Above, Rory Pullens, executive director of the Arts Education Branch, presents a banner to Kim Bruno, Alejandro Herrera and Ken Martinez from Ramon C. Cortines Visual and Performing Arts High School.
By Rochelle Jefferson
Arts Education Branch
Showcasing its commitment to provide excellence in visual and performing arts, L.A. Unified will display banners at 162 schools where robust programs have earned them a high ranking on the District’s Arts Equity Index.
The top elementary, middle and high schools received their banners during Tuesday’s school board meeting, where principals and students spoke of the arts have enriched their lives.
“This has been a collaboration of community support,” said Leah Bass-Baylis, a former professional dancer who is principal of the Carlos Santana Arts Academy in North Hills.
“We must make sure that every student has access to arts education,” Bass-Baylis said. “Arts is not an extracurricular activity. It is its own discipline.”
Santana third-grader Zipporah Green said she was honored to be selected to speak about her school, named for the famed rock musician. “I am learning to play electric guitar and I like my art, singing, ballet and hip-hop dance classes, too!”
Miquel Huerta, a fifth grader, was very outspoken about what his classes mean to him, “I get to express myself,” he told the school board. “I play soccer, too, but I really love my art, music and guitar classes.
Eighth-grader Shaylin Bectin said she has been acting since she was 5, and that the Performing Arts Magnet at at Millikan Middle School allowed her to fulfill her dream.
“My school means everything to me,” Shaylin said, “I am in the musical theater program, and I have to keep my grades up in order to audition. I am playing a supporting role in our production of ‘Hairspray,’ and I will continue after Millikan to be creative in art, music and dance.”
Millikan Principal John Plevack credited one of his predecessors, Dr. Norman Isaacs, for creating a performing arts program more than 25 years ago at the Sherman Oaks campus.
“He rallied community support to create this wonderful space for young people to flourish,” Plevack said. “We are honored and pleased to have this distinction for our over 2,000 students.”
The Ramon C. Cortines Visual and Performing Arts High School, named for the recently retired superintendent, was recognized as the top high school on the Arts Equity Index.
Junior Alejandro Herrera drew emotional as he described his journey and what the campus known as Grand Arts means to him.
“My mom saw my talent and encouraged me to attend Grand Arts,” Alejandro said. “I had to keep my grades up in order to audition for plays and musicals. I was in the August Wilson play ‘Joe Turner’s Come and Gone,’ and it changed my life. It is an absolute honor to be a student actor … It makes me work toward my goals of getting good grades and excelling in visual and performing arts.”
Principal Ken Martinez and Executive Artistic Director Kim Bruno were equally proud to being recognized.
“We are a dual-mission high school, and our school is open to any student with no audition process,” Bruno said. “We want students to explore their possibilities in an academically rigorous and pre-conservatory arts program. This recognition is fantastic.”
Martinez was excited about the future of arts education in LAUSD.
“We have a passion for creating a bright future for our youth through the arts,” he said.
The Arts Equity Index measures student access to arts instruction using a filter of 12 factors. These include the school’s socioeconomic status, based on the number of foster youth and English-language learners; its existing arts programs; its arts partners; and professional development for arts teachers.