Today, Texas’s Austin Independent School District Board of Trustees received the 25th annual Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education Network (KCAAEN) and National School Boards Association (NSBA) Award. The award, which includes a $10,000 prize, was presented at the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Annual Conference in San Diego. Since 1989, this prestigious national award has recognized school boards for their support of arts education.
The Austin district was chosen from nominees around the country for its outstanding support of high-quality arts education. Finalists for the award include: Florida’s School Board of Hillsborough County; Michigan’s Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education; Minnesota’s Minnetonka Public Schools Board of Education; and Virginia’s Roanoke City Public Schools School Board.
“Austin is a well-known as a community rich in the arts,” said Darrell Ayers, Vice President of Education at the Kennedy Center. “We are pleased to recognize a school board and administration that extends that culture to the classroom and provides students with a comprehensive arts education.”
The award honors the work of the 2012 school board in Austin led by President Mark Williams, Vice President Vince Torres, Secretary Lori Moya, Cheryl Bradley, Sam Guzman, Christine Brister, Robert Schneider, Annette LoVoi, and Tamala Barksdale. The school board distinguished itself as a national leader in arts education through thoughtful policy, wise funding decisions and data-driven strategic planning. For example, the district’s strategic plan moved the arts from an enrichment discipline to a core academic subject, establishing its goal and measurable benchmarks to increase access and support for high quality fine arts instruction as part of a strong core academic curriculum for all students. Despite a series of significant budget cuts, the board maintained support of the fine arts staffing during two reductions that cut more than 1,500 staff positions.
The school district supported the Any Given Child process to determine inequities that might exist in the district and make recommendations to remediate them. The district has advanced a programmatic plan to make all schools arts-rich schools by 2023, with an associated bond package to provide appropriate infrastructure support. Actions like these send a clear message that learning in the arts in Austin is not an enrichment activity, but central to the cognitive and social development of young people. The Austin Board of Trustees says it plans to use the award to support professional development opportunities for Austin school district teachers. Investing in staff will provide assurances the district can sustain the benefits of the arts and creative learning.
“NSBA is proud to recognize outstanding arts programs that greatly benefit student learning,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “These programs are achieved only with the full support of the school board and administration.”
Each year, a national review panel selects the first place school district from a pool of nominees selected by State Alliances for Arts Education and state school boards associations. School districts selected for this national honor must demonstrate support for all four core disciplines in arts education programs: visual arts, music, theater, and dance. Instruction and programming must be available for all students throughout the district. The ways in which the school district develops collaborative partnerships with the cultural resources available in the community are also an important consideration in reviewing nominations.