Former student ‘devastated’

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 22, 2010

It has come to my attention that the Andalusia School Board has elected to discontinue the Choral or Musical Drama Department at Andalusia High School for the upcoming 2010-2011 school year.

That is devastating news. As a graduate of AHS and a former resident of Andalusia, I know just how important the arts were to that community and my peers. We were so very fortunate to have had the cultural introduction to the arts that other smaller, rural towns did not have. I simply cannot envision AHS without their arts programs. That would be the equivalent of canceling the sports teams or marching band.

If you’re from the school years of 1984–1988, can you imagine what school would have been like without Paula Sue Duebelt’s annual theatrical production? Susan Kirkland’s “I Could Have Danced All Night,” Judd Wiggins’ professional piano playing abilities, and all the other “characters?” Those productions were such a part of who we were and made such a profound impact in our lives. To think that a student coming up will not even have the opportunity to experience that is a horrible disservice. Andalusia is still a small, rural, community striving to keep up in the world and it’s the arts of the community that keep us in tune.

Other statistics show that:

“Young people who participate in the arts for at least three hours on three days each week through at least one full year are:

• four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement.

• three times more likely to be elected to class office within their schools.

• four times more likely to participate in a math and science fair.

• three times more likely to win an award for school attendance.

• four times more likely to win an award for writing an essay or poem.

Young artists, as compared with their peers, are likely to:

Attend music, art, and dance classes nearly three times as frequently

Participate in youth groups nearly four times as frequently

Read for pleasure nearly twice as often

Perform community service more than four times as often”

(“Living the Arts through Language + Learning: A Report on Community-based Youth Organizations,” Shirley Brice Heath, Stanford University and Carnegie Foundation For the Advancement of Teaching, Americans for the Arts Monograph, November 1998)

Please reconsider this decision. I truly believe that if the community as a whole learns that our arts programs are in jeopardy, there will be a tremendous amount of support and hopefully another solution can be devised.

Very respectfully submitted,

Kathryn Carty Chodkiewicz, Mobile

AHS Class of 1988