After a year of reflection, thoughtfulness and hard work to determine the best path for the visual and performing arts at R. Roger Rowe School, the Rancho Santa Fe School District board approved the new strategic plan for the arts at its Aug. 3 meeting.
To help develop the plan, Superintendent David Jaffe brought in consultant Ashley Adams, the first drama teacher at Canyon Crest Academy and former director in the school’s Envision program, which encompasses cinema, dance, theater, music, digital and fine arts. Adams collaborated with a group of district stakeholders to craft a comprehensive vision for the arts at Rowe.
“It’s always been my experience that when you bring stakeholders into the conversation to discuss what’s going on and how we can improve, collectively we come up with outstanding ideas,” Jaffe said.
Adams started working with the district in October 2016, tasked to do a complete assessment of the arts program. She presented her recommendations to the board in February, which included strengthening the arts department’s organization and ensuring that teaching and learning in the arts is rigorous and standards based.
“My strongest recommendation was to engage in a strategic plan for the arts,” Adams said. “Greatness in education comes from vision, a clear path with measurable goals and a strong execution.”
Over 20 stakeholders in the district and representatives from the county came together to develop the plan over the course of two days. They crafted a mission statement for the arts department of: “Inspiring all students to engage and connect with their world through the beauty of the arts.”
Music teacher RC Haus said the big focus of the statement is “all” – “Not just some students who are into the arts but every student here at the school,” Haus said.
The plan has five growth areas with measurable goals, including access and equity, curriculum instruction, community engagement, and facilities and equipment. Each goal has two to five objectives that would have the most impact and would be the easiest to make happen on campus. As an example, one goal would be to implement an arts requirement for middle school students.
Each goal is given a timeline over the course of three to five years and the plan outlines who is leading each objective, providing accountability.
“I think this has been an exciting process for all of us,” said K-5 Principal Kim Pinkerton.
Pinkerton said staff will be working on their phase one goals for each objective and the intent is to provide the board with progress reports along the way.
In order to successfully implement the plan, a leadership position will be required. Jaffe said the stipend position should be selected by September.
“Leadership is everything,” said Jaffe, noting Adams is an example of strong leadership, how 14 years ago she took a program that didn’t exist at Canyon Crest Academy and built one of the top arts programs in the state.
With the strategic plan, Rancho Santa Fe becomes the 10th district in the county with an official plan and affiliation with Arts Empower, a San Diego County Office of Education initiative to ensure all students have access to arts education. Pauline Crooks of Arts Empower was involved in the strategic plan process and said as a partner with the RSF School District, Arts Empower will be able to provide “customized” support in the arts for the district and its teachers.
‘We have some great arts teachers here as you all know. But they have not had the opportunity to be connected with the community of arts teachers here in San Diego,” Adams said . “This will provide them with networking opportunities and professional development support and all of the resources that they really need to empower their teaching. It’s an incredible thing to be affiliated with Arts Empower and it will be great for your students.”
One of the plan’s biggest benefits is that it provides organization for the district where there wasn’t before, Adams said. There wasn’t an arts department — as one parent described it, it was like “little gems” of different arts programs floating around without true collaboration. Through the process, all teachers will be involved in working together to integrate art into all aspects of the curriculum.
“There’s been a lack of intention in your arts program. You have a lot of great pieces, or gems, but there hasn’t been some thoughtfulness behind design. I think this will provide you an opportunity to be very thoughtful and intentional so you’re not wasting time,” Adams said. “You’re using your teachers’ time most efficiently and providing your kids with the best possible experiences.”