Last Monday, 2/6/12, the Education Committee of the Rockford School Board met and the hot topic was the Arts, and specifically the future of CAPA, the “Creative And Performing Arts” program. Word had gotten out that the recommendation would include eliminating the program and the room and outer hall were filled to capacity. CAPA teachers, students, parents, friends, and alum from the program were there to defend and support its continuation. Alonzo Russell, head of nationally known “Fatally Unique” Dance Troupe, came back from Chicago to attend the meeting as a show of support for the program he acknowledges has contributed to his success.
The following is my understanding and thoughts about the meeting. Keep in mind, I was pressed against a wall in the back of the lobby trying to see and hear the closed circuit television among very enthusiastic and loud arts supporters. I’m not complaining…just explaining if I got something wrong.
Martha Hayes, Assistant Superintendent for Learning and Julie Palkowski, Assistant Principal of Fine Arts, CAPA & Foreign Language, gave the presentation and emphasized the need to have quality arts programming in all schools across the District. They presented data showing, among other things, the number of students auditioning for the middle school program has dropped significantly in the last several years and a number of Ellis Middle School CAPA students did not qualify for the High School CAPA program, indicating a concern about the quality of the program. It was stated the CAPA program will in essence, still exist but without the name, and classes now available only for CAPA students, will be offered at all schools.
There were a number of questions about the report and recommendation from committee members and people in attendance. The questions raised by School Board member Tim Rollins, stood out to me (paraphrased): Is it possible to retain CAPA as a program and still expand the arts offerings across the District? The District is presently investigating an Academy Model for High Schools. Should would we eliminate CAPA at a time we are considering the creation of High School Academies?
And here’s my thought: Data can be used in multiple ways. It could be used as evidence for elimination, but there is another option. The data could be used to identify the strengths and weaknesses to implement improvements to make CAPA and Ellis Arts Academy the quality programs that were initially envisioned. Once something is lost, it’s hard to get it back.
Speaking of that…I’m ecstatic about reinstating the seven period day. I’m elated the District is seriously looking at expanding and improving the arts programs, and there is more wonderful news: In January the Kennedy Center announced the selection of District 205 and the Rockford Area Arts Council for induction into the “Partners in Education” Program. This will give us access to research, best practices methods and training by national leaders in arts education. With the support of the Kennedy Center program combined with what we have learned from our own years of experience, we have the opportunity to create a District wide arts program that will benefit all students.
Nothing has been decided yet. The District staff was directed to consider the questions and concerns that arose and come back to the next Education Committee meeting on February 16.
I know a lot of people in the arts community and the school district. No one is the enemy here. We all feel passionate about the arts because we know what it did for us, and we want that for Rockford’s children.
Let’s work together on this and carefully consider the possibilities and opportunities we have here. The kids need us to get it right.
Next Education Committee Meeting:
Thursday, February 16
Administrative Building-201 S. Madison, Room 207.
Come early if you want a seat.
If have an opinion to share but can’t make the meeting, please visit the District Website and email the Rockford School Board Members: