Area 15 Arts Program Topic for School Board Presentation | Best Stories

MIDDLEBURY-SOUTHBURY — The Area 15 School Board discussed the area’s arts program and honored art and music students at its meeting on Monday, April 18.

Region 15 Director of Fine, Applied and Technical Arts, Jeromy Nelson, presented the scope and overview of the region’s arts and music programs.

“The department encompasses art, music, drama, career and technical education, and library media,” Nelson said. “It’s K-12 in all of our schools.”

Mr. Nelson clarified that on the CTE side, the culinary arts class was back in high school. He said the colleges were able to add a laser design class to the curriculum thanks to a Perkins grant.

“Robotics and the Electric Car Club are back,” Nelson said, noting that the Robotics Club and the class are back.

“For the first time this year, there was our class of drones,” Nelson said.

He said students learn both to fly and to build drones.

“They can also learn electronic components,” he said. “They also get what is called a recreational flight license. Thus, children are certified to be able to fly recreationally.

Mr Nelson said that compared to an AP course, students could choose to take a test at Danbury Airport to obtain their commercial drone pilot licence.

“The class qualifies them to take this test if they choose to go take it,” he said.

Mr Nelson said an example of commercial use of drones is in photos for real estate. Drones have also become increasingly popular in film, for example director Michael Bay’s use of drones to film action stunts in his recently released film ‘Ambulance’.

At the visual arts department, Nelson said fourth and fifth graders across the region now have the option of taking an art technology course.

“These are technology-based art classes,” he said. “Kids learn to edit photos, videos, and other media-like activities throughout the class.”

He said the high school received video production room upgrades and new computers in the photo lab.

“The high school photo lab is both a traditional wet lab where they develop their own photos as well as digital photography,” Nelson said. “We have both options here.”

Mr Nelson noted that field trips have also returned.

“The art exhibit is back,” Mr. Nelson said. “Our traditional large art exhibit in the gymnasium and AP room will return this year. Our teachers and students are really excited for this to happen.

On the performing arts side, Mr Nelson said the school has returned to in-person performances.

“All of our in-person concerts will return this spring,” Nelson said, noting that some will take place outdoors.

Notably, Mr Nelson said the school has maintained numbers for instrument recruitment throughout the pandemic by shifting to online recruitment and “flights down” where high school students visit colleges for recruit students.

“Feedback from our middle school students was that they felt much more comfortable answering and asking questions in their space than in high school,” Nelson said. “The students were more receptive to it.

Nelson noted that the region has also created an adaptive music program for high school students and has worked to diversify the musical repertoire the school teaches.

“Rather than just continuing to do what we’ve always done, we’re moving toward these changes and updating them,” he said.

On the media side of the library, Nelson noted that the book bowl has returned to high school and guest author presentations have returned to elementary schools.

He said libraries have been upgraded in high school and middle school.

“We offer a sixth, seventh and eighth grade class at the library,” he said. “[The class] works on a long-term project which they develop over time to present a so-called mini-capstone, or personal mini-project at the end of their eighth year.

Mr Nelson said the region is working to align classes at the two colleges.

After presenting the programs, students Katherine Mombo, Caroline Cloud, Aliza Creel and Pearson Raistrick performed Alexander Borodin’s String Quartet No. 2, 1st Movement for the board.

Those interested in listening to the show can visit and click on the Agendas, Minutes and Presentations link under the BOE tab. The performance begins at around 19 minutes into the Monday, April 18 reunion video.

“All of this is possible thanks to the support of the community,” Nelson said.

Mr. Nelson and the Board also recognized and honored students and staff for their work and achievements within the Fine, Applied and Technical Arts program.

The Connecticut Association of Arts Administrators and Area 15 presented Southbury resident Christine Koobatian and Superintendent Joshua Smith with Youth Art Advocacy Awards.

Another resident also received the award, but Nelson noted that person was not present and will be honored at an upcoming council meeting.

The board recognized several students for participating in Connecticut Music Educators Association performances.

The CMEA participants from the college were Julian Abramo, Serena Bacetti, Katelyn Barstrom, Addison Evans, Olivia Kim, Joy Kim, Anthony Mahr, Thomas Zold, Ava Hand, Emma Sander, Hannah Evans, Braia Blinstrubas, Andrew Vongsouvahn and William Gracer.

Participants at the CMEA Southern Regional High School Festival were Joshua Bang, Aliza Creel, Cana Kumi, Kyler Kumi, Katherine Mombo, Pearson Raistrick and Juliana Yang.

CMEA All-State Festival participants were Joshua Bang, Aliza Creel, Cana Kumi, Kyler Cumi, Katherine Mombo and Isabella Ruiz.

For the arts, the board honored students David Consiglio, Daniel Mardorf, and Stevie Bennett for receiving the State Scholastic Art Awards.

The board also honored students Onpreeya Plandee in visual arts and Pearson Raistrick in performing arts for receiving a Connecticut Association of Schools award in the arts.

“It’s so good to hear about what’s happening again in Region 15,” President Marion Manzo said. “It’s just a wonderful thing.”

In other news, Ms Koobatian spoke on behalf of a group of citizens trying to raise awareness for the upcoming budget vote.

“We have reached out to some local businesses who wish to support the fact that it is referendum day by offering discounts to customers on that day. [Wednesday, May 4] that mention it’s the referendum,” she said.

Ms Koobatian added: “We encourage people to vote, we don’t encourage people to vote.”

“There are still companies that could join us, but that’s what we have so far,” she said.

Discounts and other joining businesses are subject to change.

Two parents also spoke about behavioral incidents between students at Memorial Middle School.

Voices spoke with Mr Smith on Wednesday April 20 about the incidents.

Mr Smith said the escalation in student behavior was not isolated to MMS or Region 15, but was a national issue that all schools were working on.

He also sent Voices a copy of MMS director Jennifer Murphy’s email to parents regarding behavioral issues. The letter was sent on Wednesday, April 6.

Ms Murphy wrote that the school had been affected by “more frequent episodes of student misconduct”.

She said the misconduct included verbal and physical altercations inside the school and online.

“We take these events very seriously and strongly do not condone any act of verbal or physical aggression,” she said.

Ms Murphy continued: “We have increased our use of in-school and out-of-school suspensions, as well as potential dismissals for expulsion and police intervention. These are serious consequences for students. We believe our response to these disruptions must be serious to protect the learning environment for all.

Ms Murphy called for continued community support for parents to speak with their children about issues at school, their interactions with peers, and to check in with students on social media and mobile phone communication.

“I am confident that as a school community we will continue to ensure a positive and productive school environment for our students,” she said.

Jessica C. Bell