Happy Summer, Arts Advocates!
As you fire up the grill and have fun in the sun, be sure to take some time to get to know the candidates running in the primary election. Maryland’s Primary Election day is July 19, 2022. You can register to vote, view a sample ballot, and find more information here.
In Baltimore City, the Board of School Commissioners will expand from 10 to 12 seats, with the two additional seats being elected rather than appointed. This means Baltimore City residents will have the opportunity to vote for two candidates in the Primary Election. The top four candidates from the Primary Election will move on to the General Election on November 8, 2022. As parents, educators, arts advocates, students, tax payers, and community members, it is crucial that we take time to get to know each candidate to inform how we vote.
A small but mighty group of arts advocate volunteers have put together an arts education-focused questionnaire. In the drop down menus below you will find each candidate’s answer per question.
MICHAEL EUGENE JOHNSON
THE QUESTIONS + RESPONSES
Q1: Why are you running for the Board of Education? If elected, what will be your priorities? Is there a particular issue that motivates you to serve?
Beleck: When I moved to Baltimore City thirty years ago, every public bench read, “Baltimore, the City That Reads”. I was thrilled to move to an up and coming city that valued Education, knowing that Education would allow for wonderful opportunities for the community. Over the years, the hopes and dreams that the City had portrayed, disappeared. Now we have a City that does not know how to read, write, engage with others respectfully, and does not Dream of a Better Future.
One of my main platforms is the Elective Immersion Experience. I hope to work with the Arts organizations to create a platform of six week immersions into all sorts of elective options. With at least six or seven six week blocks per year, beginning in the third grade, students will be exposed to all types of ideas, helping them to Dream of a future that is exciting, meaningful, and interesting. These six week blocks would run an hour per day, five days per week. The idea of this would include extending the school day by an hour, which would enable the students to be in a safe and supervised environment for an hour longer each day, hopefully helping those families that rely on school hours for child care to have less stress. This will also enable our students’ minds to expand.
Education is not indoctrination, or at least, should not be. Teaching students HOW to learn is more important than memorizing facts for tests. Offering students opportunities to Want to learn, because they are Interested in subject matter, is my motivation for running for this office.
Curley: When I began my career 13 years ago as a high school social studies teacher in West Baltimore, I experienced one of the worst moments of my life. The life of a beloved 9th grader in my American Government class was taken too soon by the violence that plagues our city. That moment drastically changed the way I thought about my role as a civic servant for the children and families of Baltimore.
Growing up seeing poverty, domestic violence, and drug abuse- I unfortunately have the lived experience of so many families in Baltimore. My mom, a single mom of 6, worked 2 jobs to keep a roof over our head and food on the table, often with no reliable transportation. My siblings and I went to school in thrift clothing and I didn’t see a dentist for the first time until age 18. Early on, my mom made a decision to raise my siblings and I in Howard County where she knew we would be afforded an amazing public school experience. Because of that decision, I beat the odds earning a Master’s degree from Johns Hopkins and landing a job at Google.
I know that there are so many parents who can’t just up and move to another city just so that their kids have a fair shot in life- and they shouldn’t have to. Every kid in Baltimore City should have equal access to safe, engaging, and innovative schools that equip them to be the change-agents and leaders of the future. I am running for school board to ensure that happens.
The core issues that I will prioritize to if elected include:
DIGITAL EQUITY FOR ALL STUDENTS
- Demand that all students in Baltimore City have access to quality wi-fi, new laptops, and other smart devices.
- Make computer science a requirement to graduate in preparation for a workforce that will require a technical skill set no matter the industry or field.
- Restructure the computer science curriculum to include rigorous courses such as programming basics, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity.
By bridging the digital divide, I will ensure that no student in Baltimore City is left behind in the fast-paced, ever-changing digital age and ensure every student remains competitive for the high-paying jobs of the future.
INNOVATIVE TRANSPORTATION SOLUTIONS
- Increase funding to implement more reliable and efficient transportation routes.
- Leverage technology to create innovative and safe public transportation services.
- Ensure equitable and quality mobility services for students with disabilities.
As a proud Baltimorean who relies on public transportation, I will work to ensure that every student in Baltimore City has a seamless, safe journey to and from school which will decrease tardiness and increase overall attendance.
INCREASED MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
- Equip every school with a quality counseling services center with staffing that meets the needs of each individual school.
- Connect students and families to existing mental health resources and leverage community partnerships to expand services.
- Embed mental health education into the k-12 curriculum to empower students and teachers to advocate for themselves and reach out for support when needed.
As someone who deeply understands the barriers that mental health issues can pose for both teachers and students, I will work to remove police officers from schools and instead allocate that funding to recruit and retain qualified mental health professionals to meet the needs of every school in Baltimore City.
Esposito: I am running for Baltimore City Board of Education because I made a promise to my community to carry on the work, I’ve done in our neighborhood to help improve our school system. Part of the reason we bought our home in Violetville, is 1. We have the best Halloweens and 2. We wanted to start a family and loved that the community had a school a block away. My son is a future Baltimore City Public School (BCPSS) student so I feel a sense of urgency to make policy changes that will allow more community voice on the board. I can relate to some of the more challenging issues at BCPSS. I am a former foster care youth and I have an adverse childhood experience score of 7 out of 10. I deeply understand that these life issues are barrier to the participation of students in the classroom. I am also someone who has learning differences. I know that if we don’t give our students in need wrap around services, we impact their trajectory in life and we set them up for the school-to-prison pipeline. What motivates me is the fact that in academia and education spaces we don’t allow enough community participation and allow student to voice their lived experiences. My main platform priorities are free school based wellness centers, safe school buildings, and improving community engagement/morale. I have a larger platform on my website www.ashleysposito.com/vision This platform was created by conversations that I had with community members.
Jasani: I am running for the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners because I believe in the power of communities — especially students — to design systems that work for them. I want to ensure these voices are heard when decisions are made by the School Board. I am particularly motivated to serve because, as someone with special education expertise and with lived experience of being an immigrant to this country, I can provide a key perspective that is currently missing from the Board.
If elected, these would be my priorities:
(1) Ensure that ALL our students, including students with disabilities and English learners, have access to opportunities that enable them to thrive. (This includes opportunities to participate in the arts, which I write more about below.)
(2) End the school-to-prison pipeline by shifting the way we address behavior and mental health needs.
(3) Ensure implementation of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future with fidelity alongside the effective use of funds to improve student outcomes.
Kenyatta-Bey: This is more than just a campaign for office. It is more than just a single position to make a single person’s ideas heard.
This is a movement of people. As I stand in the shadow of this great city and communities the families the people who inhabit such a rich potential it becomes inherent upon me to help guide the totality of all of us for a better future.
The three main points that motivate me to run our first and foremost community, communication, and conception.
Education in and of itself is a function of the community. The distribution of knowledge is as important as to breath that we take. As social entities we found the need to communicate in our most basic form. If it were no more than to say this is where the game roams or the seed should be planted, the sharing of this knowledge was essential to our survival. We call this sharing education. The most effective way of sharing this knowledge is through communication. We need to share ideas our visions and our methodologies to be able to thrive.
We need to be able to conceive a purpose, a vision and a specific and manageable goal. To summarize this in a phrase we have come to a point where I find that I am tired of the foolishness. Aren’t you?
For close to thirty years’ three decades,’ I have dedicated myself to the education system here in Baltimore and have had the opportunity to look at it globally.
I have been a teacher yes, a manager, and a communicator for all this time. I have often said there are three occupational hazards to being a great educator; number one is to be crucified. We have crucified educators by blaming them from everything from the frustration that manifests itself in violence in our streets to the inability to function in a competitive world. These things are task and efforts that must be shared by a broad range of stakeholders. I am tired of the foolishness of looking to pinpoint blame instead of seeking a solution to these problems. We have seen the disrespect of our education systems not only in the media, but spilling forth from our very own mouths.
