Engaging the arts: Schools foundation lunch touts education’s future

Things took on a grand scale at the Snoqualmie Valley Schools Foundation luncheon March 20, starting with the full house. More than 230 participants attended the annual fundraiser at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge, helping to raise nearly $100,000 for area schools this year alone. The days donations also put the foundation itself over the million dollar mark in total fundraising over its 25 years.

It was a special day, but few knew how special, until Karen Sharp, the education director at Seattle Children’s Theatre took the podium and wished  everyone a “Happy World Theater for Children Day!”

Sharp and her colleague, Linda Hartzell, the artistic director at the theater, were the keynote speakers for the luncheon, discussing the value of arts in education.

“The studies are finally catching up to what we have always known, as arts educators,” Sharp said, citing research findings that children who are exposed to the arts at school, particularly if they are integrated with other subjects, tend to score higher on standardized tests, to watch less television, and to be more engaged in their communities. In lower-income communities, increased arts exposure had direct correlation to improved math and reading scores, too she said.

Hartzell stressed the need for student engagement, pointing to current trends indicating children are becoming more isolated, less imaginative, less able to cope with difficult emotions. Exposure to the arts, she said, helps them to develop resilience, which is one of the top skills employers seek in their job candidates.

She also had high praise for the Mount Si High School Jazz Band, who’d performed during the lunch. The 20-member band was recently selected for the Essentially Ellington Festival, and is now fund-raising to make their trip to New York and Lincoln Center in May happen.

That’s a really difficult competition,” Hartzell said, “and the fact that they’re going is huge, huge huge.”

That was just one of many accomplishments that Superintendent Joel Aune highlighted during his talk. Others were the district’s consistently high student placement on state tests, more than 40,000 volunteer hours logged in schools in the past year, and the  district’s initiatives focusing on science, technology, engineering and math at the middle and high school level.

Educator of the year awards were also presented. Karen Lewis, classified; Danielle Bernardo, elementary; Carolyn Phelps, middle school; and Nick Kurka, high school, all received applause and congratulations for their hard work and dedication.

To contribute to the jazz band’s Essentially Ellington festival, visit


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