RANCHO SANTA FE — Rancho Santa Fe School District consultant Ashley Adams provided highlights to the board about her assessment of MUSE art programs at the school. MUSE encompasses the four disciplines of visual arts, theatre, music, and dance. School board members listened to Adams’ February presentation during the course of their monthly meeting.
Superintendent David Jaffe introduced the item describing how Adams took part in a comprehensive review of their arts program.
“Ashley spent a significant amount of time meeting with all the stakeholders involved in this and I think it’s a very comprehensive report and will give us a good idea of what she has seen,” he said.
Adams began by thanking the board and community calling the experience “an incredible couple of months” which she truly enjoyed.
“Your students have impressed me most deeply. They are an incredible group,” she said.
Adams shared how she observed the students in class, after school activities, assemblies, and art performances.
“It has been such a joy to see them discover new things and have exciting new ideas, to grow their confidence, and to also express their developing sense of identity for the arts; that’s incredibly inspiring to me, so thank you for that opportunity,” she said.
Adams said while looking at the MUSE programs and recognizing how unique they were, it was also important to reach out to the community, parents, and elementary teachers.
“It truly reflects the community it serves, and so I think when you look at this program and you’re thinking critically about what it is and what you hope it will be, I think it’s important to take all of those people’s input into consideration,” she said. “I have spent a lot of time with your MUSE teachers, and we actually had two departmental meetings while I was here.”
Adams had the teachers take part in an extensive questionnaire that asked them about every aspect of their programs, which helped Adams assess the entire program.
Also part of the study considerations was a parent meeting. Adams went on to say how she had numerous formal and informal conversations with the principals and superintendent on how they could strengthen the MUSE program.
The report corresponded with the visual and performing arts standards of California, she said.
“I would like to note there are national core art standards, and those include a fifth discipline which is media arts — media arts are not included in the California state standards. It will be in the next two to three years. I think that’s a clear reflection of how important media is in our world now and the importance of visual literacy as well,” she said.
Adams cited how MUSE was an awesome program. The goal was to support them for sustainable health and to make them be the best that they can be for the long-term.
One of the recommendations made pertained to outreach.
“What can be done to strengthen it even more is to create some sort of parents’ arts council that meets monthly with MUSE leadership and creates a forum so that the parents can come with concerns and questions,” she said. “It’s a place where you can increase volunteerism, and you can really improve those communications between parents and the MUSE teachers. There’s so much happening right now but it needs to be focused and it needs to be organized a little bit.”
However, the one of the top two recommendations Adams offered for the MUSE program was to strengthen the departmental organization so more team effectiveness could occur.
“There are four teachers, but there’s a lot of teaching artists and they’re doing so many things. They need to have a collective vision and they need to work effectively together, so that would be number one,” she said
The other recommendation was to have a standards-based discipline in the arts.
“The state of California has established standards in the arts,” said Adams, adding how it was important to commit to those teachings while developing a scope and sequence. “If you have that, I think you would see a tremendous difference because there would be some intention. The teachers would know what a child was getting in the arts from kindergarten through eighth grade, and that would be articulated all the way through.”
Board member Marti Ritto shared that MUSE was currently not standards-based and she thought it was a critical component that they have not implemented at the school.
“It needs to be implemented and needs to be standards-based so that we can actually track the development of our students,” she said. “These are not just fluffy subjects. These are literal academic pursuits and we need to treat them as such.”