Big student rally and performances in Lafayette Sunday to protect arts and elective programs in Walnut Creek and Lamorinda high schools
My sixth-grade son recently said he was looking forward to going to school at Las Lomas, because he had heard there would be a creative writing class there. But that class might not be there when he gets to Las Lomas. It might not be there next year. The teacher says the class will get cut if the Measure A parcel tax does not pass.
Measure A is an emergency $112-per-parcel tax for property owners in the Acalanes Union High School District, which includes Las Lomas High in Walnut Creek. The district has had to cut its budget by $8 million over the past three years and is looking to eliminate more than 50 teaching positions. Those cuts will mean the loss of science, foreign language, English, social studies, arts and mathematics classes. They could also mean the loss of seventh period. The district has already decided to close Del Oro, its well-regarded alternative high schol.
Measure A, if approved via a mail-in ballot due May 4, will bring in about $4 million to the district each year. This parcel tax would sunset in five years and be paid in addition to the current $189 parcel tax, which voters extended indefinitely in November.
Students from throughout the district performed music, drama skits, and public speaking at a rally in Lafayette's Downtown Plaza. One of those students was Emily Shearer, a senior at Acalanes High who is a member of the school's award-winning Mock Trial team. She spoke about how participating in mock trial, the environmental club, and Science Bowl have taught her team work, critical thinking, public speaking, and leadership.She adds her accomplishments in these extracurricular programs gave her an edge when she applied for college--her experiences won her admittance to top universities.
John Stockton, in an e-mail to parents, wrote about the value of performing arts classes. He said they are often taken for granted but that they provide numerous benefits to students:
--Student overall academic achievement improves by participation in performing arts programs.
--Dedicated adult role models and peer support provide a positive emotional growth environment for students.
--Time management and teamwork qualities are promoted and enhance the development of the total student.
--Studies show a correlation between development of artistic skills and success in core academic areas such as math.
As the advanced boys and girls choral groups from Campolindo High school performaned Glee TV show-quality numbers, I thought of what my son and other kids would lose if they couldn't do this sort of music class or drama or studio art.
I also thought of what he would get out of a creative writing class that he wouldn't get out of a regular English class. Not surprisingly, I'm a fan of creative writing classes, and I think they are helpful to avowed non-writers, people who don't see themselves as aspiring Stephen Kings or Sylvia Plaths. The thing is, even non-writers, willl have to be able to write at various points in their lives--college essays, business memos and proposals where they have to communicate their ideas.
The teacher told me how her creative writing class allows students to express themselves in ways they don't get to do in a regular English class, where they are usually locked into writing persuasive essays in that tightly controlled structure.In creative writing, these students get to express themselves, through stories, poems, and free writing.
I've seen how this kind of self-expression can free up kids--and adults--to play, experiment, and find their own voice. It can help people become comfortable with writing, and the more people become comfortable with writing, and free up their own voice, the easier it becomes for them to articulate their ideas.