Following the 2012-13 budget cuts that removed most extra-curricular art programs from schools in the New Paltz district, community members, students and teachers decided to take action.
Kim Sturgis, an art teacher at the New Paltz Middle School, said the School Activities Are Vital to Education (SAVE) fund was created last spring to keep these programs intact.
Sturgis, along with teachers Kristen Conrad, Cindy Dubois and Fran Lamb, organized SAVE and raised more than $8,500 with the help of students and community members. The money was raised over the summer to reinstate the five middle school clubs that were to be cut the following semester.
At the end of August, nine teachers and community members created an association called The New Paltz Arts in Schools Association (NPASA). NPASA’s goal is to keep after-school art programs in the district for the long term Sturgis said.
The five middle school clubs that were rescued for this year were All-County Band, All-County Chorus, Art Club, Reflections and School of Rock. However, at Lenape Elementary All-County Band and All-County Chorus and at the high school Drama Club, All-County Band, All-County Chorus, Poetry Club and Literary Magazine are still in need of funding to continue, according to Npasafund.org.
Organizer of NPASA, parent and youth basketball coach Steve Casa said it is important to have extracurricular art programs in schools so there is an equal opportunity for all students.
“I could get [my daughter] after school voice lessons or take her to the Hudson Valley Youth Chorale out in Kingston because I could drive her there and I could pay for it, but there are a lot of people in this community that couldn’t,” Casa said. “Public schools give these students opportunities that they couldn’t have before.”
Casa said there was no way to get this money other than the creation of NPASA. He said NPASA was necessary to further the funding raised by SAVE and to have one outlet for the community to donate to.
“The bottom line is that the arts after-school program is just as important as any other after school program such as sports, tutoring, anything,” Casa said. “It just became an imperative to raise the money for these programs. There was no other option than to try to get together and raise this money.”
Casa said this year’s goal is to raise $14,000 for the remaining clubs at Lenape Elementary and the New Paltz High School for the fall and spring semesters.
“We’re hustling. We got a lot of stuff going on, we got a lot of good people engaged and trying to support this, but we haven’t been able to show the urgency,” he said. “People don’t realize that if we don’t make this goal by the end of the year, these programs are not going to run and that would really be a disservice to the kids.”
Casa said within the past two months NPASA has been planning several art-centered fundraisers throughout November and December including a concert with Liam O’Maonlai of The Hothouse Flowers and another with Rhett Miller of the Old ‘97s.
NPASA is also planning to collaborate with other nonprofit groups to raise money, Casa said. He said collaborations are going to be very prominent in the future for NPASA and they already are planning a donation partnership with Dianova USA, a provider of education programs, to augment a literary magazine program in the schools.
New Paltz Professor of Educational Studies Nancy Schniedewind said although it is impressive that the community is donating, it is important to question the funding system of public school districts as a whole.
Schniedewind said budget cuts like these will keep coming and it should not be the responsibility of the community to make accommodations. She said they already pay taxes and an extra burden in these financially difficult times is not affordable for all parents.
Casa said he believes NPASA is not setting a standard for club funding in the future, but they are working with their current situation and taking the inevitable into account.
“People say if we raise the money, what we’re doing here is setting a precedent but that’s not what we’re doing here,” he said. “It’s not going to be in the budget there is no way — if you think about a decreasing tax levy and an increasing cost, just the fuel cost alone and the salary cost, they’re never going to go back in.”