We have a cultural change to make, and this takes time, work and a new seed to be planted. I only pray that I can effectively carry the seeds to the soil in which it can survive.
The Second occupational hazard is to drink your own poison and the third is to be crucified by people drinking their own poison.
Yes, I said I have been an educator for close to thirty years but even longer I have been a student, a citizen, a parent and have occupied all three positions of a key stakeholder. The wisdom that I have garnered not only through the challenges but also in observing and having touched the beauty prospering in this environment, impels me to seek this office.
Parson: I have served the field of education for over thirty years, and I have made significant contributions to the field of education. I was a turnaround leader in education, and I know and understand what good programs, policies, and educational initiatives should look like to produce productive members of society- students. Therefore, I am running to be a change agent commissioner who will fight for inclusiveness, fiscal responsibility, high student accountability, educator accountability, and CEO accountability. I want to restore a culture and climate of achievement and family engagement. I am a candidate in this race to help set practical policies and foster stakeholders’ support. I feel that I am highly qualified to serve and m,y body of work speaks to my commitment to the challenges that the district faces today. Finally, I have a visionary and practical approach to shifting the not-so-good outcomes to greatness. Our community has so much potential and a lot of talented students and teachers, and we must reclaim our greatness. In addition, as a commissioner, I am looking to hold people accountable for the mission and vision of our school district.
My priorities will be the following:
- Hold stakeholders and leaders accountable.
- Fight for effective recruiting, training, and retention of good teachers.
- Fight for transparency and accountability.
- Fight for a curriculum for all, including arts, media, dance, theatre, etc. We miss many students by not offering a well-rounded educational experience in these areas.
- Fight for fair and appropriate education and provide adequate service supports to students.
- We must provide a practical transition plan for students in a career-ready or college-ready program. Students may not want to go to college; thus, we must put them on a path to succeed in other industries or areas of life.
Finally, I see student achievement, productive and happy teachers, engaged leaders, and family and community engagement. When we can achieve, using a holistic approach to education, all parties win.
Q2: When you were a student, what was your experience with the arts? How does that experience inform your vision for board service?
Beleck: I have been an artist my entire life. Whether I was designing doll furniture or doll clothes, drawing pictures of houses on wheels before RVs were created, or creating dipped petal flowers that I sold in school, I have always been creative.
Having learned to crochet at the age of eight, I have developed into a Fiber Artist. I had an opportunity to raise my own sheep and goats, made goat milk soap, learned to spin wool and dye it, and learned to weave. I have created a program called The Sheep To Shawl Experience, an educational program that I bring to schools. It is a very hands-on program detailing the process of woven fabric, starting with raising the fiber animal.
In high school, I was fortunate to be in an experimental program, which allowed me to have nine subjects my senior year. I was able to choose all my electives, and five of my classes were art classes! I was able to take Drawing One and Two simultaneously, along with Ceramics, and two other classes that I don’t even remember. I was awarded the Senior Art Award during graduation.
Throughout life, I have incorporated arts, crafts, creativity and “doing” into my daily experience. I started a Weekly Artist’s Date with myself about four decades ago, that continues to this day, in the form of Craft Night– a bring your own craft event, open to all my friends each week.
Having a skill where you create something from raw materials, whether to use as gifts, or to make for business opportunities, instills pride in your own abilities. Having Arts in the curriculum, whether Crafts, Fine Arts, Music, Drama, or the ability to create the raw materials themselves, is a missing part of the life experience that I want to return to our students.
Curley: As a student brought up in Howard County Public Schools, despite my family living well below poverty, I had the privilege of exploring many pathways in arts education because of the amazing resources afforded to students and families in one of the wealthiest zip codes in the country. In third grade, I fell in love with music. I explored everything from my elementary school choir to trying out many instruments. While my heart wanted to play the trumpet, my amazing band teacher noticed more of a natural talent for the clarinet, and thus began my musical journey. I played the clarinet throughout my entire middle and high school career and dabbled in other arts in high school including dance, theater and choir which I stuck with for 3 years. In addition, I was closely involved in multiple extracurriculars that continued to foster my love for creative arts including poetic writing and photography.
