Lakewood Ranch Schools Receive Funding for Visual and Performing Arts | Eastern County

Her drawing of Country Club East Park needed a little extra shading, and Brielle Redmond, a sixth-grader at R. Dan Nolan Middle School, worked hard to accomplish it.

She used to play in this park when she was a student at nearby Robert E. Willis Elementary School and now her ability to recreate the image has been boosted thanks to money from the property tax referendum of one million which was renewed with 69.27% ​​of the vote. in a special election in November 2021.

“My last art class was at Willis (elementary), and we didn’t get a chance to learn advanced techniques,” Redmond said. “I can’t wait to work with clay and have a canvas to paint on.”

Wade Smith, a Redmond art teacher at Nolan, said all of his students will have the opportunity to paint this year compared to previous years when he could only allow a few students to paint due to funding and supplies. limits.

Smith received $2,870 as part of the Manatee County School District mill property tax referendum.

Visual and performing arts programs in the Manatee County School District will provide more opportunities for students with referendum funding.

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This is the first school year that visual and performing arts are included in the referendum. Of the $57.6 million the Manatee County School District raised from the mileage budget, $2.5 million will be allocated to visual and performing arts.

“(The funding) allows us to expand our current opportunities and then expand those of our students,” said Laurie Breslin, executive director of curriculum and assessments for the Manatee County School District. “We sincerely believe that the arts programs in schools allow us to develop this climate and this culture which will allow students to come to school and to love being there, to love what they do, to stretch their curiosity and creativity and develop problem-solving skills.”

In the classroom

Breslin said that in the first year of mileage funding, which expires June 30, 2025, the district is focused on supporting programs already in the classroom by increasing program enrollment and ensuring classrooms classroom are well equipped to support teaching.

“We want to get all the tools these programs need, and then in year two, we hope that will lead to increased student enrollment and we can get more teachers into schools specifically for the arts,” Breslin said. .

Abby Newton, a junior at Lakewood Ranch High School, plays in unison with others in the Indoor Percussion Ensemble. Lakewood Ranch High’s marching band program will receive $15,000 for its marching show and staff. (File photo)

Breslin said schools can’t expand programs or offer new programs until they have the equipment and student interest to do so.

“It’s about laying the foundations and then we can grow,” Breslin said. “It’s a bit like in a neighborhood where you build the roads before you build the houses.”

Breslin said having the necessary equipment and supplies for programs, such as instruments, clay, paint and paper, is critical to ensuring quality programs.

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“You might have the best teacher in the room and talented students in the room, but if you don’t have the tools, you can’t make it work,” she said.

Smith said his students got bored of just creating drawings. Thanks to the new funding, he is able to provide hands-on instruction in other art forms to each of his 80-90 students, including clay, acrylic paints, watercolor paints and more. .

“They will transition from pencil drawing to more tactile and hands-on projects,” Smith said. “They love it, especially the students who aren’t really into art. They don’t like to draw, but they may like clay, which gets them excited about the course. »

More students like Isabelle Han, a sixth-grader at R. Dan Nolan Middle School, will have the opportunity to paint thanks to funding for visual and performing arts programs through the 1-mill Referendum .

As more funds come in, Smith said he will be able to replace the classroom tables he’s had since 2004 and are now falling apart.

Smith said the funding will enable visual and performing arts programs to provide a “world-class education” for students.

“(The funding) is validation for us with elective courses because we have been marginalized in the past, and the district has now sent a very strong signal that we are emphasizing elective courses and we will provide the funding. , “said Smith.

With the funding, Smith plans for his students to create murals, participate in art exhibits, and become more integrated into the community with art.

“It’s just fun to come to work and know that I have all the tools I need to teach these wonderful kids how to be great artists, how to be creative, and how to give them a break from the core curriculum. rigorous,” he said.

At the neighborhood level

Breslin said that at the district level, arts programs will be enhanced with a music library, equipment inventory and calendar of events.

The music library will allow all schools to access music that can be shared rather than individual schools purchasing their own music.

The district will provide funding for transportation to visual and performing arts events, whether it’s students performing at competitions or traveling to see professionals perform at venues.

Read more: Nolan Middle encourages creativity and technical skills with a new animatronics lab

The district-wide events calendar will let community members know when and where student performances are happening near them.

“Students have the opportunity to shine and our community members have the opportunity to see what their vote means and what it does to grow our community,” Breslin said. “The most exciting thing about this is really it’s an opportunity for schools to support the community and communities to support the schools.”

Ezekiel Lopez, a sophomore at Braden River High School, strikes a pose while performing songs from “Chicago.” Braden River High’s theater department will benefit from the $1 million property tax referendum. (File photo)

The district has also hired a visual and performing arts specialist to support districtwide programs and a junior accountant to track and monitor expenses, create purchase orders and distribute mileage funding.

Another district-wide goal will be to create opportunities for greater arts alignment between elementary, middle and high school art programs.

“I was talking to a choir teacher at Manatee High School, who has a terrific program,” Breslin said. “If we can capitalize on that and invite him to go and share his talent and the talent of the students with the surrounding middle school and elementary school students, the students in the younger grades can see the opportunities they will have in high school.”

All visual and performing arts teachers will undergo professional development, which Breslin says will help build collegiality among the district’s arts teachers as well as recruit teachers to the district.

“A lot of times when you attend a professional development opportunity for the arts in the state, you’re working with educators from across the state, and we’re able to say that’s what we’re doing for our school district. and to look at how our community has supported us,” Breslin said. “In many communities they don’t have the same support that our citizens have shown us, so I believe this will inspire talented educators to come here and to want to work in our district.

Creation of magnetic schools

One of the district’s goals for the 2022-2023 school year is to create schools that love the visual and performing arts.

The district selected Manatee Elementary School, Electa Arcotte Lee Magnet Middle School, and Bayshore High School to become magnet schools.

District officials will work to develop a comprehensive K-12 visual and performing arts plan for the three schools.

In addition to making schools magnetic arts schools, Breslin said the district will work to improve schools’ facilities.

For example, Manatee Elementary has a theater that will be undergoing renovations and in the coming years the district will be working to build an amphitheater to support Lee Magnet Middle School’s strong art programs.

“We know it takes a while to build and you have to get it approved by the board first, so you’re not going to see those done in the first year,” Breslin said.