Building Relationships with School Leaders in San Benito County

Arts Now Community: San Benito County

Guest Author: Amanda Chiado, Program Manager, San Benito County Arts Council & San Benito County Arts Education Alliance

The Challenge: How to build on collaboration between a school district and community organization

The Strategy: Developing 1:1 relationships with key school leaders

The Story: The San Benito County Arts Council is a key community partner in providing arts education programming to their county’s largest and most underserved school district, Hollister Elementary School District (HESD). For the last four years, they have garnered district support and funding for their comprehensive Arts in Education Program, which they have translated into direct programming at each of the district’s 11 schools. 

In 2016-17, the Arts Council’s goal was to sustain and increase district funding for arts education from HESD and to begin to build their local Arts Education Alliance. With a new superintendent, the San Benito County Arts Council was concerned about the security and continuity of their ongoing partnership. Not only did they want to maintain previous levels of funding and support, they were eager to garner active district participation in the newly founded Alliance. This is where the importance of developing 1:1 relationships with key individuals became a crucial factor in building the Alliance and sustaining arts education advocacy.

Over the years, the Arts Council had met regularly with Lonna Martinez, Director of Educational Services at HESD. Lonna had been an ongoing supporter and advocate for the arts at the district level, standing beside the Arts Council during school board presentations and attending their Arts in Education Program activities throughout the district. She was also instrumental in garnering funding and helping coordinate the Arts Council’s Teacher Training Workshops designed for classroom teachers. She is smart, kind and greatly respected throughout the district.

As the Arts Council was in year 1 of building the Alliance, Lonna jumped on board and was excited to be a strong voice and leader on the team! She not only validated the Arts Council’s work, but, upon looking over the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) priorities, she helped the Arts Council get an increase in funding to address Parent Engagement, one of the state’s eight priority areas in the LCAP.

The San Benito County Arts Council was thrilled not only to get the nod of approval from Lonna, but to get a real sense that their work was important, had clearly addressed the goals of the district, and had made a real difference in how the district educates their students. Their direct relationship with Lonna has proven a great asset in developing the budding Arts Education Alliance. It helped the Arts Council achieve an increase in arts education funding in 2016-17 and also helped establish a new relationship with the recently hired Superintendent.

Although Lonna will retire from the district this year, she has served as a dynamic link between the Arts Council and the District. Her ongoing work with the local Arts Education Alliance is sure to benefit students throughout the district for years to come.

Lesson Learned
This is just one example of how relationship building can take place not only between organizations and agencies but also directly between key individuals representing those organizations. It is an important lesson to keep in mind while advocating for the arts at board, staff or PTO meetings, businesses or other community organizations. In the end, these groups are all comprised of individuals and it is in the building of direct, personal relationships that the future of arts education can grow and flourish.