My exposure to multiple arts pathways throughout my k12 schooling allowed me to tap into pieces of my identity that would eventually become the foundation of my innovative critical thinking and problem solving skills. This experience informs my vision as a school board candidate in that it underscores the importance of having arts education available to every student in every school throughout Baltimore City.
As a former Baltimore City teacher, I know all too well that our students are being left behind by not having equal access to arts education pathways. Opportunities to explore the amazing world of art- in all its forms- is essential to the overall wellbeing of us as humans. Our students are tiktok creators, app developers, and self-made photographers. They are actors, writers, rappers, trumpeters, crafters, dancers, gamers, illuminators, idea generators, sculptors, painters, makeup artists, jewelry crafters, fashion designers, poets, comedians- sometimes all at the same time…
They are the prototype.
Whether literary, musical, visual, or digital– we are better, more whole human beings because of the arts and our children deserve every opportunity possible to be made whole.
Esposito: For me the arts provided consistency, encouraged my imagination and built my confidence. Without arts, music and dance classes that I loved I probably would not have graduated at all because whenever things got tough in classes where I struggled due to learning differences, art, music, and dance helped me keep going. My classes weren’t just extra-curricular activities, arts was an active part of the curriculum in schools that I attended. Even if students do not plan on going to an art college or doing an artistic career I believe that as human beings we have a need to express ourselves through art as part of our overall development. I was dealing with some serious trauma as a child and art was a way for me to express myself when I couldn’t speak or when I was struggling. My art teacher gave me the opportunity to really express myself through my art and even encouraged me to apply to art school. I am a local artist in Baltimore City and still use my art to heal and practice visual storytelling. As an artist and board member, I will make sure that art education isn’t just optional and help other board members see the connection between art and healing trauma.
Jasani: When I was a student, my arts classes and clubs were the places where I felt most at home. Especially as a teenager, it was tremendously helpful to my mental and emotional well-being to have spaces where I was able to express myself through the arts. Then, when I was a high school teacher, I noticed my students’ having similar experiences through the arts. I have taught incredibly talented rappers, painters, graphic designers, dancers – you name it – and I always incorporated those talents into my lesson plans as an English teacher. Unfortunately, my students did not always have access to systemic arts education to give them the outlet and opportunities they needed. Most of their experiences occurred because specific teachers incorporated arts into their lesson planning and not through arts programming at the school level. Thus, my vision for board service is one in which all students in the City have access to arts programming and resources, and that the distribution of those resources is equitable.
Kenyatta-Bey: Let me first state that the position of being a student does not begin or end with K-12 education. However, our focus with Baltimore City Public Schools is indeed what transpires in this brief aspect of our lives.
As far back as I can remember I have not only been cradled by the arts but inspired and it is the root of the logic and wisdom with which I operate in my day today existence.
As far back as I remember I carried a small notebook, something to write on and something to write with. I remember sitting on a ledge overlooking the park and reading Siddhartha and numerous other folks. Yes, I played hooky from school, but where was I found when I played hooky? I was either in the central library of the Enoch Pratt Free Library or at the Baltimore Museum of Art absorbing the knowledge and inspiration of artists from around the world.
My typical junior high school days were spent not only in civic activities but also deeply involved in the sciences and also the thoughts and ideas that flourished around me not only from my instructors but from the books and the beauty of the arts that surrounded me.
I remember having a particularly good boy soprano whereas I was invited to sing at many assemblies, and be truthful, I’ve looked in every gutter in Baltimore City and since my voice changed have yet to find that sing voice again. But it stuck with me
People were sure that I would become a scientist. I went to special programs to study oceanography and astronomy both in junior high and high.
