Friday, July 17, 2009

Education Leaders Institute Update

The six-person Maine team—one of five from around the country--at the NEA’s Education Leaders Institute in Chicago recently were lucky to have been assigned Chike Nwoffiah, artist and Executive Director of the Oriki Theater in California, as a coach for our project design work in arts education. In his plenary presentation, Chike challenged the institute’s participants to work more creatively with the constraint of limited funding—particularly during the current economic recession. “Money is not the problem,” Chike stated adamantly. “There is never enough money for education, yet there is always plenty of money for the prisons that are needed when our education systems fail.” One of Chike’s points was that, in the design of our arts and education projects, we must clearly, consistently, and loudly employ our arts, stories, and statistics to show the relevance of these projects to the issues which dominate our community conversations and decision-making: local economies; opportunity generation; and the sociocultural problems which arise—crime, drug use, teen pregnancy, etc.—when we don’t succeed in moving a more creative agenda forward. The Maine team returns to the state with the broad outlines of a long-term, step-by-step plan to radically improve Maine’s public education system, promoting creativity, imagination, and innovation in both the learning process and content. Planning meetings will continue July 30: ELI team meeting at the Maine Arts Commission offices, and September 17: Expanded statewide design team meeting.

Also, Sue Gendron will be on a retreat with the State Planning Board in August, at which she will be discussing the issues of teacher prep and accreditation related to these plans.

We will keep you informed on the progress of the Maine team.

Submitted by Linda Nelson who is a Maine Arts Commission member and one of Maine's ELI team members.

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