Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Speak up and Advocate for the Arts - It Works!

Every now and then you must put your fears aside and stand up for what you believe in. Our elementary art programs were, once again on the chopping block - nothing new, been there done that.  After all, after 40 plus years of art teaching, I have witnessed the highs and the lows of the strength of support for our arts programs in Duval County Public Schools. 
So the pendulum swings once again as our district has the task to cut over 2 million from our overall budget.  The target: the arts programs - but not without an outcry from teachers, parents and students. 
I mustered up all the courage I could and, on behalf of all arts educators, stood before the Duval County School Board and spoke in defense of our music and art programs.  

Here is what I had to say:

"Hello, my name is Terry Woodlief, art teacher at Central Riverside Elementary School. I am here today along with many of my arts education colleagues, to speak up for our programs.

Six years ago, you voted to place a full-time art and music teacher and every elementary school. This allows us to deliver quality art instruction, going deeper into the art content and laying the foundation at the elementary level for a quality art education.

This year there were 2,800 entries into the Scholastic Art awards created by middle and high school students from North Florida, 33 were the highest gold and silver awards. In 2018 regional student winners earned $9.2 million in college scholarships.

All of this has to start somewhere - and that’s in the elementary art classroom.

Students cheer when it’s time to go to art and music classes. It is an opportunity for many who struggle with their academics to shine in their artistic abilities.

I know young girl who struggled with math and reading and felt like she was failing in an academic world. When her art teacher passed out posters from a art contest, hers had a big blue ribbon on it - she was shocked that she was good at something! She took this new found confidence and applied it to her academics resulting in a turning point from that day forward. Art changed her life. I know all about this because that little girl was me. Since then, I have committed to make that kind of difference in my students lives using Art as a vehicle for their success.

Similar stories can be told by many of my colleagues who have the same passion for inspiring our future leaders. Please don’t take away the opportunities we have for molding the Leonardo da Vinci’s , the Shakespeare’s, and the Beethoven’s of tomorrow.

I’ve said all of this to say: these proposed cuts will take my students from weekly art classes to having art class only twice a month. Please, don’t compromise our opportunity to educate the whole child."

Yep, that's what I said and you know what?  Somebody was listening.  They listened to me, my colleague Shaun Bennett (Music Teacher) and many parents who came forward that night as well as the following two school board meetings. 
Adjustments were made and funds were found to cover the deficit - without compromising our arts programs!
A happy ending - not likely as now we must appeal to our state legislators so this doesn't happen again.  Time to speak up again but this time in Tallahassee.

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