think creativity can play in supporting key priorities of the district, such as reducing the drop out rate, closing the achievement gap, and preparing more students for college eligibility and/or meaningful careers? (Approximately 75-100 words)

Historically (and not just in Pasadena, or California for that matter), when the pressure comes down to cut programs in public education the first things to go are unfortunately also very often the things that make children love school as opposed to tolerate it as a place to spend their day. Drama. Music. Art. Sports. Band. There is a wide body of educational research that supports the usefulness of these programs in educational outcomes. This is due not just to the inspiration of creativity, or the neuroscience involved in developing brains learning how to play music, but also the sense of community that comes when our youth have a real feeling of engagement with part of their school life.

Creativity in curricula keeps youths in schools and lowers the drop out rate. Most of the dropouts enrolled in my Pasadena YouthBuild program are dropouts because they are bored and unchallenged. Schools need to offer more relevant creative challenges for students - like gaming programming, graphics arts, and how to be a DJ . We need to have our core arts curricula and build on it for today's students and tomorrow's jobs. Those are jobs that routinely require a college diploma.

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Question 3: Los Angeles USD district has embarked on an initiative to restore meaningful sequential arts education into its core curriculum. What do you feel are the strengths and the weaknesses of the plan? (Approximately 75-100 words)

The district has given significant leeway to the individual school sites to take the initative in their arts integration efforts. The Harmony Project at Longfellow, Room 13 at Eliot and San Rafael, PEF's My Masterpieces program, Jefferson's partnership with the Pasadena Conservatory of Music, cooperative efforts with the Armory Center for the Arts and the Huntington Library, Little Kids Rock at Eliot and Washington STEAM, just to name a few. "The Arts Matter to Me" campaign and the work of the Arts Education Office are helping to engage the community. The main strength of these efforts is the dedication of the individuals organizing, running, and promoting the work. The main weakness is a lack of inter-site organization, largely due to a lack of resrouces at the district level.

I attended the PUSD Board meeting December 2014 to see Marshall students get recognized by the Board for their music award. The children raised funds and the teacher contributed from his personal funds to enter the competition. This is a system that is upside down and the plan to restore arts was not implemented that evening. School budgets need to be reoriented to back up the arts initiative and the Board needs to guide the Superintendent to make sure it happens. The PUSD has no plan posted on your link above and the one on the PUSD website is sorely out of date.

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Question 4: How can your district make the Los Angeles USD arts education plan, and its progress on the plan, more visible to parents and leaders in your community? (Approximately 75-100 words)

The district has generally not done a good job of marketing its successes to the community in the last decade. This is due to a number of factors, not all of which are directly attributable to the actions of either the Board or the administration. No one single strategy will overcome the lack of positive local reporting. Board members need to reach out to neighborhood associations, their city councilpersons, and other civic organizations, participate in social media, attend events, and persuasively make the case for all district initiatives.

First the plan needs to be available in more than one language. Almost 70% of PUSD students have Latino surnames. Many parents have language barriers. Secondly, we need an overall school marketing plan, including social media, to inform the community of all academic issues and progress, especially arts and API scores, which will drive more parents to choose public schooling for their children. The public/private partnerships that already exist can be utilized. Implementation of the arts education plan plan should include strategic marketing plans with the arts organizations whose budgets are significantly larger than PUSD.

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Question 5: In light of the new funding structure for school districts in the state (i.e. the Local Control Funding Formula), how do you see arts education aligning with the eight new priority areas? (Approximately 75-100)

The obvious major alignments are in Student Achievement, Student Engagement, School Climate, and Parent Involvement. Arts education promotes better overall educational outcomes, gets the parent community more involved in the district, and improves the school climate by rasing overall school spirit. There is still work to be done on Basic Services (access to arts-appropriate facilities such as auditoriums, something currently underway through Measure TT funds) and Course Access, ensuring availability for every student in the district. Integration with Common Core State Standards will be an ongoing and necessary component in all subjects, and arts education cannot be left out.

The distribution of LCFF funds needs to include arts programs as building blocks for success. The Board needs to make sure the Superintendent listens to parents (in more than one language), responds to their requests for more arts curricula and funding; and factors in the distribution of funds for arts curricula as a critical factor affecting API scores, attendance, dropout and graduation rates, and college preparedness. There needs to be universal access to arts courses for all students, including those with barriers to learning.

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