President's Corner

Bringing the Arts Front and Center

by Sarah D. Jerome

The arts are an integral part of our learning and growing process. Through the arts we learn about other people and cultures. We learn to look at themes, ideas and perspectives in new and different ways. We also learn to work with others, for collaboration is often one of the distinguishing characteristics of working in the arts.

Many superintendents who champion the arts feel as I do — that arts education is a vital component of the education of every child. Arts education advocates within our schools as well as arts leaders from cultural organizations in communities across the country are encouraged by the ideas of such thoughtful leaders as Daniel Pink, Sir Ken Robinson, Paul Houston, Fran Rauscher and Janet Barrett who value arts education as essential to tapping into and nurturing creativity and innovation in our students. In fact, these education leaders and researchers see creativity as an essential element for preparing students for 21st century living.

I’m delighted that AASA has joined forces with Americans for the Arts, the nation’s leading organization for advancing the arts and arts education, in an exciting new partnership. In October, Paul Houston presented a white paper, “Creating a Whole New World: Placing Arts and Education in the Center of the Flat Earth,” at the Americans for the Arts National Arts Policy Roundtable. The theme of this gathering was Thinking Creatively and Competing Globally: The Role of the Arts in Building the 21st Century American Workforce, and it was co-sponsored by Robert Redford’s Sundance Preserve.

This spring, AASA, Americans for the Arts and The Conference Board will be releasing a report based on a joint survey of business leaders and superintendents regarding their views about creativity and education. In addition, AASA will begin working with Americans for the Arts to identify a group of superintendents who are interested in arts education and who are willing to serve as a sounding board for both organizations. We anticipate having approximately 20 superintendents meet by conference calls and e-mails to help us preserve the arts as an important part of education and, indeed, of society.

Please let Kathi Levin (klevin@aasa.org), AASA director of governance, know if you are interested in being a part of this group. Together, we can ensure the arts remain an integral part of our children’s education. For some, it’s the best and only way they can express who they truly are.

Hero Profile: J. D. Jerome
J. D. Jerome (1899-1992) was an educator in the 1930s. He truly loved his job and shared his enthusiasm with everyone around him. He began every faculty meeting with singing and he closed every school day with song.

Not only was he a gifted singer who shared his talent with his staff and students, he and his brothers formed the Jerome Brothers Quartet and graced most weddings, funerals and family gatherings in rural North Carolina with four-part harmony. These harmonies are tapes replayed in my memories and have given me much joy and sustenance as an arts advocate and enthusiastic supporter for arts education as an essential life skill.

Thank you, Dad, for instilling in me the importance of the arts and for filling my life with song.

Sarah Jerome is AASA president in 2007–08. E-mail: jerome@ahsd25.k12.il.us