Orange County educates the second largest K-12 student population in California, with a public school enrollment of 500,000 students in 2010-2011 . Orange County,the fifth most populated county in the U.S., has more students than 21 other states.
The Orange County Department of Education (OCDE) arts program, led by Jim Thomas, Coordinator for Visual and Performing Arts, is a central resource for K-12 arts education in the county. Currently, sixteen districts have Arts Advantage strategic plans that is coordinated by OCDE. In association with The California Arts Project, Arts Advantage training is being provided to elementary teachers in dance, music, theatre, and visual arts.
Research indicates that the arts benefit students in many ways:
- Involvement in the arts promotes academic success.
- Learning in the arts helps students develop a sense that they can be agents of their own learning and that they can make a positive change in their own lives and in their surroundings.
- Improved student behavior and attendance rates are attributed to schools’ arts programs.
- The arts reach students who are not otherwise being reached.
- The arts promote complexity in the learning experience.
The Arts Advantage education initiative, established in 2006, is a county-wide, coordinated effort to bring arts education to all Orange County students. Through the development of strategic plans and district policies, Arts Advantage is designed to engage Orange County school districts in coordinated implementation of arts education based upon strategic long-range plans. Local stakeholders, including administrators, teachers, parents, and business leaders, are included in this systemic process of ongoing improvement to establish or expand current arts education programs. Arts Advantage is intended to address learning in each arts discipline: visual arts, theatre, dance, and music. The goal is to provide equitable access to the arts for every student in Orange County. (compiled from several documents from the OCDE)
I am honored to hve been invited to meet with the Orange County Music & Arts Association (OCMMA) meetings, off and on for the past three years. I have great respect for Jim Thomas and all the members (teachers, heads of non-profits arts organizations) who have and continue to serve our students.
Jim Thomas is a tireless and creative leader who also serves on several boards including Arts Orange County and the California Alliance for Arts Education (CAAE). Jim has presented many professional development in-services, institutes, workshops and conferences. He is currently chair of the Orange County Music and Arts Administrators (OCMAA), an alliance of school districts and community arts providers. He has a K-8 teaching background including self-contained classroom, performing arts specialist and program manager for a magnet arts school. He is a former director of The California Arts Project. Jim was a co-author of the California Visual and Performing Arts Framework and Content Standards.