Dear Parents and Community Members:
The past seven years of economic downturn have led to hardships nationwide, including within our home State of California. Reduced funding caused OUSD, like many other school districts, to be forced to cut back on spending. Regretfully, programs that were beneficial to students ended when there were no longer funds available to maintain them.
Last year was the first time since 2007 that the State ended its fiscal year with cash left over in its general fund, and the improving economy led the Board of Education to ask staff to design an action plan for the possible restoration of the elementary music program, a program cut during the budget downfall.
A District Visual & Performing Arts (VAPA) Committee consisting of teachers, administrators and District staff was formulated and charged with the task of determining what steps would be necessary to restore music at the elementary level. The VAPA Committee held numerous meetings to discuss the scope of the elementary music prior to the 2007 funding cuts and the pros/cons of the previous program. All elementary school teachers and administrators were surveyed to glean their feedback on the previous program and, more importantly, what they envisioned the new program should entail. In addition to the numerous committee discussions, pertinent information was gathered from a myriad of school districts to understand their varied, successful art program models.
In September 2014, the District VAPA Committee presented their findings on four plausible models for elementary music restoration and the associated program costs to the OUSD Board of Education. In order for any one of these models to be effective, successful, and sustainable, it was agreed that the program must be aligned to District-wide objectives.
In order to better define those objectives it was necessary to update the OUSD District Visual & Performing Arts Plan, which included two days of strategic planning facilitated by The California Arts Project and the Orange County Department of Education. Stakeholders, including parents and community partners, looked at different focus areas included within the arts plan created in 2007 and analyzed the current strengths and weaknesses in each of the focus areas. Through collaborative and consensus-building activities, stakeholders were able to define the goals and objectives they envisioned for Orange Unified regarding the arts. All stakeholders were in agreement that the foundation of the plan should be Arts for All - equitable access to a quality arts program for all OUSD K-12 students.
Following the development of the District Arts Education Plan, District-facilitated focus groups, consisting of targeted stakeholders, looked at the District Arts Education Plan and provided additional feedback on plausible models that truly provide students with the opportunity to compete in the global economy. Through this process, stakeholders agreed that providing students with instruction in music-only would not be in alignment with our District Arts Education Plan. Instead, based on the plethora of feedback gathered from all stakeholders over the 18 month process, a recommendation to the Board included the Implementation of the 21st Century Integrated Arts Wheel for the 2015-16 school year. In the initial implementation year, 5th & 6th grade students in all 27 elementary schools will receive 90 minutes of instrumental music or participation in an arts wheel where they will have the opportunity to experience theatre arts, visual arts, dance, general music/choir and/or STEM & Art Integration. This model has an initial cost of an estimated $2.5 million and was graciously approved by the OUSD Board of Education on March 12th. It is expected that the program will expand in future years to include more grade levels.
All stakeholders are excited that OUSD is on the cutting edge of Arts Education, providing 21st Century learning opportunities that enable students to see that they have purpose, voice and the ability to contribute to society!
Anyone wanting additional information about the program or how to donate instruments for our students should contact the Curriculum & Instruction Office at (714) 628-5452.
Michael L. Christensen