Sonoma Valley school board eyes plan to boost K-12 arts education by $500,000 annually

“The plan recognizes the crucial role in overall student development and preparing students for diverse and creative career paths in the future,” Trustee John Kelly said.|

Strategic Arts Education Plan

Creative Bridges and Sonoma Valley Unified School District provided a draft suggesting that the Strategic Arts Education Plan take the following steps in implementing the five-year Strategic Arts Education Plan.

1. Develop a sequential, culturally relevant TK-12 California visual and performing arts (VAPA) standards-based curriculum for all students.

2. Recruit, hire, support and retain credentialed VAPA specialized K-12 teaching staff.

3. Hire a VAPA district leader, such as a VAPA Teacher on Special Assignment to implement the Strategic Arts Education Plan.

4. Develop the VAPA team, representing all arts disciplines and grade levels, to assist the VAPA leader in implementing the Strategic Arts Education Plan, including, when appropriate, community partners.

5. Develop and implement a continuing education program for VAPA staff and elementary educators, guided by the Strategic Visual and Performing Arts Plan.

6. Improve VAPA rooms and facilities so that they are high-quality, safe and up to date, with comprehensive equipment and storage at every K-12 school site.

7. Achieve student equity in arts education through master schedule reform.

8. Implement a data collection system, including elements of “Portrait of a Graduate,” to measure the effects of the visual and performing arts instruction.

9. Expand partnership involvement and advocacy with parents and community arts education leaders by creating a hub of community arts education advocates.

10. Provide multitiered sustainable funding for the district.

The Sonoma Valley Unified School District is considering the implementation of an ambitious five-year plan that would enhance K-12 arts education largely through $500,000 in annual state funding.

Creative Bridges, a Sonoma Valley coalition of organizations dedicated to improving arts education for all K-12 youth, presented the Strategic Arts Education Plan at the district’s board of trustees meeting Nov. 9. The plan would utilize the “forever” annual funding of $500,000 that the district will receive from Proposition 28, which California voters approved Nov. 8, 2022, to boost arts education in K-12 schools.

The plan’s goal is to provide every Sonoma Valley K-12 student with a vibrant, culturally relevant, sequential, standards-based visual and performing arts education. An emphasis would be placed on providing equal access to the arts for all students.

“We are encouraging the board and administration to begin soon to do their own district strategic planning process regarding this very challenging issue,” said Connie Schlelein, co-chair of Creative Bridges, who along with co-chair Cheryl Coldiron delivered the presentation. “Solving that will unlock the instructional class time challenges that the arts as well as many other subjects face for every child.”

Jeanette Rodriguez-Chien, superintendent of Sonoma Valley Unified School District, said the plan’s inclusive and collaborative approach allows for deeper buy-in and coherence.

“Creative Bridges has taken a collective impact approach to developing the strategic plan — meaning that instead of having one organization coordinate and develop a plan, they have brought together many organizations in Sonoma to do this work,” she said.

The more than 40 organizations represent an alliance of Sonoma Valley arts education advocates, including nonprofit organizations, community members, parents, students, school district teachers and administrators, and city and county government officials.

Celeste Winders, a member of the Sonoma Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees, said the large-scale collaboration distinguishes it from other plans to develop arts offerings in the district.

“For so long in Sonoma Valley, organizations have existed in narrow silos, making an organized, collaborative effort challenging,” she said. “This plan addresses that challenge head-on and brings together many arts organizations into an organized plan that delivers so many arts opportunities directly into the classrooms to ensure each and every student has equal access to these opportunities.”

Trustee Troy Knox added, “Prior to the development of this plan, the vibrant creativity of our artistic community was not yet reflective of our educational programming. If we are able to introduce the arts to students early on in their education, provide them with engaging arts experiences and instruction, and enable them to follow their artistic passions throughout their educational careers, can you imagine how much more enriched our community will be?”

The Strategic Arts Education Plan could consist of the 10 steps developed and suggested by Creative Bridges and Sonoma Valley Unified School District and funded by Creative Sonoma, a nonprofit organization that provides programs and services to enhance creativity in Sonoma County.

The first step is to develop a sequential, culturally relevant TK-12 California Visual & Performing Arts standards-based curriculum for all students. This would consist of seven elements:

• Provide equity in VAPA instruction for all TK-12 students in the visual and performing arts.

• Design TK-12 VAPA scope and sequence for all arts disciplines, starting with elementary to secondary school.

• Align VAPA courses with California VAPA standards-based curriculum.

• Develop, pilot and implement TK-12 benchmarks and assessments.

• Align VAPA standards with the Collaborative for Academic and Social Emotional Learning competencies to provide creative expression and healthy self-exploration to guide the curricular and lesson design.

• Integrate VAPA curriculum with other core subjects to strengthen comprehensive education for all K-8 children and in electives for student in grades 8-12.

• Community art providers align programs with VAPA standards.

“We hope that through the implementation of the strategic arts plan, we provide a robust arts program for all our students,” Chien said. “We would love to see our band, dance and performing arts program expand; we want to see credentialed arts teachers providing instruction at the elementary grades and build a pathway for students to grow their skills; and we want our students to have internship opportunities and supports so that they may enter careers in the arts if they so choose.

“We ultimately want to see our students have fun and create.”

Trustee John Kelly said the plan represents a significant effort by the school district and Creative Bridges to enhance arts education.

“The plan recognizes the crucial role in overall student development and preparing students for diverse and creative career paths in the future,” he said. “The collaborative and comprehensive approach of the plan reflects an understanding that arts education is not just an enrichment activity, but a fundamental component of a well-rounded education.”

Anne Ching, president of the district’s board, added, “We know from the research that the arts benefits brain development, improves critical thinking and develops skills for problem-solving. It also sparks joy for learning and is a critical tool for social-emotional healing because students have another channel for self-expression.

“I believe that investment in the arts has the potential to mitigate chronic absenteeism and help students recover academically from the pandemic.”

She said implementing the Strategic Arts Education Plan would require a major reform of the master schedule, though.

“We don’t have enough time in the school day to offer consistent music and arts classes,” Ching said.

The plan is scheduled to be presented to the school board for possible approval at its meeting Dec. 14.

Reach the reporter, Dan Johnson, at daniel.johnson@sonomanews.com.

Strategic Arts Education Plan

Creative Bridges and Sonoma Valley Unified School District provided a draft suggesting that the Strategic Arts Education Plan take the following steps in implementing the five-year Strategic Arts Education Plan.

1. Develop a sequential, culturally relevant TK-12 California visual and performing arts (VAPA) standards-based curriculum for all students.

2. Recruit, hire, support and retain credentialed VAPA specialized K-12 teaching staff.

3. Hire a VAPA district leader, such as a VAPA Teacher on Special Assignment to implement the Strategic Arts Education Plan.

4. Develop the VAPA team, representing all arts disciplines and grade levels, to assist the VAPA leader in implementing the Strategic Arts Education Plan, including, when appropriate, community partners.

5. Develop and implement a continuing education program for VAPA staff and elementary educators, guided by the Strategic Visual and Performing Arts Plan.

6. Improve VAPA rooms and facilities so that they are high-quality, safe and up to date, with comprehensive equipment and storage at every K-12 school site.

7. Achieve student equity in arts education through master schedule reform.

8. Implement a data collection system, including elements of “Portrait of a Graduate,” to measure the effects of the visual and performing arts instruction.

9. Expand partnership involvement and advocacy with parents and community arts education leaders by creating a hub of community arts education advocates.

10. Provide multitiered sustainable funding for the district.

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