Visual arts department picks up the pieces


An acrylic piece of still life painted on canvas by Paige Britton.

An acrylic piece of still life painted on canvas by Paige Britton.

Senior Emily Oliver is an avid IB art student who has been involved in the subject for four years. Oliver had been preparing for the year’s IB exam and adding to her portfolio when on Sept. 9, she and 400 other students in the art program were shocked that art teacher and department chair, Ann Harper, resigned due to personal reasons.

Due to the resignation, six classes were dissolved into one W8 period with only two art teachers to teach them. This has caused confusion among students about what is to happen with the visual art program in the future.

In total, there are 13 visual art classes that are offered, but the extra six classes left behind by Harper have been split between art teacher Meredith Stevens and Jackie Pappas in the W8 period. Pappas was assigned classes containing students in Art I, III, and IV, and Stevens took over classes of Art III, IV, and IB.

“It is much more confusing and chaotic since last year,” Oliver said. “I feel like the administration hasn’t been making very bright decisions about the visual arts department, even though Mrs. Stevens and Mrs. Pappas are working their hardest to meet the needs of us all.”

The administration tried to help all students by scheduling them in a way that would not cause them to change their schedules or put them in a position to lose their IB diploma requirements. The administration could not hire another teacher because every teacher in the county had already been placed in September. Once the school year started, no other teacher could leave to a different school under contract. This is why administration would not have been able to bring back former IB visual art teacher, Catherine Stark, from the previous school year when Harper suddenly resigned.

“You have to have a certain number of students enrolled in a class to bring in extra teachers, and we don’t have enough,” Director of Student Services Jennifer Crump-Strawderman said. Crump-Strawderman creates the master schedule of which teacher is teaching what class on a giant grid in her office.

An average art class size is between 25-30 students, but in the W8 period there are about 40 students that are divided between two connected classrooms. This means that there are 40 students being directed between six different classes going on at the same time with only two teachers to teach them.

“Our IB portfolio books are supposed to be checked and critiqued every two weeks, but my book hasn’t been checked yet at all this year,” Oliver said.

Pamela Gravitte, the administrator overseeing over the art department, declined to comment.

“I suggest that these students talk to their art teacher, express how they feel, and a collaboration with their teachers will come up with a solution,” Principal Vincent Randazzo said.

Stevens said that the students have yet to come to her to voice their concerns personally, so the issue is new to her. “I make sure all my students get the same amount of attention,” she said. “We are going to get through this.”

As for the plan for the rest of the year, the art department’s mission is to make sure that every student continues with creating work, adding to their portfolio, and passes their IB exam.

“We were stuck with a lose-lose situation,” Crump-Strawderman said. “This is [the solution] we came up with.”