Academy of the Arts in Jackson to enroll first students in 2017

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By Michael Benavides
Staff Writer

JACKSON – Beginning in September 2017, students in the Jackson School District will have an opportunity to enroll in a new specialized academy.

The Academy of the Arts will join the roster of academies which already consists of the Air Force Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps, the Digital Media Academy, the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Academy, and the Jackson Academy of Business.

Allison Erwin, the coordinator of communications and technology for the school district, said the new academy will offer instruction at Jackson’s two high schools.

“The academy will run out of Jackson Memorial High School and Jackson Liberty High School,” she said. “Students from both schools will have the same opportunities within the academy. This is the same for our other academies as well.”

Erwin said the Academy of the Arts will only enroll incoming freshmen when it opens in the 2017-18 school year.

“We will phase in the academy classes the same way we did with our other academies,” she said. “In the first year, the academy will only be open to incoming freshmen. In 2018-19, it will again be open to incoming freshmen and the students who were freshmen in 2017-18 will advance to become sophomores within the academy, and so on,” she said.

Curriculum in the Academy of the Arts may include courses such as Music Theory 2, Diction for Singers, Instrumental Arranging, Conducting, Theatrical History, Advanced Drama, Speech and Drama, Studio Dance, Advanced Acting, Stage and Lighting Design, Singing for Theater, Costumes and Makeup, Honors Studio Art 1, 2 and 3, and Advanced Placement Studio 2-D Design.

“Courses will be run through four different strands, or areas of interest,” Erwin said. “Within those strands there will be a combination of core subject classes, electives, and courses related directly to the strand that are specific to the academy.”

The Academy of the Arts was discussed by Board of Education members and administrators for two years. The plan was approved as a formal board goal and initiative during the summer. During a recent meeting, the board received an update about the new academy.

According to information that was presented during the meeting, the Academy of the Arts will promote “college and career readiness for post-secondary studies and arts-related occupations; address the New Jersey Learning Standards (state academic standards) in all areas with an integrated approach; and provide opportunities to students in the areas of visual and performing arts.”

The academy will “provide opportunities in four strands: visual art; graphic art; instrumental music, vocal music; and theater, drama and dance to foster a vibrant artistic community that unites students in a scholarly environment (and) promotes and emphasizes the critical need for creativity in education,” according to the presentation that was given by Assistant Superintendent Nicole Pormilli and Director of Curriculum Theresa Licitra.

Board President Sharon Dey said she supported the proposal for the Academy of the Arts.

“I support this academy, our other academies and more importantly, the overall plan we have for making sure all of our curriculum and programs are meeting the needs of all students,” Dey said.

“These academies provide focused pathways of learning that help students immerse themselves into their areas of interest. I think it is important to find ways to inspire and develop our students’ passions,” she added.

The proposal states that admission into the Academy of the Arts will consist of an application process, an audition/interview and a teacher recommendation.

“Students will be presented with this and other academy choices in December. The application process will begin in January and we anticipate notifying students of their acceptance into all of our academies by March 10, 2017,” Dey said.

According to the proposal, the budget for the Academy of the Arts for the first year will be $183,000.

Dey said the academy will take the school district’s performing arts program to the next level.

“This particular academy will build on the already strong foundation we have when it comes to the fine and performing arts,” the board president said. “All it takes is one visit to our choral and band concerts, art shows, theater performances or dance events to know the level of talent and passion we have for the arts in Jackson. This academy will take that instruction to the next level for those students who want to pursue this field of study in the future.”