NWSS parents lobby school board for arts education funding

The high school's music auxiliary wants to see the district continue with an arts facilitator's position once it emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic

The New Westminster Secondary School Music Auxiliary is pleading with the school board to not let arts education slip through the cracks.

The auxiliary – a group of volunteer parents with students in the NWSS music program – wrote to the school board in June to ask them to keep the arts front of mind as the district moves into a post-pandemic world. The auxiliary’s letter came after a May 26 presentation to the board by Maureen McRae-Stanger, the district’s director of instruction, and Kelly Proznick, an NWSS music teacher who just wrapped up a year as the district’s arts facilitator.

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“Those who heard the report were impressed and encouraged by what was achieved in a short year, in terms of increasing our understanding of where we’re at with arts education in the district, where there are gaps, and seeing that the stage is set for planning a way forward,” the parents wrote in a June 8 letter signed by the NWSS music auxiliary executive – president Tammy Chesman, vice-president Kathryn Hearder, treasurer Wendy Cooper and secretary Melissa Stephens.

The parents’ letter noted that the district arts facilitator position, a half-time one, was created for one year only.

“We urge you to consider the need for a permanent district arts facilitator role within the district, to maintain the momentum of what we’ve learned and to ensure that the development of a comprehensive strategic plan for the delivery of art education in New Westminster schools is robust, thoughtful and inclusive,” said the letter.

The letter also pointed out that having a permanent district arts facilitator would increase the district’s ability to apply for grant funding.

They acknowledged there are already many “exceptional” arts programs in New West schools but said they’re concerned about the gaps, especially access and equity issues that affect the ability of students to participate in the programs.

“We understand that at this moment, with the COVID-19 pandemic, the health and safety of everyone in our community is our first concern,” they wrote. “We do hope that in better times, in the near future, you will revisit the importance of the arts facilitator role in New Westminster schools, to keep art in focus, to ensure that all our children have the means to express themselves for generations to come, and that the district’s reputation as a leader in the delivery of art education will grow and flourish.”

At the June 23 school board meeting, board chair Anita Ansari acknowledged the issues the parents had raised in the letter and agreed they are very important to the district. She said the board intends to revisit the issue after it gets through the “unprecedented times” surrounding COVID-19.

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