Art educational assistants being cut from elementary schools

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Highland Elementary art educational assistant Mary Amaro goes through examples of the various types of art mediums and methods Wednesday her class has worked on during the school year. Clovis Municipal Schools administration has chosen to eradicate the position of art educational assistant next year at the elementary schools to cut costs.

Liliana Castillo

As an art educational assistant at Highland Elementary School, Mary Amaro teaches students various types of art techniques in different mediums.

She has taught them how to not be restricted by the edges of a piece of paper, about Jackson Pollock, to draw in 2D, 3D and one and two point perspective, to use oil pastels, to paint, to use watercolor and watercolor pencils and to create pottery.

Amaro also helped create props and costumes for holiday programs and Character Counts! skits.

Beginning next year, grade level teachers will have to take on Amaro’s responsibilities.

As a cost-saving measure, Clovis Municipal Schools administration has decided to eliminate the position of art educational assistant at all elementary schools. Those in the position now will be moved to another EA position somewhere in the district.

Each elementary school has one full-time art EA. After attrition, eight art EA’s will be moved. The district will save approximately $168,000 by eliminating the position.

“This is an unfortunate budget restriction,” Superintendent Terry Myers said. “We’ll have to lose that luxury for at least a little while.”

Amaro said she was saddened when she was told the news.

“It’s depressing loosing something you love to do,” she said.

Deputy Superintendent of Instruction Cindy Martin said art EA’s are not required by the state.

“That’s something we added a few years ago to promote the arts,” Martin said.

Martin said research shows that the arts can improve math and reading skills. When the district began integrating arts into core areas, they did so with the help of parents. The district attained the ability to hire EA’s through grant and stimulus money.

“We were able to take that off the plate of teachers and parents so it would be more consistent,” Martin said.

An art EA is required to have at least a high school diploma and an EA license. EA’s also have to pass a background check like all other school employees who interact with students.

Amaro has a bachelor’s degree in fine art and teaches pottery classes at Clovis Community College. She said grade level teachers aren’t taught art to the depth that art teachers are and therefore won’t be able to teach art at the level she does.

“They won’t be able to completely cover all aspects of art,” she said. “They’ll do more crafts.”

Amaro said she ensures her students have the freedom to be creative.

“I give them an idea and let them use their own creativity,” she said. “It’s not cut-out stuff so not everyone is doing the same thing.”

Amaro spends 40 to 45 minutes with each class of students at Highland. She works with all students at Highland from kindergarten through sixth grade.

Martin said though music and band programs are considered to be in the arts program, they won’t be changed.