County’s school districts proud of arts programs

Published 7:00 am Friday, February 24, 2017

A class at X-finity Dance Academy shows the range of age groups interested in the art.

A class at X-finity Dance Academy shows the range of age groups interested in the art.

Since the most recent recession, some school districts across the nation have been negatively affected, forced to layoff teachers and cut programs due to difficult budgeting decisions. However, in Pearl River County, school districts are keeping the future of their students in mind, staying away from cutting the most vulnerable program, fine arts.
“Our fine arts and performing arts programs are components of our school that are important to our students, which is important to us,” Kent Kirkland, Picayune Memorial High School principal, said. “It gives them an alternative to athletics.”
Nevertheless, the threat of cutting art programs still looms in this country, which X-finity Dance Academy owner E.Jae James has a personal experience.
Growing up, James did not play sports. He was a member of the band and was in nearly every art program at his school, which was not in the state of Mississippi. Those programs slowly got cut, he said.
“Eliminating arts is eliminating the future,” James said. “Imagine if the sports program got cut where Michael Jordan went to school, or B.B. King’s music program got cut. The youth would have no one to look up to and (aspire) to be. Eliminating the arts is eliminating what makes each and every one of us individuals.”
To James, programs such as dance and music, are more than just a hobby; they are avenues for children to find what they enjoy in life.
Dean Shaw, Picayune School District superintendent, said he is proud of the district’s art program teachers and the students who participate in them. He said the district has no intention of cutting any arts programs in the near future.
The Pearl River County School District is proposing a multi-million dollar bond, which includes the construction of a new performing arts center that features a stage for the arts programs at the school and across the community. The bond will be voted on in March.
In 2010, James created Dance Art Dance, a non-profit organization that embraces self-esteem in young people, empowering them to be happy with who they are, James said.
DAD provides an opportunity for kids to positively express themselves through art education, he said.
“Through the arts, many children get to figure out who they are, what their heritage is and what kind of personality they have. Without these options, they can’t figure out their signature. We become robots, subliminally forced to act and like what the person next to you likes,” he said.
James is accepting donations at to fund scholarships and the purchase of instruments and other necessities for students to participate in art programs.
Representatives with the Poplarville School District and Pearl River County School District did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

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