Alma School District Superintendent David Woolly has once again been recognized, this time for his work in integrating the arts into the district’s educational curriculum.
The Arkansas Arts Council under the Department of Arkansas Heritage awarded Woolly the Governor’s Arts in Education Award on Nov. 16. He will attend a ceremony at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion on March 29 to accept the award.
Woolly’s “passion has always been the arts – particularly arts education,” according to a media release from the Arkansas Arts Council.
Under Woolly’s leadership, the Alma Performing Arts Center on the Alma High School campus opened its doors in 2002. It serves as the venue for the school district’s performing arts groups and hosts up to 10 national performance groups each year.
Proceeds from the performances go toward about $100,000 in college scholarships each year for Alma students through the Alma Education and Arts Foundation.
Arts education is offered in instrumental music, vocal music, dance, theater, technical theater and visual arts, and the district has multiple programs that lead competitively throughout the state.
“We have a state championship-winning dance team and is one of the biggest programs in the state,” Woolly said. “Our vocal music program has no peer in the state in terms of size and accomplishments, and the same goes for our band.”
More than 75 percent of Alma students in grades six through 12 are active participants in one or more arts programs.
Woolly was chosen to receive the Arts in Education award after being nominated by the public, then judged and selected by an independent panel of arts professionals from around the state.
Nominees, who must be current Arkansas residents or Arkansas-based corporations or organizations, are judged based on the significance of their contributions and achievements as related to the arts, the range of individuals and groups served by those contributions, and the length of time and the degree of their dedication to the arts.
Woolly has worked in Alma School District for his entire 46-year career in education, first as a band instructor and then serving in various administrative positions. He holds three education degrees from the University of Arkansas.
Still, Woolly minimizes his contribution to the expansion of art programs in the district, giving full credit to teachers and staff.
“This really is about our students and staff,” Woolly said. “That’s who does the work … to have very strong programs.”
Arts programs are only one component of what the school district offers, Woolly said.
Staff provide support for every area of student activity, regardless of which subject they teach or which activity they coach, he said.
“We’re not singling out the arts to make them special; they’re just one of the many things we do,” Woolly said. “Every program we have - from arts to Junior ROTC to athletics - are important to kids.”
For Woolly, it is necessary that the school district provides a wide variety of high quality program to meet students’ diverse interests, he said.
Most school districts place an emphasis on athletics because athletics dominate our world, Woolly said. It is important to have high quality athletic programs, he said, but at ASD the same amount of emphasis also is placed on other types of programs.
“Not every young person has the ability or interest in being a successful athlete,” Woolly said. “We want to provide programming for a student like that, programming that’s just as high quality as our athletic program.”
It is a goal of the district to involve every student who is able in a co-curricular activity, Woolly said.
“We believe as a school district very, very strongly that involvement in co-curricular activities are important to students becoming successful adults,” Woolly said. “Our goal is for every students from sixth grade up to be involved in a co-curricular program that teaches those life skills of teamwork, time management and goal setting that make an adult successful.”
This attitude overflows into the classrooms of other educational subjects, Woolly said, with support for all activities being provided across disciplines.
“Every staff member has the opportunity and responsibility to impact a student. We work very hard to foster the belief that we’re all here for all kids,” Woolly said. “It starts with a staff that truly cares about children and everything in their life, not just some things in their life.”