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Kennedy Center awards Danville Schools $10K

Danville Independent School District Board of Education received the 31st annual Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and National School Boards Association (NSBA) Award. Only one prize is awarded each year.

The $10,000 prize was presented Saturday, March 30, at the NSBA’s annual conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Since 1989, this national award has recognized individual school boards for their outstanding support of arts education. The Danville district was chosen from nominees around the country for its support of high-quality arts education.

“It’s an amazing award for the district,” Danville Schools Superintendent Dr. Tammy McDonald said on Monday. “It’s a huge honor for Danville schools.”

The award was a “testament” of the commitment to support the arts in education not only from the school board and teachers, but from students, their families and the entire community as well, McDonald added.

Danville Schools’ Director of Arts Education Jane Dewey said the award was for the 2017-18 school year and the board led by Board Chair Paige Matthews, Vice Chair Susan Matherly, Steve Becker, Lori Finke and Troy McCowan.

According to the Kennedy Center news release, “arts education continues to be the centerpiece of a comprehensive education for all students in Danville Schools. The board has shown a strong decades-long commitment to the arts by continued funding of district level director of arts education and technical director positions designed to administer arts education opportunities and coordinate all programming for the Gravely Hall Performing Arts Center, the district’s theater for student, community, and statewide performances.

“Co and extracurricular visual and performing arts activities are supported through fund-raising, district funds, partnerships and donations to ensure that all students who wish to participate have the opportunity. Additional commitments include ensuring all K -5 students are engaged in dance, theater, music and visual arts by certified arts specialist teachers and at the middle and high school level, courses are designed for both exploration and advanced study in choral and instrumental music, theater, and visual arts.

“The district is committed to a wide variety of arts partnerships throughout the state and community, which has included The Norton Center for the Arts, where over 800 tickets were provided for students to see school performances during the 2017-18 year through the A.C.T.S. program; the Frank X Walker Literary Festival in partnership with Citizen’s Concerned for Human Relations, which has engaged students in creative writing and theater performance while honoring the work of alumnus Walker, former Kentucky Poet Laureate; and field trips free of charge for two grade levels and all students with disabilities at the Community Arts Center, among others.”

Included in the 65-page application that Dewey submitted in November was an explanation of how past and present school boards have laid a strong foundation for future boards to support arts in education. She also included examples of the community’s support for the arts in projects the schools and students have done with the Great American Brass Band Festival, Sister Cities Commission and the local Arts Commission.

The $10,000 award “is wonderful” Dewey said, but added that it’s only a fraction of what is needed to expand arts in the schools. “It only goes so far.”

“We’re going to balance how we spend all of this” between professional learning for teachers, student programing and equipment maintenance and repairs in Gravely Hall at Danville High School, she said.

Dewey said students will benefit from their teachers who receive extra training in the arts like theater and music. She also wants to expand art programing for the youngest elementary students.

And since Gravely Hall was renovated nearly 20 years ago and is used by about 16,000 people a year, it’s important to maintain the equipment “to keep our venue functioning,” Dewey said.

“Commitment from every level of the community is necessary in order to provide an accessible, quality arts education to every student. From an invested school board to the teachers and parents, the impact of all stakeholders is felt through each child’s educational journey,” said Mario R. Rossero, senior vice president of education at the Kennedy Center. “Within our national outreach programs, we see first-hand that arts learning not only inspires and transforms students but also supports them in becoming life-long learners and engaged citizens. The long-standing enthusiasm and remarkable support from the Danville Independent School District Board of Education has been inspiring. And we are pleased to recognize their dedication.”

Each year, a national review panel selects the recipient school board from a pool of nominees from across the country. School boards selected for this national honor must demonstrate support for four of the five core disciplines in arts education programs: visual arts, music, theater, dance and media arts. Instruction and programming must be available for all students throughout the district. The ways in which the school board develops collaborative partnerships with the cultural resources available in the community are also an important consideration in reviewing nominations.

On April 22, a public reception will be held in the lobby of Danville High School from 5:15 to 6 p.m., right before the regular school board meeting. Dewey said Superintendent McDonald will make a formal announcement and acceptance of the award. The event will be a public celebration for the community’s students and families support for the arts.