A word from an art educator to Marion County
My action plan consists of a letter to the editor of the Ocala Star Banner and a power point I will present to the School Board of Marion County. I included some background information as to why I chose this path.
Arts in Marion County Schools recently suffered a hit in staffing and the subsequent over extension for educators as a result. At the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year, we lost all of our first year teachers throughout all the subject areas. We also lost a lot of paraprofessionals. For years now, our school board has consistently resorted to overcrowding classrooms in core classes and electives despite state limitations, paying fines, rather than paying salaries for new teachers. Marion County is actually the leading violator statewide in this area of contention.
This year they reassigned art and music teachers due to the shortages in staff that they created. The county voters would not approve a millage tax to help raise money beneficial to elective classes. This of course only compounds the problem. Some art teachers were moved from elementary to middle school, some from middle to high. Most teachers remaining at the elementary level are now servicing more than one location. Some carry the responsibility of music and art, working from carts or rooms at both schools. Those campuses are not always close in proximity.
My letter to the editor subtly addresses these issues as we draw near to the close of this school year. There is only about two and a half months left. I hope to raise awareness in the community in light that our school board has recently promised it plans on hiring more teachers. However, this may be indicative of another surprise like with last year’s events. There was a report in the paper just prior to the lay offs last year that indicated art and music teachers would be protected amidst cuts. They were generally, however some of the art teachers also happened to be first year, thusly, they lost their jobs regardless and hence we now have shortages in staffing.
This action plan describes some of the problem, raises awareness and presents a unique and growing validation for art education in schools. It is a call for accountability on the part of our board and community to take a closer look at the visual arts specifically. The plan includes real world examples where science, art and technology are integrating into the arts at a rapid rate. It also points towards the validation of art education in schools to accommodate the future demands on career and profession for students across disciplines.
My action plan is also two or three fold at this point. I would also like to present some of these ideas in validating the arts through practical application. In integrating with technology and science, art may become more valuable in the eyes of others. This idea is not shrouded in clever disguises, the University of Florida, M.I.T. and museums are developing centers for learning that integrate art, emerging technologies and scientific principles and explorations. My hope is to make an impression so that when time comes to weigh in on issues of maintaining the arts in Marion County Schools, those involved will make their decisions with insight and conviction.
I also would like to present my findings to other art educators and possibly write this in a more cohesive and comprehensive fashion to a journal or magazine. I have yet to research careers, collaboration case studies and other examples that would further validate art education through science and technology practices.
One suggestion I will give to my school board will be to set up a meeting time and place between art teachers periodically and board members to share ideas, innovations, foster ongoing communication, changes in the field and concerns. Board members can stay in the loop and be more mindful on decisions and developments in the area of art education.
My action plan, letter to the editor and power point presentation emphasize artists and their work. These featured artist focus on the technical, scientific and engineering integration of art. It is in no way exhaustive and quite the contrary only demonstrates the early stages of research. However as we dip our toes in the proverbial pool of knowledge, we can see the water is deepening quickly. Pluralism and hacking are reshaping culture in new ways that integrates technical understanding with creative expression. Thanks to agencies like TED Talks, PBS programing and learning centers that embrace new developments in artistic expression, we are seeing a collaboration of ideas that place the role of the artist and art educator in areas not akin to general art study.
The ongoing challenge is to look towards future dynamics and the role of artists in society. The value of art studies as it relates to industry, life and the need for improving general art education. Specifically, I address concerns in Marion County, Florida. This action plan presents the current state, the need for art education improvement and the challenge to our community and school board, with examples, for validation of the arts in the school curriculum. I hope to further develop this plan to explore more career-centered avenues for validation. I have gathered resources, however, I will need to keep my research ongoing.
Ocala Star Banner Articles:
New staffing plan good news for music, art teachers, 3/7/2013
Marion County is leading violator of Florida class-size amendment 12/10/2013
Editorial: Flouting the law 12/11/2013
School Board axes referendum on sales tax 1/23/2014
Supporters of school tax raising money, spreading message 2/7/2104
The district wants 181 more teachers 3/4/2014
Additional suggestions to be made to the school board include:
1) To develop a resource hub for Marion County Art Educators to share ideas and contact information for community members who have ties with agencies in the arts.
2) For administrators and supervisor personnel o be trained and qualified to evaluate teacher performance according to prevailing and traditional art educational pedagogy.
3) To have activated liaisons within the county who can help aid in curriculum development, mentoring and act as a facilitator and resource for art educators throughout.
4) To have more fluid and flexible computer network relationships with county IT.
5) To have closer relationships with warehouse staff and build a working, beneficial relationship for easy access to materials pertinent to our individualized teaching classrooms. The teachers should aide in ordering based on specific and current needs collectively.
6) Art classrooms need smaller class sizes to deliver technical oriented content.
7) Art classrooms need better technology to equip students for future endeavors.
8) The hiring of more teachers to cover the student population.
9) For board members and administrators to take seriously the visual arts and its role in current and future society.
10) For board member and administrators to see the correlation between arts, science and technology.
11) For board members to acknowledge the preservation of arts curriculum in Marion County Schools.
12) To provide opportunities for advancement to higher learning in the arts through technology acquisition and provision of workable budgets for materials and supplies.
Letter to be submitted to the Editor of Ocala Star Banner:
Universities and higher learning centers increasingly embrace the integration of art, science and technology. The University of Florida now has the Art + Technology program, a learning center providing students opportunity in using emerging technologies for art creation. Art education on the campus of M.I.T. often crosses boarders with other disciplines like math and engineering, giving students a chance to experience vital interrelationships throughout. As an art educator and parent, I wonder how our local school system is determined to ensure students from Marion County will be prepared for their future?
The role of artists in a pluralistic society is changing. Advancements in 3D printing pioneered by those like Bre Pettis, the science based artistic explorations of Fabian Oefner and the ventures of production house, Bot and Dolly, in robotics, projection mapping, and film, leave us with a sense of wonder. Careers in data visualization, medical animation and scientific research, often rely on skilled artists, competent in a variety of understandings. For example, Robert Lang, a physicist and engineer, teaches origami. Principles of which are applied to vehicle airbag construction and satellite operation. Artists are becoming integrated within a multitude of highly respected career fields. Furthermore, collaborations between professionals utilize keen observation and problem solving abilities art education fosters within learners.
There is a powerful renaissance happening “out there.” Our students should be afforded the opportunity to engage in it. We must first prepare them and that is where I leave this argument for your consideration. Our community needs to get involved when called upon financially and our school board should take provision for art education seriously. To hinder the efficacy of art education by staffing to few teachers, providing inadequate resources and filling overcrowded classrooms is to limit the equipping of Marion County’s children for their future.
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Art Educator, Professional Photographer, Journalist. Alumni - B.F.A. Savannah College of Art and Design