LAPS bolsters art education with $209,000 grant

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By Jennifer Garcia

So far 2011 has not been kind to school districts in the State of New Mexico; Los Alamos is no exception. Due to tough financial times, districts were forced to cut 3.4 percent from their budgets this year.

LAPS received some help from Los Alamos County by way of reducing fees at the Larry R. Walkup Aquatic Center and agreeing to share certain employee costs, but were still forced to trim approximately $600,000 from its budget.

Despite the cuts, the LAPS Fine Arts Program continues to thrive thanks to the Fine Arts Education Act Grant. For the past 10 years, LAPS has received funding through the FAEA grant. LAPS teacher Kim Letellier, serves as the fine arts grant coordinator. She’s also the music team leader for the district.

During the LAPS Board work session Thursday night, Letellier gave board members a presentation about the grant and explained what the funds are used for and how it works.

“The intent and purpose of the Fine Arts Education Act is to provide funds for direct instruction and/or professional development only in the fine arts content areas (as) identified in the legislation: theater arts, music, dance and visual arts,” according to a handout Letellier provided.

The funds are disbursed as part of the budgeted State Equalization Guarantee, or SEG.

“It’s a misconception (that this is a separate grant),” LAPS Comptroller Alex Salazar said Friday morning. “It’s included in our SEG calculation. We report the number of students that are receiving education in the arts area in K-6. They are classified as program units, that’s how the state calculates the dollar amount for the arts. It’s not really a separate grant, where you get separate disbursement.”

The primary use of the grant is to support the Atomic City Children’s Theatre program. The funds are used for all aspects of their theatrical performances, to include backdrops, director’s stipends, costumes and scripts.

Funds are also used to develop the arts electronic portfolio, or the e-portfolio, which serves as a means of measuring students’ progress in the primary arts areas that LAPS teachers offer. Former LAPS Superintendent Mary McLeod implemented the program, which features a full-mobile lab with 25 laptops.

“We use the Garage Band project as a visual part of the portfolio,” Letellier said. “This program is widely recognized around the state and nationally. It’s getting quite a bit of recognition.”

In addition, some funds are used for professional development. “We have invested about 7 percent of the grant in this area, providing opportunities for art and music teachers to attend national conferences in their areas of specialty,” Letellier said.

She also mentioned that she is looking into the possibility of initiating an in-school theater arts program.

“We just completed the third year of ACCT,” Letellier said. “It’s open to any student in elementary.”
School Board President Melanie McKinley asked Letellier, “what is the total amount of the grant?”

Letellier said the district received $207,000 for the 2010-2011 school year, however the grant she applied for this year totaled $209,000. She explained that the unit value of each student went down, but the student population went up, hence the increase.

LAPS Superintendent Gene Schmidt commended Letellier for her work on the grant.

“We’re very impressed with what this grant produces,” he said.