This past March, A+ Schools of North Carolina—a program of the North Carolina Arts Council—selected 10 new A+ Schools Apprentice Fellows. Following a revised recruitment process, which focused on identifying and inviting a more diverse group of applicants, the program welcomes its most diverse Apprentice Fellows cohort ever: 60 percent are artists and/or educators of color. Diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility are ongoing commitments of A+ Schools, and this new class of Apprentice Fellows reflects those priorities.
Every other year, A+ Schools provides a series of information sessions across the state for those who want to learn more about becoming an A+ Apprentice Fellow and about the program’s unique process of training schools in arts integration. Following these sessions are two full days of training for potential Fellows. After an evaluation process, A+ Schools staff members select the people whose credentials best match the program’s needs at that time. Once selected, the A+ Apprentice Fellows observe and shadow veteran A+ Fellows during A+ Schools summer conferences and school-year professional development.
The apprenticeship is typically a 12-month process, but this year it has been extended to 18 months because of the shift from in-person to online conferences during the pandemic. A+ Schools hopes to return to in-person conferences in the summer of 2022, which will provide additional opportunities for Apprentice Fellows to observe and learn about the full A+ Schools training experience.
The new group of Apprentice Fellows spans the state from Clinton to Banner Elk, and they bring expertise in dance, theater, and music, as well as K-12 education. Their skills are expected to make those of the current group of A+ Fellows even stronger and more diverse. Meet the 2021 A+ Apprentice Fellows:
Vincent Marron, the first executive director of A+ Schools of North Carolina, died on January 22 at the age of 85.
Vincent became engaged early in the inception and planning of the A+ Schools program, and his experience was what the program needed to pull off the kind of long-term sustainability that education reform requires. He had just been hired as the assistant director of the Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts and had a strong background in educational systems thinking, teaching, learning which allowed for multiple perspectives and an understanding of the impact of the arts. During those early years in the formation of A+ Schools, Vincent Marron helped lead the effort to establish a network of powerful allies and knowledgeable educators, arts supporters, and business leaders, who would help initiate the program.
Reflecting later on the history and value of A+ Schools, Vincent said,
We wanted to integrate the arts with the other things that children learn in school and use the arts to help them learn those other things. The A+ program is especially important at a time when many school systems are cutting back on arts education to save money. In some cases, parents and educators may see the arts as a frill that takes time away from the basics. We think they're wrong. One of the best ways to focus on the three Rs is to give all of the children in the school as many ways to learn the content as you can.
Vincent’s wife, Natalie Marron, describes her husband’s involvement in the program this way:
Vincent had a great love for going to the A+ schools. He was always delighted and excited to sit in on classes and see how a particular art form was integrated into the subject being taught, and most especially when students didn't understand the subject, but were able to express their understanding and knowledge using the arts. That’s when transformation and understanding became one. We all learn differently.
Jeanne Butler, former executive director of the Kenan Institute for the Arts, says Vincent’s favorite quotation was from E. M. Forster’s novel, Howard’s End: “Only connect! Only connect the prose and the passion. . . . Live in fragments no longer.” Recalling the measured and thoughtful voice of her colleague and longtime friend, she says, “Vincent's love of education and ‘only connecting’ with the arts was invaluable in helping the Thomas Kenan Institute establish the A+ Schools program. He set and maintained high standards as a firm foundation of a network, applying systems thinking principles in curriculum, pedagogy, and school management.”
“It has been said,” Jeanne continues, “that Vincent brought the minister into administration with his gentle persistence. That persistence helped create a remarkable legacy for A+ Schools.”
Vincent was proud to be the director of the A+ Schools program, which today helps teachers in more than 200 schools in the U.S. and internationally to integrate the arts in every subject. When he retired from the program in 2005, the A+ Fellows (the consultants who provide high-quality professional development for the network of A+ Schools) created a special rendition of “Bye Bye Birdie” and serenaded him with it. We’ve tweaked that version as an appropriate final send-off for him.
A Song for Vincent
To the tune of Bye, Bye Birdie
Pack up all your systems charts,
You’ve left your impact on our hearts,
Bye, bye, Vincent.
Your work continues to this day,
Reaching children many ways,
Bye, bye, Vincent.
Thanks to your hard work, A+ is famous,
so if we’re sad you’ve left us, please don’t blame us.
With your vision we still thrive,
you have touched all our lives,
Vincent, bye bye!
If you would like to honor Vincent Marron and help carry on his legacy, you can make a memorial contribution through the North Carolina Arts Foundation: https://www.artsfoundationnc.info/donate. Please mention A+ Schools of N.C. and Vincent’s name when you do.