By Dr. Lisa A. Crawford

Orange County Department of Education (OCDE) is nearing completion of our first year in Turnaround Arts: California’s Regional Coach Pilot Program. We are working with two middle schools in the Santa Ana Unified School District (SAUSD), Sierra Preparatory Academy and Willard Intermediate School, focused significantly towards supporting arts integration in every classroom.

My name is Dr. Lisa Crawford. I came to OCDE to work with Turnaround Arts: California as a regional coach in March. I am a music educator with long experience in arts integration, especially in K-8 classrooms and foundational learning, and educational and corporate leadership. My first interest? Kids! I began playing the piano at age three, and I am a composer and songwriter, which I began at age seven. I started teaching piano lessons at the age of 12, I have five brothers, and my dad, a choral director, has a doctorate in music and education and was a music supervisor much of his life. He still conducts choirs and has ability for it that is immediately recognizable. He is my example of what creates a successful musical life. I love conducting young choirs, but I especially love working with children who write music or want to develop artistic abilities for creating music.

In Orange County, our regional coach team is underway with building communication, developing relationships with each partner schools’ Arts Leadership Team, and collaboratively crafting school-specific Strategic Arts Plans for next school year. I have much support from Mr. Steve Venz, OCDE Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator, and I enjoy working with him very much. I am also fortunate to be working with and learning from Ms. Robyn MacNair, SAUSD Visual and Performing Arts Specialist. Robyn says, “I get to have a dynamic working relationship with the regional coaches and the district, which allows for stronger district recognition of what’s happening as well as deeper support to the schools and connection with the local arts community. I also get to bring them into the big picture of district-wide visioning around arts education.”

Robyn sees the arts affecting change in the district this past year and says, “I’ve already seen the profile of both Sierra Prep and Willard become elevated within the district and community. Both are consciously taking steps to activate their students within the rich and vibrant arts community of Santa Ana. The awareness of and efforts at our two Turnaround Arts: California partner schools are helping to elevate the arts district-wide.”

Sierra Prep and Willard each have amazing leaders on their schools’ Arts Leadership Teams. Kelsey Cronmiller is a Science teacher and Arts Lead at Sierra Prep. The Sierra Prep team recently hosted a new arts-rich event called Sights and Sounds. Dan Donovan is the Digital Media Arts teacher and Arts Lead at Willard. Willard recently hosted their first-ever Willard’s Got Talent show!

Photo by Lauren Hillary

Turnaround Arts is based on the premise that high-quality and integrated arts education can strengthen school reform efforts, boost academic achievement, and increase student engagement in schools facing some of the toughest educational challenges in the country. I am so very pleased to be a part of this arts education work in Orange County.