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Consider the arts

At the July 11 USD 410 Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Steve Noble asked board members to think about how charitable donations could best serve the district and its students.

USD 410 has an independent fund in the Hillsboro Community Foundation, which invests charitable donations to produce long-term benefits. The foundation has encouraged the district to establish funds that would allow benefactors to give to specific areas. Noble gave examples including early-childhood education, activities and athletics, fine arts, and technology.

All of those are worthy causes and appropriate for the mission of a school. But fine arts is the one closest to my heart. That isn’t because I spent a lot of time with the arts in school. I didn’t. I played trombone in band for five years, and that’s about it. I’m no singer, and my 4-year-old niece may be better at drawing than I am.

Since starting this job in fall 2008, I have been consistently impressed by the talent of the students and quality of the program in Hillsboro High School’s fine arts departments. One of the earliest stories I wrote was a preview of the musical, “Annie Get Your Gun.” It was a great show, led by a pair of seniors, but as seniors have graduated, new stars have stepped up. Likewise, I have been impressed by spring plays, the choirs, band, and art students at every turn.

Fine arts are good candidates for charitable contributions because they are often targeted when budgets have to be cut. Earlier this year, Gov. Sam Brownback cut all state funding for the Kansas Arts Commission.

In April 2010, USD 410 Board of Education approved a $3,100 cut that would have resulted in the school having either a musical or a play each year, but not both. The funding was later reinstated when the school’s financial picture improved, but with the continued decline in enrollment and reduced state aid, the district’s finances don’t appear to be getting better.

Another reason fine arts are good candidates for charity is because of the direct benefit donations can have. A donation could make a band instrument available to a student who otherwise couldn’t afford one, pay for transportation for a choir to sing at a distant festival, buy art supplies, or pay royalties to produce a popular play or musical.

The arts are far from the only issue that needs attention, but I hope board members and — just as importantly — people with the means to give pay them some attention.

— Adam Stewart

Last modified July 21, 2011

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