When I entered Morgan State University, I passed all of the College Level Entrance Program exams and was deemed having enough knowledge to forgo any of the basic undergraduate classes in the sciences. Ms. Ruth Brett our counselor wanted me to be well-rounded, so they placed me in a graduate level organic and qual chemistry class. I thought I was well on the way to become the next Cousteau or Einstein, but what fascinated me was a formula and equation that was so elusive that no scientist in the world have been able to calculate its influence. So, after a long matriculation I finally graduated from Morgan state University with a degree in theater arts. This allowed me to walk a mile in somebody else’s shoes, to see through somebody else’s eyes to hear from somebody else’s ears. It was the arts.
Now in my senior years I find myself informed greatly by the song that I hear, by the sights that I see, by the emotion that I feel through my contact in the arts.
Still a student, I grow every second, every moment that I listen to a Coltrane/ Hodges, every moment that I look at a Dali or a van Gogh, every time I direct a play or act in the show, every time I pick up a Camus or Cullen, or here the sweet strains of Mya Angelo, every time I listen to a flowing political speech or rhythmic sermon. I grow.
How do I relax? I listen to my music, play my guitar, my cello, my bass, or my keyboard, or I create the fantasies of stage. Now I have not forgotten the technical aspects of my life in the interim. I’ve recently, just in the last weekend stage managed the Baltimore Jazz Alliances Jazz Fest.
Maybe I speak too much but, I say all this to say, I am fully swaddled in the warm embrace of the beauty of the methodologies of communication of all aspects of our existence through the arts.
Parson: As a student, I had the experience of being introduced to the skills at a very young age. I learned to play in musical programs, playing percussions, the triangle, the recorder, cymbals, Xylophone, snare drum, and castanets. I had this experience from elementary to high school. My most memorable experience was at Roland Park Junior High School. The arts and music education helped me with my creative thinking. I was involved in plays which helped me with speaking and confidence. From my point of view, arts education has been chopped down to nothing. This experience has informed my vision as a board member to fight for additional funding and curriculum implementation for the arts. Where would we be without the skills in this society, theatre on Broadway, music, or Renaissance periods in this country? Thus, I learned to think critically and analytically using the skills learned through the arts. We must have a strong voice for arts in education and additional funding.
Q3: In 1994 the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR 13A. 04.16) established requirements for fine arts education (dance, music, theater and visual arts) every year for students K-8 and one credit of a fine arts discipline for graduation from high school. In2017 the Maryland State Board of Education, following a review that included opportunities for public comment at locations throughout Maryland, reaffirmed the COMAR Arts regulations, adding media arts as a discipline, and strengthening requirements for sequential study at all levels. You can read the regulations here: http://mdrules.elaws.us/comar/13a.04.16.01 Baltimore City Public Schools adopted the 2017 Fine Arts Strategic Plan to move towards compliance with COMAR. How will you support the Fine Arts Plan, if elected?
Beleck: I have stated above that bringing the Arts in all its forms into the schools is one of my top priorities. I will be a very outspoken spokesperson for making sure that those initiatives already adopted are either put into place, or receive the priority funding needed to make sure they happen. My Elective Immersion Experience plan fits nicely with this plan, and in fact, goes above and beyond to provide much more exposure to all the Arts.
Curley: If elected as a School Board Commissioner, I will absolutely commit to pushing Baltimore City Schools to adopt all of the COMAR Arts regulations by ensuring budget allocations reflect this as a priority line item and that funds are being used in the most effective, transparent ways possible. I will work to ensure that Baltimore City schools have the right structures in place to support hiring qualified teachers across various art disciplines, strengthen the k12 curriculum to reflect the endless possibilities of art inclusion across subjects, and saturate city schools with relevant and useful resources to support arts education.
Esposito: As a board member, I will be a consistent voice explaining that arts are not just an extra-curricular activity. Art is necessary for the overall wellness of the students. Having arts as a normalized part of the education ecosystem also fosters collaboration. We have students that are amazing artists! We have students who are getting scholarships to art colleges and we need to expand access so that more students have those same opportunities.
