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St. Charles Parish tops country in innovative education

Kyle Barnett -   Mar 06, 2014

Brooke Falgout and Bailey Flores paint during the a past Arts Awareness Festival.
Brooke Falgout and Bailey Flores paint during the a past Arts Awareness Festival.

St. Charles Parish Public Schools was named the top mid-sized school district in the nation for innovative education programming by the National School Board Association.

The school district was awarded the 20th annual Magna Award grand prize for schools with student populations between 5,000 and 20,000.

The school district’s award entry consisted of information on the Arts Awareness Festival, which is entering its sixth year. The festival is held every spring and allows each public school in the parish to display their arts programs in music, theater, art and dance. Using Jazz Fest as a model, the festival features multiple stages that operate simultaneously.

Rick Treuting, administrator of Student Services and the Arts, came up with the idea for the festival after former Superintendent Rodney Lafon approached him about a proposed performing arts facility for the parish.

“(Lafon) initiated the whole idea of building a performance arts center for the parish that all of our programs could use. My contribution was to get the people to understand how much they enjoy and appreciate arts,” he said.

Although a centralized performing arts venue has not yet been founded in the parish, Treuting says the popularity of the festival has made it more likely that voters would fund such a building.

“I do know the School Board discussed it in one of their last retreats. I saw it on their agenda that they are continuing to discuss it,” he said. “Hopefully this Magna Award will put the spotlight on them and tell them it is time to go.”

Treuting said the festival has become more popular each year.

“More and more of our teachers have brought out performing artists to be involved in the festival,” he said.

One of the aspects of the festival that sets it apart from other art shows is that it allows for a number of different arts to be on display and be performed at the same time.

Treuting said that bringing together the divergent art forms into one festival allows student art that would normally only be seen by parents to be exposed to a wider audience.

“You can see the visual art and this other room where the kids from Hurst are presenting ‘Annie,’ or go outside and see the Destrehan High School winter guard performing,” he said. “It is a free flow, not a formal concert.”

Now Treuting said he hopes other schools will use the Arts Awareness Festival at St. Charles Parish Public Schools as a model on which they will base similar gatherings of their own.

“The thing that means the most to the National School Board Association is that it is something that can be replicated. That makes me awfully excited that a school in Minnesota or wherever may say, ‘lets energize our student artists and go above and beyond the spring concert,’” he said.

In fact, he is already assembling materials to send to any school district that may ask for help in setting up their own festival.

“One of the things we are getting ready for is a template that we follow so when we get a call from other districts we can send them our blueprint,” he said.

The school district will receive a $5,000 grant for the award from Magna Award sponsor Sodexo.

The 6th annual Arts Awareness Festival will be held this year on Saturday, March 22 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Professional Learning Center located at 12727 U.S. 90 in Luling.

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