Chad Smith visits with young musicians at Mary Chapa Academy in Greenfield.

Greenfield Unified School District

Monterey County

Mary_Chapa_on_mapIn 2014, two separate schools, Mary Chapa Literacy and Technology Academy (transitional kindergarten-2nd grade) and El Camino Real Science and Technology Academy (3rd-6th grade), which had previously shared a campus, merged to form Mary Chapa Academy. The principal of Mary Chapa Literacy and Technology Academy had successfully brought the school out of Program Improvement status and was asked to lead a similar transformation with the dramatically underperforming upper grades. That same year, the school partnered with Turnaround Arts: California.

Many of the students who attend Mary Chapa Academy are the children of farm workers who spend long hours in fields, cultivating much of the nation’s produce and wine. Several Triqui elders relocated from Oaxaca, Mexico to Greenfield, attracting many Triqui families to follow them. As a result, Mary Chapa Academy has a large concentration of Triqui families, who share a rich cultural component with the school community, including speaking the Copala Triqui language, weaving traditional clothing, and performing heritage songs and dances.

Since becoming a Turnaround Arts: California partner school in 2014, Mary Chapa Academy initiated a music program, guitar club, and arts integration focused professional development workshops for teachers. The school has developed partnerships with the Monterey Arts Council, the George Rodrigue Foundation, Monterey County Symphony, Sol Treasures, and P.S. ARTS. Artist residencies have included Jorge Amezcua, Sonia Chapa, and Anne Green. Students performed at the City of Greenfield Christmas tree lighting ceremony and produced their first school musical, Disney’s The Jungle Book Kids. As part of the Turnaround Arts: California Regional Coach Program, the school receives ongoing, in-person coaching in arts integration strategies and strategic arts planning from Sunset Center. Turnaround Artist Chad Smith, the drummer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, has coached music students, helped performers understand stage presence, organized gifts of instruments from a variety of partners, and publicly advocated for arts education.