SOA Audit Review and Recommendations

Friday Folder
November 10, 2016
School of the Arts (SOA) Audit Review and Recommendations
In March of 2015, the district solicited the expertise of practicing and retired professionals in the field of the arts to conduct an audit of our Schools of Visual Arts, Performing Arts and Fashion. Eleven professionals conducted multiple site visits to our high school during which they observed classes, reviewed financial and enrollment documents, interviewed staff and students, and reviewed marketing materials for the program. The following is a synthesis of these findings that assisted this administration in answering the questions: Are students growing and learning because of the programs and instruction or simply because of age and personal integrity/dedication/talent? Would/could students progress in just the same way in a traditional open-elective program?
  • Highly committed staff and administrators
  • Excellent facilities and space
  • Polite and respectful students
  • The application process raises rigor for entry into the programs
Opportunities for Improvement
  • There is a need for greater collaboration and integration of skills and concepts across the schools
  • Program curricula are narrow in focus in relation to the larger and expanding fields represented
  • There is a need for greater web presence and marketing efforts to attract students from within the district and surrounding districts
  • Greater attention should be given to financial planning and investment into each program if the district is committed to elevating these programs to reflect authentic magnet school models
  • The district should seek a pathway toward certification for the instructor in the School of Fashion to reduce the current number of staff assigned to the program
  • SOA students have limited opportunities to enroll in AP courses based upon how current SOA courses are scheduled (3 period blocks)
  • All programs should better reflect the technological advances that exist within each of the respective fields
  • Inclusion of a Photography/Film unit or course for all 3 schools should be considered to enhance the quality of the programs
  • Student attendance is inconsistent as a result of other course demands and graduation requirements
  • Dedicated administrator is needed to provide oversight and guidance for the programs
  • Digital media/design coursework would benefit all three schools
  • Staffing is not appropriate for SOA goals (cost effectiveness and sustainability given stated desire to expand)

  • Increased enrollment
  • Focus on traditional theater
Opportunities for Improvement
  • Unique offerings are unclear
  • Lack of program focus
  • Less focus on production and increased focus on acting exercises, workshops, and technical theater design
  • Greater exposure to 20th century theater criticism and thought
  • No inclusion of Film, Music, Singing, Production, and Dance in the program; all of which fall under the Performing Arts umbrella
  • Not competitive as a Performing Arts Magnet School
  • Curriculum based primarily on writing; possibly reflective of staff background and professional training
  • Not a program found in other high school level art schools
  • Unique program for the region
  • Professional grade portfolio requirements for students
  • Clear vocational/career-related program
  • Students have received state and national level awards and recognition
  • Steady enrollment
  • Program has become a “personal refuge from loneliness and isolation” for a number of students interviewed
  • Since the program’s inception, eleven (11) students have been admitted into the top 2 fashion schools in the world, Parson’s School of Fashion (#1) and Fashion Institute of Technology (#2) since the program’s inception
  • Students have studied abroad (Milan and Paris) as a result of their experience in the program; these have been post-secondary experiences secured during their enrollment as seniors at STHS
Opportunities for Improvement
  • Program does not include CAD skills
  • Should include greater exposure to lesser-known contemporary designers and outside designers
  • Incorporate more digital media and design
  • Curriculum needs refinement
  • Instructor focus on “what sells”, consider expansion of thought and focus
  • Consider non-traditional materials to create fashion (e.g. paper, recycled materials, etc.)
  • Current lead staff member is over extended given his part-time status
  • Teacher expertise as practicing artist
  • Professional grade portfolio requirements for students
  • Students have earned state level recognition and awards
  • Use of rubrics by both teachers and students to develop critical thinking skills among students
Opportunities for Improvement
  • Unique offerings are unclear
  • Need greater exposure to outside artists, venues, guest speakers
  • Expansion of curricular focus
  • Program offerings do not support the stated goal of “getting you into a fine arts college”
  • Steady decrease in enrollment
General consensus from the audit suggests that while the district offers specialized coursework in each of the programs, overall these offerings do not rise to the designation of schools within a school. In terms of providing a unique arts experience, audit feedback suggests that among the three schools, the School of Fashion provides the most competitive edge and the greatest potential to reach a true magnet model.

After very careful consideration these findings, the administration makes the following recommendations for each program:
  1. Dissolve the School of Visual Arts and return to an open-electives model

  2. Dissolve the School of Performing Arts and return to an open-elective model

  3. Assist students seeking more advanced coursework and experiences in visual and performing arts to seek internships and dual enrollment opportunities

  4. Continue quarterly showcases to share exemplary student work within the school’s arts program; this would be opened to include student work within all upper level arts courses

  5. Articulate and seek Board approval of a contract for the lead consultant in the program

  6. Convene an ad hoc committee to plan for the future of the School of Fashion. This committee would address key decisions that are critical to the success of the program. Discussion points:

    1. Develop a staffing plan for the sustainability of the program to include appropriate teacher certifications

    2. Develop a plan to provide more web presence through targeted marketing

    3. Actively recruit students outside of the district

    4. Re-examine the current program schedule

    5. Designate a budget to ensure costs are contained while supporting program integrity