(Excerpt from grant proposal submitted to the District of Columbia Public Charter School Board, which was awarded over $200,000 in start-up funding.)
Brief organizational history and descriptions of previous year’s accomplishments:
ALTA, the Academy for Learning Through the Arts, was incorporated this fall as a 501 ( c ) 3 in the District of Columbia, and has applied for its Internal Revenue Service tax exempt status. ALTA founding group originator and nationally-known educator Patricia Mitchell last year began working with others to create an academically strong, arts-based school for young DC students. The founders, together with their broad, community-based advisory group, represent a variety of stakeholders committed to improving educational choice in the city. After preparing and submitting its proposal in June of this year, ALTA received first-stage clearance from the District of Columbia Public Charter School Board to open as a pre-K-8 school in September of 2005, and anticipates receiving final clearance in December.
The 30-year experience of Fillmore Arts Center, recipient of national and local awards for arts education, showed that direct arts instruction infused with academic content works to engage even disaffected students. The school the founders envisioned, based in part on the Fillmore model, would be open to any interested DC student regardless of current academic or artistic skill level. Founders began planning processes to develop a community support base for ALTA and to create the school’s arts-integrated academic design. They capitalized on Fillmore’s long-standing relationships with organizational and individual members of DC’s cultural, educational, and philanthropic communities.
Conversations and meetings with representatives of parent, cultural, educator, children’s advocate, city government, business, legal and philanthropic groups from around the city convinced founders that extensive support for ALTA existed within the community. These talks provided valuable ideas and sparked initiatives that have been integrated into plans for the school’s operation, academic design, and structure, and generated candidates for ALTA’s Board of Directors. Through a initiative supported by the Friends of Fillmore (a non-profit corporation organized to support Fillmore Arts Center) and funded in part by the Cafritz Foundation, founders further developed ideas for creating an arts-based school.
Currently, the ALTA Board of Directors is being constituted, potential building sites are being evaluated, and potential staff are being identified and recruited. Program structures, school policies and schedules, and marketing and fundraising strategies are also currently being developed.
Planning will continue through the spring/summer of 2005, with ongoing input from parents, teachers, curriculum specialists, businesspeople, community leaders and evaluation consultants to refine ALTA’s outreach strategies, plan of operations and educational design. Teachers, project coordinators and related arts staff will be assembled this summer for staff development, and will begin work to meld DC content standards and arts curriculum standards into a cohesive, integrated curriculum. Professional development is being offered at no cost by the Kennedy Center’s Changing Education Through the Arts (CETA) program.