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Art escapes budget cuts

Teachers: Public school program shapes better students

Teachers: Public school program shapes better students

March 31, 2003|by NICOLE RITCHEY

nicoler@herald-mail.com

Despite tight state budgets, the public school art programs that local teachers say shape better students will likely escape funding cuts in the upcoming school year, Tri-State area school officials said.

"Part of the master plan is to fully support art programs," said Boyd Michael, director of secondary education for the Washington County Board of Education.

JoEtta Palkovitz-Brown, director of elementary education in Washington County, doesn't anticipate a cut in funding, she said. In fact, school officials have requested more money to hire the additional art teachers needed to meet the increased demands associated with all-day kindergarten, Palkovitz-Brown said.

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School officials in Berkeley County, W.Va., hired more art teachers when all-day kindergarten was launched there about three years ago, and have added more high school art teachers to help students fulfill their creative arts graduation requirement, Deputy Schools Superintendent Frank Aliveto said.

Although art isn't the only class that will fulfill the requirement, it's the most popular, he said.

"We fully fund our art programs," Aliveto said.

Such programs at elementary schools in the Chambersburg (Pa.) Area School District are also expected to be fully funded, said Eric Michael, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

"We still don't have the governor's budget, but at this time, we don't anticipate any cuts in the program," Michael said.

The Washington County Board of Education allocates funds to each school based on student population. School principals divvy out the funds to academic and special programs based on need.

At Williamsport High School, veteran art teacher Doris Hoopengardner receives between $3 and $4 for each art student - money that helps sharpen students' cognitive and creative skills , she said.

"I think it is very important and necessary to have art in schools because students have to use a complete thought process without memorizing formulas or using calculators," said Hoopengardner, who has been teaching art at Williamsport High School for 32 years.

Art also promotes creative problem solving, said Debby Weaver, art teacher at E. Russell Hicks Middle School in Hagerstown.

"I believe that if you train a child's mind to think 'outside of the box' you can create an atmosphere for children to solve the problems of the world," Weaver said.

Debby Lesher, art teacher at Lincolnshire Elementary School in Halfway, credits art with helping produce "well-rounded individuals."

Sometimes teachers have to dig into their own pockets to pay for classroom materials they feel will make their students' art experience even richer.

"We do have to use out-of-pocket expenses sometimes, but if you want to be a teacher, who cares; you have to give from your pocket," Lesher said.

During Youth Art Month, observed in March, Lesher talked to her students about art history and the importance of the arts to our world and society as a whole, she said.

Washington County students also channeled their artistic talents into creating work for the annual student art exhibit at Valley Mall in Hagerstown. The show starts today and runs through April.

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