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Sun, Jan. 19

Mingus Union Arts & Humanities ready in 2014

Arts take center stage at Mingus Union HS with the introduction of the newly formed School of Arts and Humanities. Instructors (back row) Tyler Novak, Dena DeWitt, Brian Turner, Amberlyn Klienman, Julia Hutchins, Carol Smith, James Ball, (front row) Jason Teague, Shannon Anderson, Amy Bodger and Loraine Roethler form the core of the new program at Mingus. VVN/Jon Pelletier

Arts take center stage at Mingus Union HS with the introduction of the newly formed School of Arts and Humanities. Instructors (back row) Tyler Novak, Dena DeWitt, Brian Turner, Amberlyn Klienman, Julia Hutchins, Carol Smith, James Ball, (front row) Jason Teague, Shannon Anderson, Amy Bodger and Loraine Roethler form the core of the new program at Mingus. VVN/Jon Pelletier

COTTONWOOD - "If a kid wants to go to Stanford, we want them to be able to go," said Tyler Novak. He is the director of the Mingus School of Art and Humanities, which will begin with the 2014 school year. It will be a four-year program that starts with only freshmen.

Novak, an art teacher at Mingus, described the new curriculum as, "a school within a school that will support, nurture and enhance the academic level of our students."

Principal Tamara Addis said the development of the arts and humanities department comes from the passion of Novak.

"Mr. Novak tenaciously pursued this dream through a team of dedicated teachers who saw what a great opportunity the program would be for our students on many different levels," Addis said.

Novak points to some of those advantages for students.

"When I teach I try to keep in mind the needs of the students I'm teaching," Novak said.

Part of those needs, according to Novak, has to do with the students making the connections of what one class has to do with another.

"The majority of our students are very intelligent and capable," he said. "But they go from class to class to class, and they don't see a connection."

The teachers know the connection, he pointed out, but the kids don't always see it.

"Everything is relative to each other," Novak said.

Consequently, one of the advantages Novak says students will get from the Art and Humanities school will be, "The ability to take higher level courses that make sense."

Mingus Superintendent Tim Foist agrees. "Students will have joint lessons reaching several classes, allowing for broader study and higher-level thinking skills and discussions. Our students are the winners with the new program."

Another advantage identified by Novak is a return to a "homeroom environment."

"We will address issues like study skills and portfolio development," Novak said. "Each one of the students will reach the highest level of their art form."

Novak said the homeroom environment provides, "a safety net so there's always someone there who supports them. We're going to be a family."

In part, the mission statement for the art and humanities degree program prepared by Novak and the teachers who will be in the new program, states: "The purpose of the Mingus Union School of Arts is to promote a learning environment in which the students will embrace an attitude of college preparedness."

"This is an honors degree," Novak said. "It is rigorous. It will allow students to reach higher levels."

An example of what Novak is talking about has to do with the curriculum the Art and Humanities students will undertake. He said the faculty of the program is rewriting the curriculum in a World Studies class that will tie in with art and history and other courses.

"It's going to be the keystone class," Novak said.

To earn a degree under the Art and Humanities School, students will earn a total of 23.5 credits in the following courses, which meet the minimum university requirements for enrollment: English, four credits; math, four credits; history, three credits; science, three credits; PE, one credit; foreign language, two credits; fine arts, four credits; open, two credits; and community service, .5 credits.

Novak said the new curriculum will meet all of the common core standards.

"This will not work unless we work really hard at making it work," he said.

But Novak and his team of teachers are dedicated to the value of this school within a school to the students.

"I want this to be a beacon," Novak said. "I want it to happen here."

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