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Lisa James, superintendent of the Carroll County School District, has been selected as the Kentucky Music Educators Association (KMEA) 5th District Superintendent of the Year. James is being recognized for her efforts to increase student participation in the arts since 2008 when she became superintendent.
James was nominated for the award by Jeff Root, who directed the Carroll County High School Band for 27 years before coming out of retirement to serve as in-school suspension coordinator at the Carroll County Alternative Learning Center (CCALC). Under the James’ direction, Root began a percussion group at the Alternative Learning Center, made up of about 12 students who use plastic five-gallon buckets and snare drum sticks for musical instruments.
The school is the only alternative learning center in the commonwealth of Kentucky to have a performing arts group, according to Root. The “Come Back Kids,” the name the students selected for their bucket-drum ensemble, have performed publicly and received a distinguished rating in the KMEA Solo and Ensemble Festival in District Five last February.
“We know from research that involvement in the arts has many benefits,” said James. “Music builds creativity, team work, and discipline, and all kids can benefit from it.”
School districts throughout the country have pushed for students to have greater proficiency in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, known by the acronym “STEM.” However, recognizing the importance of the arts in developing innovative thinkers, James is among a growing number of educational leaders calling for STEAM, not just STEM. Banners throughout the Carroll County School District pose the question: “RU ready for S.T.E.A.M?”
“Ms. James is leading the charge for more arts education when some districts are doing the minimum amount in arts and humanities,” said Root. He noted in his nomination letter that James had begun a choral music program at all of the schools, increased the number and quality of theatrical productions, and acquired grant funding from North American Stainless to support arts education throughout the district.
The KMEA 5th district is made up of music educators from school districts in Anderson, Bullitt, Carroll, Henry, Oldham, Shelby, Spencer, and Trimble Counties, as well the Christian Academy of Louisville. Root said that more than 40 music educators chose James from among several nominations.
“It says a lot about our district and Ms. James when our superintendent is selected from among counties that are much larger,” said Root. “It says a lot about our commitment to the arts.”
Root said that Dr. John Stroube, executive director of KMEA, began the Administrator of the Year awards five years ago to recognize educational leaders who were committed not only to music but to all of the arts and humanities.
James will be recognized for the district award at the KMEA 5th District Honor Band performance at Martha Layne Collins High School in Shelby County on January 12, 2013. She and other district award winners will be considered for Kentucky Administrator of the Year by KMEA, which will be presented at the group’s state conference in February.
“It’s a great honor to be recognized for supporting the arts,” said James. “I know from my personal experience, being in the band and in plays in school, that the arts can have a tremendous impact on the lives of students. I know it has had a positive influence in my life.”
Jeff Fremin is director of public relations for Carroll County Public Schools.