Maury County School Board approves funds for struggling visual arts classes

Manuel Botrez, 7, works on an art class project at Riverside Elementary School in Columbia, Tennessee, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021.

As a new year begins, the Maury County Public Schools Board is releasing funds to support visual arts programs throughout the school district.

The board unanimously approved at its monthly meeting, a $48,000 budget amendment that will be used to purchase visual art supplies for more than 20 school campuses across the county.

The approved funds, drawn from the district’s fund balance of more than $2 million in savings, will provide the district’s art classes with supplies for the current academic year.

Whitney Herrington, visual arts teacher at Mt. Pleasant High School and famed muralist, spoke to the council ahead of the vote, sharing the struggles she and other art educators have faced this school year.

“In August my kids came in through the door and I had no money,” Herrington said. “How can I teach my students if I have nothing to teach them? This is not only true for me, it is true for everyone.

Columbia artists Whitney Herington, front, and Meredith Elmore, back, work at night as they put the finishing touches on a new mural in downtown Columbia on Wednesday, October 15, 2019.

Columbia artists Whitney Herington, front, and Meredith Elmore, back, work at night as they put the finishing touches on a new mural in downtown Columbia on Wednesday, October 15, 2019.

The school board approved budget amendment After a discussion last month, school board leaders were urged to encourage school administrators to develop a detailed long-term plan for the program.

Continued: Delayed funding for art supplies draws criticism of long-term planning for Maury neighborhood

Students enrolled in MCPS have the choice of pursuing either music or visual arts.

Before approving the funds, board members viewed the one-time purchase as a short-term solution to the problem that will require additional attention in the future.

“We fund it after the fact,” said David Moore, who represents District 5 on the school board. “An underfunded afterthought. Not that I want to withhold money. I want to do it right, and I want to do it right the first time.

Moore initially recommended that the board suspend all spending and wait for trustees to come up with a more detailed roadmap for spending on the matter.

Continued: Mt. Pleasant Commission recognizes the work of student artists

Chad Howell, School Board Member, District 9, agreed that the amount may not have a significant impact on programs, calculating that the funds would provide less than $4 for every student in the district.

District 7 Board Member Will Sims called on the board to step forward to provide immediate support to educators and their students.

Freshman MWES student Alejandro Gonzalez creates a color wheel lion in Amy Miller's art class.

Freshman MWES student Alejandro Gonzalez creates a color wheel lion in Amy Miller’s art class.

District administrators clarified that the calculation does not take into account the fact that only a portion of students choose to take visual arts classes.

“Let’s get out there and get some supplies into the hands of students and teachers tonight, [determine their needs] then go from there,” Sims told his fellow board members.

District 10 board member Wayne Lindsey shared a sentiment that echoed his other two board members.

“I would like to move on so they’re not sitting there with nothing,” Lindsey said. “I’d like to see a plan brought back.”

Michael Fulbright, chairman of the board, said the decision served as a stepping stone.

“It’s about getting the process started to get it right,” Fulbright said.

Contact Mike Christen at mchristen@c-dh.net. Follow him on Twitter at @MikeChristenCDH and on Instagram at @michaelmarco. Please consider supporting his work and that of other Daily Herald journalists by subscribing to the publication.

This article originally appeared on The Daily Herald: Maury County School Board sends funds to art classes