Fuentes seeks budget increase for fine arts

A $60,000 budget increase is the amount Fuentes Elementary leaders feel is needed to further the goal of becoming a fine arts focused campus.

The request, given to the district Feb. 18, calls for Fuentes to receive $80,000 for its fine arts programs in fiscal year 2020. Hays CISD officials begin crafting its budget for FY 2020 in March.

Regina Butcher, Fuentes Elementary principal, said $20,000 budgeted for fine arts programs in FY 2019 was a “great starting place,” but the monies were spread thin in some areas. Officials at the school think that amount is what it “will cost to truly integrate the arts into our curriculum.”

“We’re not asking for the Cadillac, but we’re asking for you (trustees) to consider it,” Butcher said.

Part of the $80,000 is expected to fund a World of Music class at the school, which would include the purchase of string instruments and percussion equipment. The money would also fund a full-time music and percussion instructor, as well as community members to visit and teach students during the year.

“To get those people with those skills coming in, they’re not going to volunteer,” Butcher said. “We have to support them with some payment.”

Currently, Fuentes educators often welcome artists, painters and dance teachers to visit classes and instruct students. Butcher said the school promotes field trips to parades and fine art productions at theaters and symphonic concerts. Campus officials also hope to include a theater instructor in the future.

In addition, the school also teams up with area middle and high schools to show students what fine art curriculum exists beyond elementary school.

It’s all part of an initiative that received support from trustees.

Hays CISD Trustee Vanessa Petrea said transitioning to the fine arts has, in some cases, pushed parents to avoid transferring their students to the nearby IDEA Academy of Kyle charter school.

Butcher said there were 60 transfers out of Fuentes in the 2018-19 school year, the first year the campus focused on the fine arts. While district officials projected enrollment to be around 450 students this school year, Fuentes currently has 645 students in 2019.

Success at Fuentes has also led to a handful compliments from the community, said trustee Willie Tenorio.

“It’s a differentiator for us,” Tenorio said. “It’s something we have to do continuously because there are things that charter schools can’t do well. This is an example of it.”

The fine arts model at Fuentes could be something the district employs at other campuses down the road, depending on how the change impacts students, Butcher said. School officials will continue to track any progress made in student achievement, attendance and motivation over the next three years, which is how long Butcher said it takes for schools to measure those components.

Helping that cause is making substantial changes during the school day. Each Monday and Friday, students and educators all become “learners” during 30 minute fine arts focused classes, which can be led by visiting educators.

“Students get to see teachers as learners and see teachers making mistakes or starting at some fundamental skills,” Butcher said. “It’s good for students to see their teachers learning.”

Various fine arts clubs, such as choir, theater and the student newspaper are offered, as well as campus-wide activities with a fine arts mentality. Educators have also toured fine arts centered campuses in Austin and Round Rock ISD as part of their professional development (PD) to learn how they made the transition.

Butcher said the campus will continue to take incremental steps in order to reach its goal.

“We’re not adding to the teachers’ plates, we’re replacing the teachers’ plates,” Butcher said.

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