Our inaugural conversation with creative education leaders across the state of Maine features Heather King, Head of School for the Maine Arts Academy. Heather discusses how this charter school offers an integrated arts curriculum for students from rural areas in Maine. At a time when most schools cut arts programming, Maine Arts Academy sees arts as a critical skill which serves students by developing problem solving and critical thinking skills. Their innovative staffing model customizes hiring and scheduling to the individual needs of students based on a more flexible college model not found in a typical district school system.
The Arts Academy manages to mix full-time faculty with part-time to create customized arts learning. The demand on the student side informs the hiring model which is unique to charters. Traditional districts have cut the arts or limited arts programming to one period a week. Maine Arts Academy’s educational philosophy is that the arts inform all learning. Using that model, student assessment and success is measured by emphasizing overall academic growth over skills. Ninety percent of Arts Academy graduates go on to higher education which exceeds other schools in the region. As part of their required capstone project, seniors are challenged to articulate how arts and academics transformed their academics and their life.
We ask our educators if they have messages for the public and or legislators. Heather reminded us that their innovative approaches are doubly monitored in that the school reports to the Department of Education as well as the Maine Charter School Commission.