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Arts education takes center stage in Glendale schools

Students paint mural at Balboa Elementary
The Glendale Unified school board unanimously approved a resolution designating March 2020 as Arts Education in California Month.
(Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)

Arts education — featuring awards and performances — was the headlining act during the Glendale Unified board meeting on Tuesday.

In a unanimous vote, the school board approved a resolution designating March 2020 as Arts Education in California Month, which is meant to encourage Glendale schools to celebrate with activities and programs in visual and performing arts.

The California State Board of Education adopted the California Arts Standards for Public Schools, Kindergarten through Grade Twelve, which outlines arts-education criteria. However, the school board report notes the month’s celebration should “give recognition to the state’s young artists, focus on careers in the arts available to California students and enhance public support for this important part of our curriculum.”

Glendale Council PTA president Monna Johnson said the focus this year will be for students to tell their stories through art pieces displayed at their respective schools.

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“I hope this resolution will be the beginning of a stronger shift toward recognizing arts education as a viable factor in the total education curriculum that develops citizens of a global society,” Johnson said.

During a school board meeting on Feb. 4, the district’s Supt. Vivian Ekchian said the PTA leadership has pursued the arts-education effort for a long time.

“This effort will allow us to integrate it throughout the curriculum. We know cultures and communities that celebrate the arts are more peaceful, are more respectful and really are more inclusive. The arts for us will be integrated and internalized fully as a value system not just as a content area of instruction,” Ekchian said.

School board members agreed about the benefits of art.

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“I’m the beneficiary of an arts education,” said board clerk Shant Sahakian. “It not only enriches our lives, but we know that our students are going to get better in all subjects by being exposed to arts education and curriculum.”

Prior to the vote, the boardroom was filled to the point where parents, guardians and students stood behind the dais. The crowd showed up to receive recognition and perform.

The district and the Glendale Council PTA awarded 25 students across elementary, middle and high schools for their work in the PTA’s Reflections program, a state and national competition. Students participated in six categories: literature, music composition, film production, dance, photography and visual arts.

Audience members held their smartphones up to record Verdugo Woodlands second-grade students performing reenactments of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s life, beginning with his childhood, then his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, to his winning the Nobel Peace Prize and finally his death. The performance was meant to showcase how King is celebrated throughout the district, but a few board members noted it was also an example of how arts can supplement other disciplines.

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