School District: Burbank USD

Position Seeking: Board Member

Question 1: Please share a meaningful experience you had with art (visual, dance, drama, music, media arts) while growing up and its impact on you.

I didn’t really have any interest in music early in my school years. When I was about 8 my grandfather pulled out his old saxophone and played a few songs. He didn’t play that much and wasn’t very accomplished but it had an affect on me. He encouraged me to take it up, telling me about how it was always a good thing to know how to play an instrument. I followed his advice and joined the band at my school, taking up saxophone. I played in the band for several years, even though I didn’t really seem to have a knack for it (bit of a tin ear, I’d say) but always enjoyed it. It really sparked an appreciation for music that continues to this day. Joining the band was really the only artistic outlet at my school in those days (no choir or dance, and media arts wasn’t even a concept yet). It gave those of us involved not only a chance to learn how to play an instrument but also what it felt like to perform in front of an audience and to work together as a group. 

Question 2: How can arts education support student outcomes such as English language development, reducing the achievement gap, and preparing youth for college and/or meaningful careers?

There are many ways that students benefit from a comprehensive arts education. In some practical ways, there are studies that have shown learning and practicing music improves reading skills and sequence learning, also drama and theater education improve reading, oral and memory skills and the ability to learn and process stories. On a much larger scale, education in the arts improves students’ abilities to think creatively. Common Core standards want more than anything else to improve students problem solving skills, the ability to think outside the box to come up with solutions. Arts education promotes inventing thinking and seeing the world in a different way. Dedication to a particular artistic area like music or drama also develops better working habits in students. It’s also been shown that attendance and graduation rates improve among students that receive a comprehensive arts education.

Question 3: What do you think the role of the School Board should be in ensuring that students have continued access to a broad range of study subjects, including the arts (broadly defined)?

It is part of a School Board’s job to set and approve curriculum. It is there responsibility to make the choices (with input from district staff) as to what classes, lessons, textbooks, etc. will give the students of their district an education that will meet all state standards. But it’s also a School Board’s responsibility to have a vision for what they want their district to be, what kind of learning opportunities will give their students the best and most complete education, and education that will give them the ability to move on to college and/or careers. This by necessity includes basic curriculum in language arts, mathematics and science. But just as necessary are a vigorous and varied arts curriculum, also vocational and technical education, computers and technology, health and fitness and special education. We need to make sure students have the opportunities to experience a wide range of subjects, thereby expanding their knowledge base and learning about jobs/careers that they might not otherwise even know exist. 

Question 4: Do you see a role for arts education in the development of district Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAPs)? If so, how would you hope to use arts education to advance the eight priority areas identified in the LCAP template?

Arts education should absolutely be part of district LACPs. I believe expanding arts education opportunities can touch on all eight priority areas, but particularly in the areas of Course Access, Implementation of State Standards, Student Achievement, Student Engagement and School Climate. I noted in one of the previous answers some of the ways arts education can increase achievement and also aligns well with Common Core goals. Access to the arts also helps make students more connected to and involved in their schools and can decrease dropout and suspension rates. In the first years of the LCAP in our district we have made increasing access to arts and music education one of our central goals. We’ve designated funding for:

  • a full-time Arts/CTE Coordinator and TSA
  • maintaining the current staffing of elementary music teachers
  • musical instrument repair
  • secondary arts supplies
  • Arts professional development, including PD for teachers on how to incorporate arts into their instruction of other classes
  • English learners theater arts integration program

These are just a few of the ways that arts can be used to drive results within the various priority areas.