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New Butteville administrator advocates for arts in schools

by Mount Shasta Area Newspapers
08-10-2011
Edgewood, Calif. —

While many schools, because of budget cutbacks and a greater focus on accountability, have pushed arts programs aside, Butteville Elementary’s new principal/superintendent has other ideas.

Todd Clark, who started his new position in Edgewood July 1, said he believes “arts are very important in the development of children.”

Clark has spent most of his 32-year career in education working in small mountain communities; he likes what he’s seen so far at Butteville and has some ideas for making it even better.

Calling himself “an advocate for arts in the schools,” he says research shows education in the arts helps students develop better self-discipline, especially when it comes to structuring their use of time – and that helps them in all academic areas.

He notes the improved test scores after more focus was put on arts education at Buckeye School of the Arts in Redding, where he spent the last seven years as the site administrator.

Clark said one of his first goals at Butteville is to get a music program going again.

“I want to turn over every rock to find funding to provide opportunities,” Clark said during an interview last week.

He said he’d like to start a school band soon and is considering the idea of an after school program. Some funds for it could be generated by having families “pay a nominal fee.”

While school districts throughout the state are facing severe budget challenges, Clark described Butteville Elementary as “strong financially; it has been managed well.”

He sees Butteville’s reserve as being “healthy” but not “excessive.” The board of trustees has been “very prudent financially,” Clark said. “That helps us secure our future.”

Clark has been impressed with the staff at Butteville, which he describes as “young and energetic… dedicated and involved with kids.”

He pointed to the school’s sports programs and “awesome school garden.”

Arts-oriented from the start
Clark said he grew up in an arts-oriented family in Chicago. His parents met in arts school and, after his father passed while he was young, “my mother raised me as an artist.”

Later, his connection with an art teacher at his high school in Chicago provided further inspiration.

During his five years at Arizona State University, Clark said “painting became my thing,” especially watercolors.

He graduated with an art teaching credential and soon came west to take a job in the small community of Willow Creek, east of Arcata. He spent the next 25 years as a teacher and administrator there, including 17 years on the Hoopa Indian Reservation.

He fell in love with community theater while there and began playing the ukulele – and he saw “what music programs do for kids in schools… It was a great venue for me.”

Eventually Clark said he took the site administrator job at Buckeye in Redding because “I wanted to learn more… as part of a large administration team.”

He said he orchestrated changing the school’s name to Buckeye School of the Arts and started a literacy paraprofessional program through which more than 45 school staff members helped teach reading.
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“Our API went up in the three years since we started the program,” Clark said. “We saw dramatic growth.”

He left Buckeye for Butteville just after a $3 million performing arts center was completed there and just after the school’s orchestra performed with a symphony.

He and his wife, Stefani, have six children ranging in age from a freshman in high school to 27.

They purchased property in Lake Shastina while living in Redding with plans to eventually build on it.

When the opportunity to take an administrator’s job in Siskiyou County came up, Clark said he was “jazzed about it.”

He said he saw Butteville as a school that would be open to his ideas.

“For a county this size, it’s amazing the focus on  arts and activities up here,” Clark said.

As for the future of classified staff at Butteville, and the layoff notices that were previously sent, Clark said he expected that to be a major topic of discussion during the Aug. 9 board of trustees meeting.

He said another goal is to increase enrollment at Butteville, where “we have a growth potential now of 52 students.”

Clark said he’s available to meet with parents and, as he did at Buckeye, will even lead school tours and talk to parents about their children’s needs. He can be contacted by email at todd.clark@butteville.k12.ca.us. The school phone number is 938-2255.

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