Letter to Editor: Hard Work of Arts Advocacy Paying off for Kent County Public Schools

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The hard work of arts advocacy is paying off in Kent County Public Schools. In some counties, the arts are being eliminated. Kent County Superintendent, Dr. Karen Couch, considers the arts a vital part of a well-rounded curriculum. Kent County’s eleven Fine Arts teachers with the support of Gina Jachimowicz, KCPS Supervisor of Fine Arts, Dr. Nelson Fritts. Fine Arts Consultant, and Dr. Tom McHugh, Facilitator for Fine Arts, have developed a creative and collaborative project known as “Arts in Motion”. The main focus of the project has been to work collaboratively in Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s) to build KCPS curriculum/assessment documents, share progress on Student Learning Objectives, and develop meaningful connections with the Kent County arts community.

Dr. McHugh has been able to help our teachers identify and pursue new initiatives for working with the abundant community arts programs and people in Kent County. Many of these initiatives were made possible by a grant from the John Ben Snow Memorial Trust, secured by Dr. McHugh through the Mainstay in Rock Hall, a non-profit 501c3 organization.

Funds from the John Ben Snow Memorial Trust are focused on two initiatives: to enhance student arts learning by providing special materials, opportunities to see arts performers in professional settings and in their schools, opportunities for individual special projects. The second initiative is aimed at enhancing the role of the “teacher-artist” by providing learning opportunities, and enrichment experiences for the personal artistic growth of our fine arts teachers.

Highlights from 2015-16

The John Ben Snow Memorial Trust provided funds in FY2016 to:

• Support Leon Frison to provide professional musicians to hold master classes for his middle school band students;

• Cooperate with Kent County Arts Council to help Lori Armstrong fund a middle school production of Grease;

• Send Kent County High School Honors Arts students, under the coordination of Noel Morris and Stephanie Spencer, on a field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City for a private tour;

• Help fund trips by Keith Wharton and the Kent County High School Band to performances at the Lincoln Center;

• Hold an Arts Café at Mainstay in Rock Hall attended by our Fine Arts staff and visiting professional artists from the Kent County Community;

• Fund a trip for Melissa Walters’ class to see an Indian dance program at Garfield Center in Chestertown;

• Provide two ukulele workshops at Galena Elementary School;

• Fund photography from local photographer, Steve Atkinson, showing our arts teachers in action. The Photos were also used by the Maryland State Board of Education in a Baltimore exhibition;

• Partially fund a trip by Melissa Walter’s class on Romanticism, where students met with the Washington College Poetry Club, and then attended an art exhibit at the Kohl Gallery;

• Fund visits by local artists for Karen Frison’s classes during Black History Month and Women’s History Month;

• Establish the “Easels and Art” program to seven local sites (Peoples Bank, Chesapeake Bank, Kent County Public Library, Kohl Gallery and the Library at Washington College, RiverArts Gallery, and Chestertown Visitors Center) where Kent County student art continues to be displayed. Over 4,000 citizens and visitors have seen this art over the last several months;

• Partially fund a trip by Lebanon Valley College Jazz Band to perform at Kent County HS and Galena Elementary School, a program organized by 1st year music teacher, Mr. Charles Thai.

Mrs. Stephanie Spencer’s art students participated in “The Memory Project.” As part of this experience, they created portraits for children in Columbia. Watch this video and see how much the children loved the gifts and were so excited about the experience. University students dressed up as superheros to hand out the portraits made by KCHS art students! Another amazing arts celebration!

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Looking Forward to 2017 and Beyond

Looking ahead to the next several months, the Kent County Public Schools Fine and Performing Arts staff is developing the following Snow Grant projects to benefit student learning as well as their own professional growth

• Karen Somerville and/or Barbara Parker, Guest Artists, will be sought to present programs during Black History and Women’s History Month

• Elementary art teachers will collaborate with River Arts and “Kids Spot” to exhibit student artwork.

• Kent County High School Art Students will initiate the ceramic “Souper Bowl” (Empty Bowl) Project in which teachers and students will expand their ceramic expertise. Teachers may choose to take a pottery course offered by River Arts.

• Teresa Jetton’s students at Rock Hall will collaborate with KCHS art students to utilize the slab roller and ceramic equipment to help with the “Souper Bowl” project.

• Kent County High School art students will lead a basic pottery skills class for 5th graders. The high school students will earn Service Learning hours.

• Keith Wharton’s and the high school band students will attend a national festival in AtlantaGeorgia.

• Band and Theater students and guests can attend an eclectic array of performances at the Mainstay and Garfield Center, exposing them to artists outside of Kent County.

• Middle school theater students plan to attend the KCHS production of “The Little Mermaid” on Thursday, March 2, 2017.

• Professional local actors will perform Shakespeare selections for Lori Armstrong’s middle school students who are studying the “Bard of Avon”.

• A mural artist will consult with Aimee Boumiea and Stephanie Spencer to start work on their community mural project

• Saturday morning workshops will be held for identified 5th grade students and teacher, Ms. Boumiea, to work with local glassmakers on a STEM glass project at the Heglands.

A student created trash sculpture from a 5th grade Science, Technology Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics(STEAM)Coastal Clean-up unit is going to have a permanent home in Easton at the Eastern Shore Conservation Center. This sculpture was displayed during Kent County’s First Friday in December at the Kent County Public Library. Attached is a picture of the 5 students from Mrs. Whitby’s 5th grade in Millington. Millington Elementary students from left, Drew Davis, Juliana MacLeod, Dylan Passwaters, James Huff and Lupe Duarte and art teacher, Mrs. Teresa Jetton.

The KCPS Arts in Motion team will continue school and community arts transformation, promoting student interest and growth in the arts as well as new learning opportunities. If you would like to know more about Fine and Performing Arts in Kent County Public Schools, please contact us at 410-778-7116 or gjachimowicz@kent.k12.md.us

Gina Jachimowicz
Supervisor of Fine Arts
Kent County Public Schools

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Letters to Editor

  1. We are so lucky to have such dedicated teachers and community members taking part in this program! As someone who found my niche back in second grade at Chestertown Elementary drawing dinosaurs with Miss Chauvenet and who went on to take art classes from Miss Holly at Chestertown Middle, and Mr. Michael and Mr. Dize at KCHS – and who has ultimately found a rewarding career in the arts (from home! in my pajamas!) – I am so grateful that Dr. Couch, Ms. Jachimowicz and Dr. Fritz have made arts a priority in our public schools. And a very special thanks to Dr. McHugh for putting so much of his time and energy into creating this program – it is so gratifying to see the results of his good work making such positive ripples in our community and with our kids. Bravo.

  2. Denise Tontarski says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this article. Being a senior citizen and not having children attending the school district,
    I hadn’t realized all these programs were happening for students in our community. We hear about sports (and there is nothing wrong
    with that) or crime. The arts can reach everyone and I’m thrilled to see all of these programs in our community. Thank you Kent County Schools.

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