To the Editor:
Like many Maplewood and South Orange residents, I believe that artists are our area’s greatest natural resource. Not only is there is an abundance of talent here, but there is also a shared sensibility about the deep impact that the arts can make. My husband and I moved here with our family because of this sensibility, and know many others who came here for the same reason.
But the fact that this community has a reputation as a haven for creative people is often underestimated. Just because many of us support the arts doesn’t mean they will flourish on their own – and this is doubly true for our children. Art requires support, it requires commitment. And it requires education.
That’s why I’m absolutely delighted that Tony Mazzocchi is running for a seat on the Board of Education.
While Tony has all the accolades of a world-class trombonist, he is also an educator at heart; he has a wealth of in-district experience as a student, as a parent, as the former Fine Arts Supervisor, and as a tireless advocate for supporting arts and innovation in our schools.
I have seen, first-hand, Tony’s dedication to elevating the central importance of our children’s creativity, their access to robust arts education, opportunities for self-expression, and the opportunity to pursue an educational path unencumbered by testing and routinization.
In the past few years, the arts have been at risk in our district many times. Due to Tony’s vigilance – and the work of many dedicated community members – the district has resisted drastic arts cuts. Even so, in this notably creative area, our arts offerings K-12 should be much stronger. For example, many parents in this district may not know that SOMSD does not meet the NJ state standards for arts education; for example, our district does not have a theatre department or a dance department (both of which are required by the state), despite the quality and popularity of its musicals.
I believe that Tony will work diligently to expand arts education offerings in all grades, and to continually make the case that the arts are an integral part of learning – not just extracurricular activities. While Tony understands that they are essential to this community, he also believes that arts and innovation have the power to propel education in the 21st century – and the power to help our youngest citizens thrive.
Marcy Thompson is Chair, Maplewood Arts Council; Honcho, Studio B; parent of four children in SOMSD.