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Pomona school board approves visual and performing arts plan

by Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

POMONA – These may be financially difficult times but the visual and performing arts have a role to play in education.

Pomona Unified School District school board members solidified their commitment to arts education when they approved a visual and performing arts education plan Wednesday night.

The plan provides a road map for developing and maintaining arts components in Pomona Unified schools from kindergarten through the end of high school.

“It gives us permission again to be creative and playful,” Vicki Tessier, visual and performing arts teacher specialist for Pomona Unified, said Wednesday.

Work to develop the plan began in 2007 with the assistance of Arts for All, Los Angeles County’s arts education network, which was established by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, and the involvement of local artists and members of the community, she said.

After studying the needs of the district’s students a detailed draft plan was created that included possible grants and sources of funding for initiatives the document included.

Then the economic downturn arrived.

“We had the most beautiful plan in the world but 75 percent of the funding sources were no longer there,” Tessier said. “The timing was way off fiscally.”

District officials, like those in other districts, also found themselves in a budget crisis and their focus went to the district’s finances.

As the city began working on a cultural plan for the city that sparked interest in the district’s art plan again and the county offered assistance in updating the plan, Tessier said.

The new draft approved this week is in-line with the current conditions and gives schools the flexibility to bring the arts to their campuses in a way that meets their needs, Tessier said.

This will be an opportunity for schools to start arts programing and for those that already have programs a chance to build them up, she said.

Having the plan will not present a financial burden on the district, Tessier said.

The plan will make the district eligible for public and private grants and funding sources that it wouldn’t be able to access without one.

Forty-four Los Angeles County school districts have Arts for All plans, said Ayanna Hudson, director of Arts for All and director of arts education at the county Arts Commission.

Through the county program, districts can access resources including matching grant opportunities, professional development, assessment tools and assistance locating visual and performing artists that can work with teachers and students in schools, Hudson said.

Having a school district plan is significant, because “by having a plan you are creating a community launch point,” she said.

It establishes a map leading to having a quality arts instruction in schools, Hudson said.

School board member Roberta Perlman said having the involvement and collaboration of city residents and district representatives to develop the plan is noteworthy.

“We need to do more of that,” Perlman said.

School board members are committed to protecting the arts.

“Arts are just as important as math or social studies,” she said adding the arts can and do play a role in helping a student master academics and in building up students’ confidence.

School board member Richard Rodriguez said the arts give students a means to express themselves.

Having a plan “can only help our program. I hope (the plan) will strengthen it,” he said.

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