City honors Danville school board, members focus on Dewey as driving force behind arts

Published 6:43 pm Thursday, April 11, 2019

It’s not every day a school board wins a Kennedy Center award. In fact, the $10,000 prize from the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and National School Boards Association is only awarded once a year — this year, that award went to the Danville Independent School District Board of Education, for the ‘17-’18 school year.

Monday night, the Danville City Commission issued a proclamation in honor of the board’s win. The school board was chosen after a national review panel selected it out of a pool of nominees from across the country.

According to the proclamation, school boards selected for the national honor “must demonstrate support for four of the five core disciplines in arts education programs — visual arts, music, theater, dance and media arts.”

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Past and present board members received a standing ovation from the commission and crowd, before turning the mic over to board chair Steve Becker.

“Jane (Dewey) and I had the privilege of accepting this award up in Philadelphia before about 6,000 people sitting in the audience — it was really awesome,” Becker said. “And I can say this: the arts matter.”

Photo by Bobbie Curd.

Becker said aside from what it does for students’ development, the arts are vital to Kentucky. In 2015, he said, 51,000 jobs were involved in the arts.

“$2.9 billion in payroll involved in the arts, and $4.9 billion contributed to the state of Kentucky through the arts,” Becker said. “So what we do now is also helping the future of our state.”

He said it’s easy for the board — “We get to write the checks. It’s really an easy thing for us. But when you have a person who has been with us for almost 20 years, who had a job that had no job description, so those who remember those days, there was no job description.”

Becker was referring to Dewey, who is director of arts education for the school system. As Dewey spoke, she thanks current and past board members who were present. She said she realized those present know the value of an arts education.

“Thank you to the architects who, in 1964, decided to put an auditorium in the new Danville High School when it was created. I have to say thank you to all of those teachers who, at that time and before, brought the arts to students in our Danville schools,” she said. “And to the boards and their foresights as they continued on.”

Dewey jumped ahead to ‘98-’99, “when the renovation happened and Gravely Hall became a state of the art performing arts theater at that point, and I’m thankful to those board members. And the staff and the faculty, and superintendents who supported them …”

Dewey said, “We still have — as one of my favorite authors would say — we still have places to go. So I’m excited for what’s next, and thank you all.” She received another round of applause from the crowd.

Commissioner J.H. Atkins said aside from recognizing Dewey for the work she does in arts education for Danville schools, “we should also recognize her for the work she does at Centre College and throughout the entire community.”

Atkins said if there’s ever a need or question about finding something in the field of arts for kids or adults, “I’ve always found it a pleasure to contact Jane. And she’s only told me no, one time …” he said. “She just really took over the arts. And she’s been a guiding force behind a lot of artistic work behind a lot of festivals. So I offer you a personal thank you as well as a professional thank you.”

Becker said the $10,000 prize money will be put toward enhancing the school system’s arts programing further.

Previously, Dewey told The Advocate-Messenger that the prize money is wonderful, but is only a fraction of what’s needed to expand arts in the schools. She said the money will be balanced between professional training for teachers and student programing, as well as equipment maintenance and repairs in Gravely Hall Performing Arts Center.