School Committee candidate Paula Dominguez believes the arts must play a much stronger and more prominent role in Barrington’s schools.
“The arts support the core content,” said Dominguez, who holds a Ph.D. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and has studied high performing school systems. “And the good news is the future Common Core (curriculum) is a great opportunity to emphasize the arts.”
Barrington students' success in standardized science and math assessment tests is well-known in Rhode Island, she said. Greater success in those disciplines can come from introducing more art into their lives.
“The arts should not be a second conversation,” Dominguez said. “They can add to the entire community. They can add to the quality of life, and have an economic impact.”
A well-rounded education broadens a student’s capacity to understand all subject matter, she said.
“We have to recognize that 21st century skills emphasize creativity, innovation, leadership, generating ideas, and synthesizing information from different sources,” she said. “This is what the artistic process is all about.”
Dominguez, who serves on the board of Arts Alive!, which has brought performing arts to the elementary schools and, this year, to the middle school, sees “a robust community of parents who have embraced the arts.” Many of those parents and others have been enrolling their children in the Community Theater program for years.
And for good reason, she said.
“The performing arts allow children to unleash their creativity, their problem- solving skills, and their ability to draw inferences,” she said. “All of these capacities support children’s learning in core academic disciplines.”
“I am not surprised that Barrington’s progress in science and math has occurred alongside the recent development of a stronger performing arts culture,” she said. “There is now a pipeline of students in town who have grown up with the performing arts through a rich array of in-school and after-school activities.”
The fact that much of the arts in Barrington occur outside of schools, however, is not lost on Dominguez.
“I think there is a need and a thirst in our schools that sends a message that there is a gap,” she said. “I am all for a complete and well-rounded education that makes full use of the arts.”
Dominguez would devote professional development time for teachers to the arts so they can incorporate the concepts into classroom instruction.
“There is a crying need to bolster professional development of teachers in the arts,” she said.
Dominguez sees the creation of partnerships with existing arts programs, such as Arts Alive! and the Rhode Island School of Design, which operates a campus in Barrington, are a way to go, she said. She does not envision adding substantial sums of money to the budget to add more in-school arts programs.
“I will be honor-bound to pursue these partnerships if I am elected to the school committee,” Dominguez said.
Any discussion of improving Barrington’s schools must include the arts, she said. The arts must play a more prominent role in the schools.