Jasani: The Fine Arts Strategic Plan is a great step towards arts equity in our schools. As with any plan, the key to its success will be the effectiveness of its implementation. To ensure implementation success of the Fine Arts Plan, I would: (1) provide all City Schools teachers with information about the Plan and its importance to build buy-in at the classroom level; (2) make providing updates on the plan a regularly occurring agenda item at Board meetings so that the Board is held accountable to the public for implementation of the plan; (3) conduct an analysis of partner arts organizations and which schools they have partnered with in order to determine which of our schools and students may have the least access to arts programming; and (4) push for scheduling decisions that prioritize participation in arts education for all students, including students with disabilities, instead of frequently removing them from non-tested subjects in order to provide services.
Kenyatta-Bey: After a review of both documents, I fully agree with the objectives. Resources need to be dedicated to the development of measurable curricular goals. It will be one of my primary foci, to make sure that any plan that is instituted in Baltimore City Public Schools is inclusive of these objectives. Curricular planning and smart goals need to be spelled out in detail. A panel should be formed for this specific purpose. Given the diversity of modalities of our population of scholars there must be a mandate for implementation of an aspect of these goals in any and all curricular. The absence of this particular matrix should be reason to discredit any plan for implementation and scholarship development. This plan while specific to scholars should also be expanded in the inclusion of community development or service-learning hours. As we do with the graduation requirement of having a certain number of community-based participation, we should also set aside a portion of that or add to it some level of goal achievement that encompasses the arts.
Parson: First, Music is offered at 68 percent across the school district. This number needs to get higher. I will, however, support media arts as a part of the curriculum. I have witnessed firsthand students’ creativity in this area and it is an offering that engages students fully in the discipline. Course work in visual arts has increased; second, I will be a big advocate for the Fine Arts Strategic Plan to get implemented to fidelity. Again, there needs to be data collected to assess with oversight of its full implementation.
Q4: In an effort to provide principals flexibility to meet school and community needs, the Baltimore City Public School district adopted a site-based management model giving major budget and scheduling decision-making to principals. While there are benefits to this structure, when there is a lack of oversight site-based management results in great inequities, especially in regards to access to arts education. If elected, how will you address inequities across the district?
Beleck: I would love to visit every school, regularly, to see the results of each schools’ program. Whether this means attending “gallery shows”, theater productions, concerts and choir performances, dance recitals, or any other presentation, I would like to be there personally. In addition, showing up to observe classes is also a possibility.
It is my belief that the more we all “show up”, the more the students will look forward to the attention and will strive for excellence over time.
Curley: If elected to the school board I will introduce new and innovative practices to help fairly manage arts education budget allocations across city schools that will help mitigate inequities from school to school such as leveraging technology to serve as an intermediary fiscal management system that will only disburse funds for school principals to use as approved by an arts education general manager.
Esposito: Right now, I see a top-heavy approach where there are decisions being made that are 1. not created collaboratively with stakeholders 2. capacity of each principal is not checked (this is important because we know some principals are stressing about enrollment, permanent closures, etc. while other principals can focus more on staff development) 3. There is not enough follow-up and tracking to see whether decisions at the top are effective and beneficial to ALL students. I think if we believe in equity, we must be sure that we have the same opportunities at every school, that includes arts programming. I believe the best way to get there is for principals to have consistent school funding, more time to build relationships and develop their staff, and get support from the administration. I would also like new projects to include implementation support.
Jasani: I would recommend incorporating into principal professional development a regular data analysis and root cause analysis on a number of inequitable areas in the district, including arts education. Additionally, I believe that we can maintain the site-based management model and give principals autonomy, while also establishing “must haves” when it comes to scheduling and budget, just like we do for other academic areas. In order to be compliant with the arts-related COMAR regulations, the district will need to have certain requirements that apply to all schools, and I would push for a collaborative model where those requirements are determined in partnership with administrators to make sure they are still able to make decisions that meet the unique needs of their schools.
