NC Arts Council | Art Matters

Fall 2016

From the Director

Happy New School Year! Whether you are year-round or have just returned to the classroom, I hope the beginning of the 2016–17 school year is off to a creative start! This fall, both in North Carolina and across the nation, the conversation about the value of the arts in education is strengthening. At the ArtsR4Life Conference, hosted by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction on Sept. 10, I heard Dr. Anthony Jackson, Superintendent of Vance County Schools, speak about providing equity and access to arts opportunities for all students.

"It's not a money issue, it's a priorities issue," he said. With more and more research in support of a comprehensive arts education, and more local and national voices sharing their support for arts in education, our time to reconsider our priorities is now. Moving into the next 20 years of A+ Schools, we are reflecting on our priorities and brainstorming new ways to support our A+ leaders, educators, schools and network while also working outside the A+ Network to help non-A+ leaders, educators, schools and policymakers to value the importance of a well-rounded education that includes the arts.

We hope that you are continuing this conversation in your schools, with your staff and students, with your PTA/PTSA and across your district and community. Now more than ever, your voice, and the voices of your students, need to be heard. We hope you will find the time in your busy educator/administrator lives to not only walk the walk of an A+ school, but to also talk the talk. Developing common language around the impact of A+ practice is crucial, and sharing your A+ voices with your parents, district, school board, community and media helps move A+ forward. With three new A+ schools in N.C. this year, we are now 53 schools strong. And it is your work that is helping to shape and transform the way school is done in N.C.

Keep up the great work, continue to consider how you are prioritizing, share your wonderful stories and experiences, and let your A+ voice be heard!

Michelle Burrows
Director, A+ Schools Program


This summer Louisiana experienced massive and catastrophic flooding, and the clean-up has only just begun. Bethany France, Director of the Louisiana A+ Schools Program, reports that nine of their 18 A+ schools have been devastated. In North Carolina, we want to help. Most schools have completely lost classroom and school libraries, with thousands of books destroyed by flood waters. In addition, classrooms and arts rooms have been decimated, and these educators are in need of supplies and materials for continuing their work in integrating the arts, including visual art supplies, props for drama and dance, and instruments. We are inviting all of our N.C. A+ schools, educators, administrators and communities to offer their support to our LAA+ family by sending books and/or arts supplies (or monetary donations made out to Louisiana A+ Schools) for the nine schools in need. Donations should be sent to:

LAA+ Schools
9943 Judi Avenue
Baton Rouge, LA 70815

LAA+ will receive all donations and disseminate the materials directly to the neediest schools, many of which are just re-opening this week in alternate locations. Please make sure that you include a note in anything you send that identifies you/your school as the donor and as a member of the N.C. A+ Network. We thank you in advance for your support! If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.

This NPR article describes how the floods have affected Louisiana schools.


Summer 2016 capped our year of celebrating 20 years of the A+ Schools Program, and what a creative, productive and transformative summer it was! In addition to welcoming five new schools into the A+ Network, we also provided professional development to 25 additional A+ schools at eight different conferences, reaching more than 900 educators who will impact thousands of students across North Carolina and beyond.

Welcome to our new schools who completed their first A+ Institute:

  • Hickory Career and Arts Magnet High School in Hickory, N.C. (Catawba County)
  • Scotts Elementary School in Statesville, N.C. (Iredell County)
  • Yadkinville Elementary School in Yadkinville, N.C. (Yadkin County)
  • Dean P. Corey Academy of Fine Arts and Dual Language in Arlington, Texas
  • Jimmy and Laura Jones Academy of Fine Arts and Dual Language in Arlington, Texas

Here's a glimpse of the work (and fun!) that happened at our A+ conferences this summer:


We hope you all have a wonderful school year and remember the A+ Schools Program is here to support you. If your A+ school was unable to attend a 2016 summer conference, we are scheduling FREE A+ PD for the current school year. For more information, see the "Professional Development Opportunities" article below or contact Jennifer Huggins, Program Coordinator, at or (919) 807-6520.


The annual Statewide A+ Leadership Meeting will be held Thursday, Oct. 13, at McKimmon Center in Raleigh, N.C., from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. We hope to have representation from every A+ school as we discuss important Network and DPI updates, provide leadership development and resources for school administration, share ideas and best practices among schools, mentor new principals, and maintain schools' focus on arts integration and the A+ Schools Program. Each school is invited to send the principal and up to two A+ Coordinators (feel free to send alternates should the principal and/or coordinator be unable to attend).

In conjunction with the A+ Leadership Meeting, we will offer our New Teacher Training (same location, same timing). This session will offer new A+ teachers an overview of the A+ Essentials, A+ philosophy and arts-integration strategies. Each school may send up to four teachers. Only teachers who have never attended an A+ workshop or conference should attend. There is a limit of 75 new teachers, and registration is on a first come, first served basis.

Lunch will be provided to all attendees. Overnight accommodations and substitute reimbursement are also available. Details will be sent to each principal and A+ Coordinator via email. Online registration is now open: If you have any questions about the Leadership Meeting or New Teacher Training, please contact Jennifer Huggins, Program Coordinator, at or (919) 807-6520.


The A+ Schools Program is not only committed to whole-school reform and supporting our network of more than 50 schools statewide, we also provide resources to many education partners in an effort to increase the impact and awareness of arts-integration in schools and organizations outside of our network.

An ongoing partnership between the A+ Schools Program and Davie County Schools has proven how transformative teaching through the arts can be. For the past three summers, Davie County reading teachers have attended A+ professional development to prepare for their summer reading camp with students who need additional help to succeed in school. Noël Grady-Smith, Executive Director of Curriculum and Leadership Development for Davie County Schools, was instrumental in forming the partnership with A+. She wanted to bring successful, researched-based teaching strategies to her teachers in hopes of seeing growth and improvement in students' work.

According to data reports, more than 65-percent of Davie County 1st and 2nd graders who participated in the reading camp last summer showed improvements and surpassed their initial scores on formative assessments. Third graders involved in the camp surpassed county expectations with 76-percent improving their scores.

"The careful application of arts-integrated learning strategies that are continually updated and retooled with A+ Schools professional development...have proven to be solid solutions. Students are challenged and provided hands-on engagement with the processes of learning to read and write," Grady-Smith reports.

Informal performances and "sharings" involving music, dance and drama have been an integral part of the reading camps as a result of the A+ professional development. "The students often begged to perform for their peers which was another indication of their growing self-confidence. The sharings ranked among the highlights of the camp experience," Grady-Smith added.

In addition to the partnership with Davie County Schools, A+ currently facilitates two arts-integration conferences each year for teachers attending sessions at the N.C. Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT) in Cullowhee and Ocracoke.

Director Michelle Burrows and a team of A+ Fellows were also responsible for developing curriculum and lesson plans for two pilot programs in North Carolina: African American Music Trails of Eastern North Carolina (Jones County) in partnership with the N.C. African American Heritage Commission and the N.C. Arts Council and the Kinetic Connections project (Wilson County) in partnership with the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park. A+ also works closely with the N.C. Museum of Art, N.C. Department of Public Instruction and N.C. colleges and universities to provide arts-integrated workshops and experiences to K-12 and pre-service educators across the state as part of our commitment to support the Comprehensive Arts Education Plan in N.C.

Professional Development Opportunities for 2016-17

Thanks to recent legislative funding for the A+ Schools Program, this fall we are able to offer FREE professional development to veteran A+ schools (those schools beyond their first three years of implementation) who were unable to attend an A+ summer conference and did not receive free PD during the 2015–16 school year. Each free A+ PD is uniquely designed for your staff and will take into consideration your current needs and challenges around A+ implementation. If you would like to schedule a half-day PD for your staff, please check your 2016–17 calendars for potential PD dates and contact Jennifer Huggins, Program Coordinator, at or (919) 807-6520 to begin the planning.

A+ Spotlight


A+ Fellows are the skilled practitioners who facilitate professional development for A+ schools and other A+ partners during our summer conferences and throughout the year. A+ Fellows are classroom teachers, administrators, professional artists and teaching artists – and all are experts in their fields. Meet one of our extraordinary Fellows, September Krueger!

September is a fiber artist and printmaker from Wilmington, N.C. Her creative energy was invested for many years in a wearable art studio producing a line of women's silkscreened clothing. In 2007, she entered the M.F.A. program at East Carolina University to pursue a teaching career, and she is currently the art instructor for Southeastern Community College in Whiteville. September has provided fiber residencies in elementary and middle schools with a focus on culture and history, as well as public workshops in batik and silk painting. She recently completed a two-week residency at Bugg Creative Arts and Science A+ Magnet Elementary in Wake County.

During the 2015–16 school year, September was one of three A+ Fellows selected to collaborate with the N.C. African American Heritage Commission to design lesson plans for a pilot project for 4th and 8th graders in Jones County centered on the African American Music Trails of Eastern North Carolina. September also presented at a recent "Full STEAM Ahead" arts-integration conference at the Cameron Art Museum in Wilmington.

This summer September facilitated at the A+ conferences in Raleigh and New Bern. She was impressed by the focused work of each school and educator in attendance that resulted in productive, collaborative planning.

"In Raleigh, I watched teachers from Creedmoor Elementary use the design process to create a great series of unit themes for their school year by creating original logos. You could see really how their logo designs would get their students excited about what they were going to learn," she said.

When asked how her work with A+ has impacted her professional growth as an artist and educator, September shared, "I am constantly learning from our network of Fellows, especially with regard to brain research. I love the collaborative process that takes place for the summer conferences, which does not often happen with instructors at my school." September currently serves on the A+ Fellows Advisory Team, a committee of five Fellows that helps to guide A+ processes, practices and policies as we continue to grow as an organization. She has been an integral part of the A+ Schools Program as a Fellow since 2012.


Collaboration, integration and engagement... Amanda Gordon's classroom is teeming with all of these A+ values! Amanda is the visual arts teacher and A+ Coordinator at Diggs-Latham Elementary School in Winston-Salem, and she was named 2016 Gerry D. Howell A+ Educator of the Year in May. The award recognizes an A+ educator who best exemplifies the values of the A+ Schools Program and its philosophies.

During her 12 years at Diggs-Latham, Amanda has strived to integrate all subjects into her visual arts classes, collaborate within her school and the community, and keep her staff connected and engaged with A+. One example of her collaborative success can be seen in her leadership role for her school's Black History Month Celebration – one of the school's largest events of the year. This year, Amanda's 4th and 5th grade students collaborated on a Kwanzaa mural, and she also assisted 1st graders in writing a spoken word piece with hand drumming. She was instrumental in organizing the culminating event that included school board members and local college faculty in a student-led assembly. Amanda's reach goes well beyond the walls of her art room (and beyond her arts standards).

In addition to her great work in the classroom and the community, Amanda provides valuable support and resources for her fellow staff members to deepen arts integration in all classrooms. She created an A+ blog with useful links, photo galleries and ideas for arts integration: Amanda's commitment to arts-integration and collaboration is reflected in her students' work and her entire school community. Congratulations to Amanda for being named A+ Educator of the Year – we are proud of her dedication to education and enthusiasm for A+!


Justin Carver, principal at Cranberry Middle School in Avery County, has always loved music. His iPod playlist is an eclectic Who's Who of music icons past and present and across genres. Growing up, Justin was involved in band and drama, and to this day he still loves to break out some impressive dance moves when the mood strikes! Justin's passion for the arts was integral in his approach to teaching and education. Early in his career as an elementary school teacher, he naturally incorporated music, movement and visual arts into his lessons to engage his students. "As a teacher I found that interactive lessons where we would dance and sing were the days I left feeling the most satisfied because of my personal passions," Justin shared. As an administrator—first as assistant principal at Avery Middle (also an A+ school) and now as principal at Cranberry Middle—Justin claims, "I find that my strength is truly in supporting my arts teachers, as well as finding the many ways to integrate with my core teachers."

In August, Justin and his staff hosted the largest A+ conference of the summer where more than 200 educators from seven different A+ schools participated in professional development. The excitement and energy was apparent throughout the building and in each staff member at CMS. When asked how A+ has impacted his school, Justin replied, "A+ is an essential part of everything we do here at CMS. We may not have the biggest arts program or dance class, but as a small school we find other ways to expose our students to true arts integration."

Justin recalled his first A+ meeting in the western part of the state several years ago: "We visited (A+ school) Saluda Elementary. I can remember that day because of the principal's vision and passion for learning and for the arts. I want to embody that for my staff and students."