Careful Care and Feeding: A Quick Way to Make Your School Board Love Your Program

thank you so much flickr Graham Erwin

Recently I took the opportunity to thank my local school board and administration for supporting the arts at my daughter's school. I sent an advance copy to the teachers I mentioned by name, then sent copies to the administration (superintendent, assistant superintendents, principal & assistant principal) and the entire school board. I've included a draft of my letter below.

I did have help crafting this letter; I used resources I found online here:

AMP Resources
AMP Music Facts
Americans for the Arts Sample Letters

I received thank-you notes from the teachers, and a lovely supportive note back from my daughter's principal vowing "to continue embedding the arts in every way possible," and ensuring her support of STEAM education.

You may think your school's music and arts programs are safe today, but in this current economic and political climate, that may not always be the case. You may be one school board election or a retired superintendent away from disaster. The careful care and feeding of these school board members and administrators is up to you...and me.

123 Lyrical Dr.
Anytown, NY 00000

March 30, 2012

Local School District
321 School Drive
Anytown, NY 00000

I am the parent of ___________, a fifth-grader at [school]. I am writing to THANK YOU for supporting such a strong education in the arts for the students at our school district.

From the moment she started band camp in August, I could tell that my child was going to have a wonderful experience. Mr. McAwesome is one of the most energetic, dynamic, and just plain FUN teachers I've ever met. I have been involved with band programs since I myself was in fifth grade in the mid-eighties. I have to tell you that he had that ragtag bunch of fifth graders sounding the best I have ever heard a beginning band sound, and that was only after about 15 hours of instruction at band camp! I was so impressed by their holiday concert in December.

My child recently also had the privilege of being cast as Narrator Number Three in the fifth grade play, which recently brought the house down at the High School. I can't tell you what a valuable experience this was for her. At the beginning of the school year she had been understandably nervous about attending a new school, but as she became involved in this drama program, her fears dissipated. Surprisingly for my shy child, she agreed to audition for a speaking part. Throughout the process, Mr. Incredible, Ms. Outstanding, and Ms. Impressive worked tirelessly to give the kids a wonderful experience, and a place to belong. They crafted an amazing performance that brought the entire community together.

These educators and performance opportunities have changed my child FOREVER—in the best possible way. Not only did my child learn to play an instrument, dance, act, and sing; she learned so much more. Over the course of both band and drama rehearsals, she made new friends, and saw the fruits of the performers' hard work. In the process, she learned teamwork, discipline, problem solving, and creativity. She learned to effectively budget her time, and she learned personal responsibility.

As I'm sure you're aware, these are some of the most important things we can teach our children as they enter the 21st century workforce. According to Daniel Pink, "The era of 'left brain' dominance, and the Information Age that it engendered, is giving away to a new world in which 'right brain' qualities - inventiveness, empathy, and meaning predominate. That's what business is about today. This is a hard-headed argument that arts education is not ornamental but fundamental for economic reasons. We should be adding and not cutting the arts."

Besides these benefits, there are dozens of others! Among these: "Students who participate in school band or orchestra have the lowest levels of current and lifelong use of alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs among any group in our society." (H. Con. Res. 266, United States Senate, June 13, 2000) Who knew that the war on drugs might be won in our band rooms and on our stages?

I am aware of the growing interest in STEM education, and of the conference the district recently held on STEM. My husband holds a Ph.D. in engineering; as you might imagine, our household is fully supportive of all aspects of STEM. In light of my recent research into the subject, however, I would respectfully ask that you consider modifying STEM into STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, ARTS, and Math. As you know, arts education fosters creativity, which spurs innovation. Innovation is what creates new products and industries, which fuel the American economy. In addition, artists and designers humanize technology, which then makes it capable of changing the world. Consider the legacy of Steve Jobs, on whose invention I am now typing, and whose products very literally changed the world. One design class forever changed the way he looked at the world; the same will be true of our students.

As an administrator or school board member, you are in the unique position to craft, implement, and fund policies that encourage administrators and educators to improve the quality and delivery of instruction. Please support a strong arts education program based on national or state standards and let me know how I can further support this effort.

Thank you for all that you do on behalf of my child and the other students in the district. Please continue to support a strong arts education program and let me know how I can further support your efforts.

We chose to move into this area over ten years ago based on the strength of your music and arts programs. Thank you for confirming that we made the right decision.

Gratefully,

Kathleen Heuer

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