Schools in the city of Parma invest in a new program to strengthen the experiences of art students

PARMA, Ohio – It’s no secret that extracurricular activities – especially the arts department – are the first affected when school districts are forced to cut costs.

For schools in the city of Parma, these reductions over the years have inspired art teachers to find creative ways to engage students. Now, the district is looking to give back to creative students and staff with its newly announced Artistic Innovation Reserve (AIR) program.

“We have really tried to be aggressive in limiting central office resources and making sure we put more and more money into our schools,” said Superintendent Charles Smialek. “Now we wanted to direct our spending this year to something that would help create a dynamic experience for the students. “

As initial discussions involved adding STEM and academic courses, Deputy Superintendent Tiffany Stropko, who was entrusted with the effort, realized that visual arts teachers were using equipment that dated back to several decades.

The decision has been taken to create AIR, which should start in the 2021-2022 school year.

“The arts are something that can absolutely be a defining part of a high school experience,” said Smialek.

“We are delighted to allocate $ 50,000 per year to a fund to which, essentially, our art teachers can apply for any type of innovative experience, innovative equipment or innovative project. This will allow us to really continue to try to strengthen our approach to arts education. “

Stropko said district officials were delighted to have a specific position in the general fund dedicated to AIR.

“We knew we had to look at the resources available to our arts departments when we formed a committee to work on the new fine arts seal that senior graduates can earn,” Stropko said.

“We also looked at our course offerings and current professional development and knew we wanted to revise our arts programming to reflect 21st century learning experiences for our students that will also reflect post-secondary options. “

The operation of AIR is similar to the efforts of the Parma City Schools Foundation. The non-profit organization – which over the past decade has donated more than $ 200,000 to schools and students – awards scholarships and helps fund technology upgrades, extracurricular activities, student recognition programs. students and other educational needs through written grants to teachers.

Regarding the AIR application process, Smialek said it is still in development. Essentially, how it will work is that teachers will offer anything from hosting an artist residency to purchasing new equipment or scheduled field trips for students to the Cleveland Museum of Art, at Playhouse Square or at a Cleveland Orchestra concert.

“It’s more of the experiential piece that we’re looking for,” said Smialek. “We want teachers to buy in as much as possible. They are very excited. This has been a neglected part of our offering.

Art teacher Molly Deeks, who teaches at Valley Forge and Parma High Schools, said AIR will have an incredible impact, enabling educators to continuously bring new, innovative and advanced experiences to students.

“The arts no longer includes just the fine arts, but marketers, media specialists, designers and a variety of other professions that our students are inventing right now,” Deeks said.

“This program allows us to ensure that our students are prepared for their future. “

Smialek commends the arts educators in the district for their resilience and ability to do a lot with a little. He believes the AIR will have a positive impact on the department for years to come.

“We pride ourselves on the structured experiences our art teachers have, regardless of how much money or lack of focus they may have gotten over the past 10 or 20 years, but we look forward to improving the experiences for children.” , said Smialek. .

“Now that we’ve really invested the time and effort into looking at their lineup and equipment, we’re basically on the cusp of a renaissance when we talk about our artistic lineup. “

Read more news from the Parma Sun Post.

Kayleen C. Rice

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