Howard County GT Art Program Cut at the High School Level

Words: Ashley Berry

In Jan. 2015, the Howard County Visual Arts Office and the Fine Arts Advisory Council made the joint decision to cut the high school Gifted and Talented (GT) Program for Visual Arts. They will be expanding the program at the elementary and middle school level and creating a replacement program at the high school level.

The GT Program for Visual Arts was an extracurricular activity for middle and high students in Howard County who excel at art. After submitting portfolios at the end of the school year, students were chosen through a countywide formal screening process. Those chosen met weekly for studio time, took field trips and saw demonstrations by guest artists. Last year, half of the students chosen for the high school program were from Centennial High School.

The county’s replacement for the high school GT program is a series of seminars which will be held for high school students selected by their teachers to attend. Unlike the prior GT program, each high school may only select 2-3 students, meaning many qualified Centennial students will be excluded from the seminars.

Mark Hanssen, an art teacher at Centennial, feels as though the replacement seminars are taking away a “rich and befitting” opportunity for many students in the Centennial arts program. Joanne Tulkoff, another art teacher at Centennial, said, “Hopefully the seminars will provide opportunities for a wide group of students.”

When first asked why the high school GT program was cut, Jaye Ayres, the Art Resource Teacher in the Fine Arts Department at the Board of Education, stated, “The Visual Arts Office and Fine Arts Advisory Council feel that the elementary and middle school students are missing out on participating in an GT art class in school, while high school students can participate in one during school as well as outside of school. We believe we have made the right decision to concentrate on the GT program at the elementary and middle school level rather than at the high school level.”

After acknowledging that a GT program already exists for middle school students, Ayres said, “We have to look at our resources, what we have available, what kind of funding we have, and a number of different issues. All the numbers just come out that the elementary and middle schools are the ones in most need.”

Hanssen is disappointed to see the program get cut. He said, “It is difficult because we make a huge effort to identify and encourage students to join the program and our students are being punished because they are eager. It is upsetting to know the county doesn’t want to serve them.”

When asked about the changes to the selection process for the high school replacement seminars, Ayres said “The program will have about the same number of high school students,” but now all the high schools will be equally represented.

Many high school students will no longer be able to participate in an extracurricular GT Art Program. Ashley Rous, who participated in the high school GT Art Program throughout her sophomore year (2013-2014), said, “It is unfortunate that future high school students will never have the chance to experience the program, as it provides a new perspective on art.”

Although Rous takes a GT art course in school, she said, “The GT Art Program offered a new perspective and guided me to explore more expressive themes and to develop my own style, while Centennial’s art program is a more traditional, realistic focus. Looking back, a majority of the work that I am truly proud of has come from the GT Art Program.”

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

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