SFUSD focuses on the arts 

While schools throughout California struggle to maintain arts education programs, the San Francisco Unified School District is beginning to see the effects of a massive plan to beef up its arts curricula across The City.

District educators are in the first year of implementing the Arts Education Master Plan, an ambitious road map to give arts education to each student at every school. The Board of Education will reinforce the plan’s concepts at its meeting tonight, as well as develop an advisory committee.

The master plan will provide more than $50 million to the district’s art programs and staff over the next seven years.

This year, $2.2 million has been allocated for 15 middle school art teachers and 76 elementary art coordinators’ stipends. Those funds have also stocked art supply cabinets and trained the district’s middle and high school principals.

That’s only the beginning.

"The vision is big," said Antigone Trimis, the plan’s implementation manager. "Right now, we’re looking at having equity and accessibility of the arts."

Facing budget cuts and tighter standardized testing requirements, it’s becoming more and more difficult for school districts to maintain or launch art programs. On Thursday, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and SRI International will release a benchmark study that is likely to reveal gaps in access, quality and accountability in schools’ arts offerings.

Locally, arts educators at the SFUSD began developing the Arts Education Master Plan two years ago when voters approved Proposition H, an initiative that provides the district with taxpayer dollars through 2014 for sports, libraries, arts and music.

Next year, four high school art teachers and five more middle school art teachers will be brought on board.

"Nationally, there is a realization that arts educationand creativity are critical in the development of our youth and critical to the future of our nation’s economy," Trimis said. "Our district has a plan, and principals really have an understanding."

Classroom teachers across the district have already seen the effects of the master plan, Trimis said. They’ve been able to buy supplies, including sketch pads, paints and musical instruments, bring in guest artists and hold student art exhibits and performances.

In the coming years, educators hope to provide students with a sequential arts education and give them opportunities to study discrete art disciplines. First, however, educators have to develop a long-term arts education budget and secure partnerships throughout The City’s art community.

"If we had our way, we would clap our hands and have this thing implemented. But it’s a step by step, incremental process," Susan Stauter, the district’s artistic director, said.

arocha@examiner.com

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