Posted: May 20, 2014 1:52 PM by Russell Jones
WASHINGTON, D.C. - An elementary school in St. Helena Parish was one of three selected to take part in a nationwide program using art to turn around troubled schools.
The St. Helena Arts and Technology Academy was selected along with two schools in New Orleans and Homer to receive art supplies, musical instruments, and specialized teacher training from the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts. The supplies and training will be paid for through $17 million provided by public-private partnerships between groups like the GRFA and the Department of Education.
St. Helena Parish schools have been fighting neglect and crumbling facilities for years, and has been at the bottom of state education rankings. A millage passed by the parish in 2012 provided money for the district to renovate their ailing elementary and high school buildings. A federal judge's order this past April cleared the way for the school district to assume control of the parish middle school from the Recovery School District.
The Turnaround Arts initiative was started in 2012 by the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanitites, and is now expanding to 35 schools including the three in Louisiana. First Lady Michelle Obama said at the announcement today that schools taking part in the initiative have already seen boosts to math and reading scores, better attendance, increased parent engagement, and "plummeting" suspension rates.
A number of artists and entertainers were recruited by the White House to take part in the expanded initiative, including Alfre Woodard and Trombone Shorty who will work directly with students at the Louisiana Turnaround schools.