Posted in GAP News, Mississippi Art News

Principal fires security guards to hire art teachers — and transforms elementary school – The Daily Nightly

This great article has been circulating round Mississippi arts education enthusiast for the last week and we HAD to share it. A principal at a school in Massachusetts fired their security guards and hired art teachers and saw a huge — positive — transformation happen to the learning environment there. Read the full story from NBC after the jump!

Orchard Gardens, a school in Roxbury, Mass., had been plagued by bad test scores and violence — but one principal’s idea to fire the security guards and hire art teachers is helping turn it around. NBC’s Katy Tur reports.

By Katy Tur, Correspondent, NBC News

ROXBURY, Mass. — The community of Roxbury had high hopes for its newest public school back in 2003. There were art studios, a dance room, even a theater equipped with cushy seating.

A pilot school for grades K-8, Orchard Gardens was built on grand expectations.

But the dream of a school founded in the arts, a school that would give back to the community as it bettered its children, never materialized.

Instead, the dance studio was used for storage and the orchestra’s instruments were locked up and barely touched.

The school was plagued by violence and disorder from the start, and by 2010 it was rank in the bottom five of all public schools in the state of Massachusetts.

That was when Andrew Bott — the sixth principal in seven years — showed up, and everything started to change.

“We got rid of the security guards,” said Bott, who reinvested all the money used for security infrastructure into the arts.

Orchard Gardens a one-time ‘career killer’

In a school notorious for its lack of discipline, where backpacks were prohibited for fear the students would use them to carry weapons, Bott’s bold decision to replace the security guards with art teachers was met with skepticism by those who also questioned why he would choose to lead the troubled school.

“A lot of my colleagues really questioned the decision,” he said.  “A lot of people actually would say to me, ‘You realize that Orchard Gardens is a career killer? You know, you don’t want to go to Orchard Gardens.’”

But now, three years later, the school is almost unrecognizable. Brightly colored paintings, essays of achievement, and motivational posters line the halls. The dance studio has been resurrected, along with the band room, and an artists’ studio.

The end result? Orchard Gardens has one of the fastest studentimprovement rates statewide. And the students — once described as loud and unruly, have found their focus.

“We have our occasional, typical adolescent … problems,” Bott said.  “But nothing that is out of the normal for any school.”

The school is far from perfect. Test scores are better, but still below average in many areas. Bott says they’re “far from done, but definitely on the right path.”

The students, he says, are evidence of that.

‘I can really have a future in this’

Eighth grader Keyvaughn Little said he’s come out of his shell since the school’s turnaround.

“I’ve been more open, and I’ve expressed myself more than I would have before the arts have came.”

His grades have improved, too. Keyvaughn says it’s because of the teachers— and new confidence stemming from art class.

“There’s no one particular way of doing something,” he said. “And art helps you like see that. So if you take that with you, and bring it on, it will actually help you see that in academics or anything else, there’s not one specific way you have to do something.”

Keyvaughn has now been accepted to the competitive Boston Arts Academy, the city’s only public high school specializing in visual and performing arts.

“All of the extra classes and the extra focus on it and the extra attention make you think that, ‘Hey, oh my gosh, I can really have a future in this, I don’t have to go to a regular high school — I can go to art school,’” he said.

Chris Plunkett, who has taught visual arts at Orchard Gardens for the past three years, said the classes help develop trust between the faculty and students. During one particularly memorable project, he asked his eighth graders to write a memoir about a life experience and what they learned from it and then create a self-portrait.

“I couldn’t believe how honest and candid they were, and how much I learned about them,” Plunkett said.  “I mean it was really, it was one of the most incredible things I’ve seen in eighth graders.”

Noting that kids need more than test prep, he added, it may have seemed “a little crazy” to get rid of the security guards to hire art teachers but “I definitely feel it was the right move in the end.”

via Principal fires security guards to hire art teachers — and transforms elementary school – The Daily Nightly.

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The mission of the Greenville Arts Council is to promote the rich cultural heritage of the region and stimulate and encourage cultural activities, arts appreciation, arts education, and the creative works of artists. Some of the responsibilities that help define the Greenville Arts Council as the primary promoter of the arts in our area include offering art classes to children and adults, organizing community events, presenting an ongoing series of free exhibits featuring visual artists from the area and the state, and coordinating educational programs which teach arts-integration in local schools. The Greenville Arts Partnership between the Greenville Arts Council, the Greenville Public School District and our three community arts partners, Delta Center Stage, Delta Symphony Association and the Delta Children’s Museum, is focused on full arts integration in the GPSD elementary schools. Plentiful research documents the value of the teaching in and through the arts to help students understand core academic concepts on a deep level. The partnership was the first in the state of Mississippi accepted into the Kennedy Center Partners in Education Program in 2003, joining over 100 other partnerships between school districts and arts organizations across the country. The partnership provides professional development for teachers, arts experiences for students and resource and referral on arts integration issues. Professional development has been provided in two ways, through workshops with Teaching Artists from the Kennedy Touring Roster and grade-level and/or discipline-specific professional development with our local staff. We present a series of model demonstration lessons to teachers in grades K to 6, demonstrating connections between Partnership free arts programming and required state frameworks. The partner arts groups present a series of live performances allowing each elementary child in the GPSD to attend at least once each year. The groups work with the Arts Council staff to develop accompanying curriculum-based educational material for distribution to teachers prior to each performance. Over the years, we have succeeded in providing basic arts integration training district-wide as well as in-depth professional development to allow groups of teachers to increase their level of mastery.