Kenyatta-Bey: As of now, principals have the flexibility of inclusion or exclusion of arts curriculum as a whole or in part in their over all programming. This should be a mandated portion of their operation. While at the same time we are developing new schools and institutions we cannot leave out this important aspect of development. We need to hold not only our developers but also our operations with an eye toward the inclusion of these arts mandates.
Twenty-first century schools need to include laboratories for development. We all too often include laboratories for technical development, and negate the laboratories for artistic development. This is a trend that needs to be halted. I have personally seen the degradation of arts laboratories including theaters and music facilities and art supplies and athletic platforms that do not include dance and motion expression. The inclusion of these collaborative efforts and laboratories with those people who are experienced to manage them will create a stronger culture and climate for the totality of our community.
Parson: I will look upon this with a critical eye and use whatever measures of my title and position to handle these types of problems regarding inequities. Even though there is site-based management, there should be an oversight of how funds are expended. In my position, it is important to advocate for arts programs. Arts have always been treated as a second thought. Some schools have part-time art teachers and share art and music teachers. In other words, many are .5 in one school and .5 in another. It would be a great idea to have full-time music and arts at each school location.
Q5: According to Maryland Citizens for the Arts, the arts and cultural economy has an annual economic impact of $828.7 million statewide and provides a multitude of viable career opportunities. As of School Year 2020-21, less than half of the district’s high schools offered a sequential college and career learning pathway in any arts discipline. Not only does this hamper a student’s ability to learn an art form and pursue the arts after high school, it also denies students the opportunity for arts-related scholarships and opportunities. If elected, how will you support equitable access to college and career pathways in the arts?
Beleck: I believe that this will be best supported by insisting on sensitivity training and career options education to our guidance counselors and career counselors. If the people responsible for guiding our students know more about the choices available, they will have more options to suggest. In addition, each individual student who shows either promise or extreme interest in any of the Arts fields, needs to be working with a mentor to be sure their unique abilities are nurtured, and these students are helped to pursue whichever path they choose.
Curley: If elected as a school board commissioner, I will absolutely make it a priority to influence legislation in the MD State House of Delegates that will audit and constantly revise the current k12 curriculum to include modern arts education standards across disciplines. I will also push to ensure that every student who graduates from city schools has a feasible number of cumulative hours spent in their k12 journey in their chosen art discipline.
Esposito: I fully support equitable access to college and career pathways in the arts. Many industries all skillsets, including artists, to thrive. I work full-time as a tech professional, and we need artistic people do help with front end development, accessible design, graphic design and marketing. I think by ensuring there is funding for arts programs, we will change the stigma around art careers.
Jasani: In order to address this issue of inequitable access, one strategy I’d recommend would be coaching principals on creative scheduling solutions in order to add a variety of sequential arts courses as an option for high school students. I would also be interested in examining the possibility of schools that are close to each other teaming up together to expand the total number of course options available to students. Finally, I know that one challenge related to arts education in City Schools is that we are short staffed as a district. This is a longer term solution, but I believe it is important to attract and recruit arts educators to work in the City, and one way to do this is through partnerships with our local colleges. In order to ensure equitable access to college and career pathways, we must ensure that we can both create these pathways in every school AND staff them appropriately.
Kenyatta-Bey: I would not only support this, but I would champion a structure close to those structures used for CTE or a full incorporation of arts curricula in Career Training Education.
Parson: I will become a voice for arts to get offered as a career path and college option for study in a student’s transition plan the higher education of learning. For example, students could become interior designers which require an artistic perspective. Students should be given an opportunity to pursue arts in any form. I will advocate for students to have the option to pursue all facets of any art form as a transition to college or a career.
Q6: What is the connection between the arts and social and emotional learning?
Beleck: Any success a student achieves enables more self esteem, and self pride. Many children are right-brained, and the standard classroom education does not fit their capabilities. Offering Art courses, in all its parameters, allows those students who learn in those ways, to be successful, and also introduces them to real world careers in which they can be wildly successful! A student who is lauded for their own talents becomes a confident person, and I believe self confidence leads to empathy for others. This leads to more social acceptance, and emotional self control. The Arts, in all the ways we’ve spoken of above, are crucial to the success of more than half our student population.
