The Guilford County Board of Education is receiving national recognition from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. The 30th annual Kennedy Center and National School Boards Association award honors just one school board per year, and comes with check for $10,000.

Guilford County was recognized for allocating a significant portion of the district budget to the arts even in a challenging economic environment. The national review panel also commended the board for extensive work evaluating the impact of its arts programs, and expanding professional development opportunities.

Guilford County Schools (GCS) Fine Arts Director Nathan Street says artistic endeavors engage students in unique and lasting ways.

“When kids get involved in the arts, something that's bigger than themselves, it can teach all of these what are sometimes called—and I think inappropriately so— ‘soft skills,'” says Street. “Things like creativity, discipline, drive, determination, sensitivity, and being able to see the world holistically and not just granularly; those are things that our students learn in an arts classroom that they may not necessarily get in other places. But it's what a lot of your big businesses are looking for as major skills: emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills. That's what you learn in an arts classroom.”  

Since 2008, arts enrollment at GCS has grown by more than 10% across a variety of education programs including visual arts, music, theater, dance and media arts. Street credits a strong community network of governmental, nongovernmental, for-profit and not-for-profit organizations for much of that growth.

“We have a wide variety of 58 school partnerships with community organizations which is very rare for school districts when you're talking about business or marketing models,” says Street. “Those partnerships affect 140,000 students per year and to the tune of $500,000 dollars per year in in-kind services—grants [and] materials. So, we have to give a shout out to all those excellent folks in Greensboro and High Point who have really stepped up and helped us get to where we are.”  

The award honors 2017 school board members Alan Duncan, Byron Gladden, Darlene Garrett, Wes Cashwell, T. Dianne Bellamy-Small, Deena Hayes-Greene, Pat Tillman, Anita Sharpe, and Linda Welborn. Street says the award's $10,000 prize will go toward arts education.





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