Art Students Rally to Save Courses

By David Mohimani and Jay Jackson –

“In hard times, beauty can seem frivolous- but take it away, and all you’re left with is hard times,” said contemporary artist Paul Madonna.

That may sum up the situation of many in the high school art department who believe several classes will be cut from the curriculum for next year.  Students say they and their parents are concerned about possible cuts in art classes and say they will attend Monday night’s school board meeting to show their concern.

It is no secret Penn Manor has to make cuts to the budget, but many are hoping it’s not at the expense of art courses.

Junior Erin Henry detailed their plan of action,”(We are going) to attend the board meeting. (We are) trying to making it known (that art programs are being cut), by writing letters to the administration just showing that art is important to us and we don’t think it should be cut.”

The board meeting will be held May 7 at Manor Middle at 7 pm. Some of the classes students and teachers fear may be cut for the 2012-13 school year are photo II, watercolor, art independent study and fine art.

“I am really hoping that isn’t a final decision,” said Teri Hay, art department teacher who is retiring at the end of this school year.

“Students are being called down to guidance and their schedule is being changed,” said Hay, explaining why she believes specific classes are on the chopping block.  “As people leave (teachers retire) they won’t be replacing them. We don’t have a governor that is pro education so that means we don’t have one that is pro elective education.”

“To some students, they rely on art classes to get through the day, or even the school year,”said Rachel Shetler, a senior art student.

“I have basically taken art classes every single year and every semester,” said junior Trent Sheaffer an avid art student at Penn Manor who plans to go into the art field after high school. “Art always fascinated me ever since I was little.”

The guidance office isn’t calling this involuntary removal of classes a cut.

“It isn’t a cut. It just isn’t running,” explained guidance department head Melissa Ostrowski, “The art department decides which classes they want to run. It is a thing of economics.”

Ostrowski said that some classes just do not have enough people to run.

“The photography 2 class, I know they had enough students to run and it was my understanding that any class they were having, they had enough students to run,” said Hay.

Clearly there is a chasm between the two sides.

Either way the students are planning to make their voices heard.

A Facebook group has been created to attend the school board meeting and plead their case, the event has more than 700 hundred invited students.

Their hope is that the school will realize how important art is to them and keep the courses open to students.

In a recent speech, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan bemoaned the loss of art classes across the country in the wake of No Child Left Behind mandates.

“At more than 40 percent of our secondary schools, coursework in the arts was not a requirement for graduation in the 2009-10 school year,” reported Duncan in an Apr. 7 speech to educators in Washington, D.C. “Our high schools are doing too little to incorporate the arts as an expectation and component of career and college readiness for all students.”

He also said, “For a host of reasons, high-quality arts education is absolutely critical to providing all students with a world-class education,” said Duncan  “The study of the arts can significantly boost student achievement, reduce discipline problems, and increase the odds that students will go on to graduate from college.”

“It is dumb to cut art classes because it is a career that people [pursue],” explained Sheaffer.

Senior Cassie Braun put into perspective what she gets out of taking art classes.

“(It’s the feeling of) having something they can call their own.”





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