Curley: There is a plethora of data that illustrates just how important arts education has on a student’s social and emotional learning. We know that when students are exposed to multiple art pathways, we see an increase in student engagement and individual self expression. Research also affirms that communities benefit when students have opportunities to explore art pathways by improving parent and community engagement which has an overall positive impact on the social and emotional learning of a student.
Esposito: Art therapy should be a tool for trauma informed care initiatives in our public schools. Even if a student does not want or plan to go into a career in the arts, there are benefits for every student to have exposure to different ways of self-expression. When I was going through one of the most difficult times in my life, art really helped me heal.
Jasani: The connection between arts and SEL has been well-established in educational research. Students who have exposure to the arts develop increased social emotional competencies compared to students who do not have those opportunities. The arts also promote positive mental health for students, and for many adolescents, arts can serve as a life-saving and life-giving force.
Kenyatta-Bey: While I think I’ve stated this in the tone of my previous statements, social emotional learning, in which I have been trained, is dependent upon several aspects. Let’s take the social aspect first. Arts and of itself is a social endeavor. Even if we take the quote isolated artists there exists three levels at its core of collaborative learning. There is the communicator or artist, the medium by which they choose to express themselves, and the audience or receiver of the information in that they are trying to share. We constantly gauge ourselves on our ability to understand how to coalesce these three aspects.
As pertaining to the emotional aspect, it is basic to our core to be able to express ourselves to others. Whether it is the cry of a baby in a crib or the grown of an elder nursing those aspects of age, we need others to know of our existence and about our experiences in this world. We cannot afford to isolate ourselves from each other. If anything, that this recent worldwide crisis has taught us it is the minefield that lays before us in the state of isolation. Yes, we have found ways to move her around certain pitfalls, but we have not diminished them, we have not erased them, we have not overcome the residual effects of isolationism. AsIf we remember, we hungered for just the basic human contact. I have long said that the arts are the keys to our civilization. We’re not talking about great empires but the quiet civilization that we find in a family, and a colleague, a friend, or the voices within our own souls.
Parson: Most of my work and studies have focused on social and emotional learning. A significant body of research speaks to the effectiveness of arts and social-emotional learning through arts. Trauma-informed students and arts can help with anxiety. One can integrate art in every discipline in the curriculum teachers should get training in arts integration strategies. The best way to reach students from an SEL perspective is to use arts as a conduit to achieve SEL objectives. Students are highly stressed, and integrating SEL and arts can help with the mood and feelings of students.
Q7: Would you support a school system policy designed to set standards and procedures for the development of an arts education program in BCPS that would provide for more equitable arts education access?
Absolutely.Beleck: I absolutely would support whatever it takes to implement all the current plans, and all the ideas that are being brought forth by myself and others. We must reintroduce the Arts into our schools for the betterment of our entire community. I welcome all support in being able to advocate for the development of an arts education program that would provide for more equitable arts education access for EVERYONE. Most people have artistic talent, but not encouragement.
We must provide opportunity, and encouragement to find the strengths of each individual student.
Curley: Absolutely, yes!
Jasani: Absolutely. The adoption of the Fine Arts Strategic Plan is a great start, but from my work leading districts around the country through their strategic planning process, I know that what happens after the plan is created is just as important as the document itself. Considerations include project governance (who will do what?), communication planning, implementation planning, and frequent progress monitoring. It would be my honor to be elected to the Board and to be able to ensure that we set standards and procedures that promote equitable arts education access.
Kenyatta-Bey: It is funny that we derive the model for our education system is from both not only the industrial age went creates a matrix, but also from the age of Enlightenment that is truly developed on a basis of elitism. In the very name we say public schools. This denotes in for equality across the board. For too long have the Arts been relegated to those who can afford it even with in the public-school environment we find certain neighborhoods where “the luxury” of the arts is enjoyed. But the arts are not just a luxury it is the lifeblood of our community of our people and our vision for a stronger tomorrow.