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Florence 1 Schools announces multi-million dollar investment in the arts

At the Oct. 18 Board of Trustees meeting, Florence 1 Schools announced a multi-million dollar investment in arts education. Superintendent Dr. Richard O’Malley said that over the next year, $3 million dollars will be spent to improve current programs across the district and implement additional programming.

“Over the past several weeks I have been visiting schools, observing programs and meeting with arts teachers,” O’Malley said. “I have heard their concerns. Our programs are underfunded and they are also understaffed. For example, there is only one art teacher at Wilson High School and one at West Florence High School; that is two teachers for almost 3,000 students. Our district also has many band instruments that are beyond repair and have not been replaced in more than 30 years.”

This investment in the arts provides opportunities for all Florence 1 students.

For the past five years, the school district has been named a Best Community for Music Education by the NAMM Foundation. Two schools in the district, Southside Middle School and South Florence High School, are Arts in Basic Curriculum (ABC) Schools. Those two schools apply for grants from the South Carolina Arts Commission to be used in their arts programs.

“Education and engagement in the fine arts are an essential part of the school curriculum and an important component of the educational program of every student in Florence 1 Schools,” O’Malley said.

In order for students to benefit from the arts, they must have the proper equipment, supplies and staff available to them.

“Many teachers have no supplies or buy them out of their own pocket,” O’Malley said. “Music teachers lack the sound equipment necessary for their classes and the performances they hold.”

Why the arts matter

Exposure to the arts is an essential component of human growth. They expand a student’s understanding of the world around them and create environments of experiential learning and discovery. Through the arts, students have healthy avenues of self-expression and are exposed to cultures other than their own while growing their self-esteem and becoming independent thinkers. Investment in the arts has also shown to provide benefits in other areas.

  • A study published by Nature Neuroscience reported that standardized test scores are higher for students in high quality music education programs, regardless of their community’s socioeconomic level.
  • A report from researcher James Catterall, which tracked students for several years and followed up with them into adulthood, showed that low-income students who are highly engaged in the arts are more likely than their peers with low arts involvement to have obtained gainful employment, completed college, and volunteered in their communities.

Over the next year, money will be spent in these six areas:

  • Facilities
  • Instruments
  • Supplies and Furniture
  • Personnel
  • Curriculum and Programs
  • Other Supports

The money will go toward renovating and updating all three high school auditoriums, purchasing supplies and furniture, and, replacing instruments and classroom furniture. New courses will be added in graphic arts and music, including AP courses. Money will also be allocated to provide supplements for band directors and pay for regional and national competitions. (See attached document for a break-down)

Florence One Schools Plans to Invest over $3 Million Towards the Arts Over the Next Year

Florence One Schools Plans to Invest over $3 Million towards the Arts over the Next Year

  • Facilities - Each High School Auditorium to be updated and renovated $1.3 million
  • Instruments - Replace and purchase new instruments for middle and high schools $450,000
  • Supplies and Furniture - Easels, tables, chairs, supplies $450,000
  • Personnel - 1- New teachers $400,000
  • Curriculum and Programs - Adding programs and courses in graphic arts and additional AP Art History, Music Theory, Studio Art Design 2D and 3D
  • Other Supports - Technology, more state, regional and national competitions, increase supplements, smart music $250,000

See a story about the investment in the Morning News:

See WBTW's story: