01/07/08 — Officials hope to create new arts program

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Officials hope to create new arts program

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on January 7, 2008 2:06 PM

A few Goldsboro city employees have an idea -- they want to extend their hands into the educational spectrum, but they don't want to teach children the same reading and writing they learn every day in school.

Instead, they want to set up a program, that could later turn into its own school, to teach them to learn and experience fine arts.

The idea stemmed from a conference that City Manager Joe Huffman and Assistant City Manager Tasha Logan attended in Pittsburgh, where they heard Daniel Pink, the author of the bestseller "A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future", talk about the importance of right-brain thinkers.

Right-brain thinkers are those who think more randomly and intuitively, while left-brainers have more logical and analytical thought processes.

"This guy talked about how people need to use both their left and right brain," Huffman said. "He said there are people out there who are only using the left side of their brain, but to be successful, people need to be able to think with the right side of their brain. They need to be able to think outside of the box."

He and Ms. Logan started doing just that.

But first, they needed a few more on board to help them think.

So, they invited Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. Director Julie Thompson and Parks and Recreation Director Sonya Shaw to help brainstorm.

"I wanted to surround myself with people who get things done," Huffman said. "Tasha is one of those people who gets things done, and Julie is getting a lot done with downtown. Then I thought about Sonya -- she is known for getting things done in Chapel Hill."

The No. 1 priority of the group was to think of an addition to the city that would enhance the entirety of Goldsboro.

"We started to think about Goldsboro, and we started to think about making Goldsboro better," Huffman said. "We wanted to make Goldsboro different. We didn't want to do something that every other town in the world does. We wanted something that would make us unique."

And Huffman didn't want to do things second best. He wants Goldsboro to be second to none.

"Why can't we be the best?," he asked. "We already have the best city hall. We thought, 'OK, we have all of our other projects, and we are bringing the downtown up, but what are our weaknesses?' And then we thought about our school system and getting that to where it needs to be."

To attract new people to the area, those looking at Goldsboro need to know that their children will have a safe place to go to school and that they will have a high standard of education.

And so, the foursome came up with the thought of adding the Goldsboro Academy of Fine Arts to the school lineup.

Huffman, Ms. Logan, Mrs. Thompson and Mrs. Shaw hope to bring music, art, performing arts and computer-based visual design to the academy and, in turn, to the youths of the community.

But the academy won't start out as a 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. activity.

What the city officials would like to do is start with a summer program, then extend the program to an after-school project and go from there.

Huffman asked the group to create a loose outline of preliminary thoughts of what could be taught and for how long.

As an example, he started with the music curriculum where, on Mondays and Wed-nesdays, students would have an introduction to music theory for a half hour, a 15-minute break and then piano instruction for an hour and 15 minutes.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, he would like the students to have two, one-hour classes -- an introduction to musical artists and variations from classical to contemporary then have a sight reading class where the children can learn to read notes.

Fridays will be aimed toward the performance aspect of music, whether it be a performance by the students or if they attend a concert or musical event.

"Now some people may think that some of these classes are stupid, but that's OK," he said. "We've got to find our way, and I believe the only way to do that is through shared information. We all have to combine our thoughts and work together."

If the programs are successful, Huffman said, the city might look into partnering with public or private schools, or both, or developing them into a charter school.

At this point in time though, the idea is conceptual.

Nothing is set in stone yet.

"We wanted to really think through this and make sure we are making the right moves instead of deciding on one thing and having to back peddle," Huffman said. "We are looking at all of the options right now."

They are unsure about where or how exactly the programs will work or what age group the school will target.

Huffman said they might hold the programs at the schools, somewhere downtown or at a city facility. The program might be set up for children starting in either fourth grade or seventh grade, he added -- two years before middle school or two years before high school.

But the group is sure of one thing -- this idea is a good one.

"Our first goal was to improve the quality of life in Goldsboro. Then we started thinking about how to do that, and we thought that we needed to attract more people to Goldsboro," Huffman said. "To do that, we need to have an all-around school system for the kids, but then we turned it around and realized that the kids are our goal. We want our youths more educated than everybody else.

"They are the ones that are important. They are the ones that need to be educated because they will run our city some day."