Wake Ed

Wake County may review state of school arts programs

The Wake County school system may conduct a review of the district’s arts programs in response to concerns that the performing arts are being cut because of budget issues.

With staff starting work in November on the 2016-17 budget, school board member Bill Fletcher asked for a review of the state of arts programming in North Carolina’s larget school district. Fletcher, chairman of the board’s student achievement committee, said the information could be useful if the board decides to increase arts funding next year.

“I would like to understand what’s happening to the arts in our schools in terms of what are the criteria that affect the breadth of offerings that are able to be made in our different schools,” Fletcher said at Monday’s student achievement committee meeting. “Do we have choir in all of our elementary schools? Do we any other performing art?

“What’s happening in middle schools? I’m hearing stories from around the county of orchestra disappearing, of not having a feeder pattern into a high school. And just understanding the dynamics around that that we might choose to do something with when it comes to budget time.”

Cathy Moore, deputy superintendent for school performance, responded that what Fletcher wants sounds like a K-12 arts review. Moore said she’s had several conversations with Elizabeth Grimes-Droessler, the senior administrator for arts education, around programming and choices.

Moore said the district has been helping support some schools that are making difficult choices on what arts programming to offer.

“Some of this is choices at the school level,” Moore said. “But taking a look at what that looks districtwide and whether or not what the opportunity or real cost is of defining a baseline, for example for our schools.”

Moore added that they’ll go through the budget process through the lens of the recently adopted strategic plan. She said the strategic plan will influence what new initiatives are offered, what existing programs are expanded and what may be discontinued.

Fletcher raised the arts issue on Monday as the student achievement committee identified future topics that might be discussed.

Arts supporters have long worried about programming cuts in Wake.

In November, arts supporters pleaded with the school board to add more strings programs at a time when most Wake middle and high schools no longer have orchestras. Without strong middle-school programs teaching stringed instruments such as violin, viola and cello, the boosters warned, the remaining high-school programs will become endangered.

School leaders responded that in a time of tight budgets it’s up to principals to decide whether to offer strings instruction in addition to the usual brass-and-woodwinds band classes.

It’s harder for Wake’s non-magnet schools to offer the arts compared to magnet schools. In particular, magnet schools with the gifted and talented theme receive additional district funding for their arts programs.