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BOE Hears ‘A State Of The Arts’ Presentation



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Newtown Public Schools Visual and Performing Arts Director Michelle Hiscavich offered a presentation for the Board of Education at its November 15 meeting.

“So what are the state of the arts?” Hiscavich said near the start of her presentation.

In Hiscavich’s presentation she offered lists of some of the things the district did during the COVID-19 pandemic and some of the current procedures. Some of the things highlighted that happened during the pandemic included students not sharing tools, equipment, or instruments; clay was sent home in buckets for children to work on; masks were worn and covers were used for wind instruments; choral students wore masks; performances and productions were limited; and competitions and auditions used submitted video rather than in-person events.

Students can now share tools, equipment, and instruments; normal classroom procedures are followed for clay in art classes; there is no need to wipe everything down after every use; no masks are mandated and neither are covers for instruments; students are singing without masks; students can sit together; there are live competitions and auditions; and all district performances/productions/art shows are again taking place, according to the presentation.

“Kids are singing again and what we are doing is redeveloping with them what it is like to properly breathe,” said Hiscavich.

Exercises like placing hands on the stomach and taking a full breath and feeling how to sing are taking place.

“Those are the kinds of things we are bringing back and really focusing on,” said Hiscavich.

Along with more normal lessons, Hiscavich said the district’s regular annual schedule is “back.”

When focusing on art, Hiscavich shared photos of examples of student art work.

“We have a variety of projects going on,” said Hiscavich.

State Champs, Theater Productions

The arts director also updated the school board on the Newtown High School Marching Band & Guard recently being named state champions and earning bronze at nationals.

“One of the things we are really focusing on is how do we get members back into all of our programs?” said Hiscavich, adding that the NHS Marching Band & Guard visited Reed Intermediate School recently to perform to inspire younger students.

And later in the presentation, Hiscavich said, “Productions are going forward.” She highlighted NHS’s fall drama production of Almost, Maine, which was staged November 17-19, and shared that the high school’s spring musical will be Into The Woods. Newtown Middle School is set to stage Newsies and Reed will stage The Lion King.

The Lion King is a holdover,” Hiscavich said. “We were all set to perform The Lion King when we closed in March of that year for COVID.”

While not performing The Lion King was a letdown in 2020, Hiscavich said, “We’re very excited to perform this show.”

In other district arts news shared by Hiscavich, the High School/Elementary School Music Mentoring Association (HEMMA) program has 21 high school students signed up to be mentors this year.

“Both sides of the fence love this program,” said Hiscavich. “It’s a great opportunity for our high school students to be role models, maybe give them the interest in [being] a teacher one day, and they learn a lot ... The younger students gain a lot of experience.”

The HEMMA program will be up and running after the holidays, according to the presentation.

And “something new this year” is the addition of arts honor societies at NHS and Newtown Middle School. According to Hiscavich 120 students have been inducted into the new societies.

“I’m really proud that we live in a district here that supported us through those difficult COVID years,” Hiscavich said near the end of her presentation.

Saying the district is in a “renaissance,” Hiscavich thanked the school board for all it does to support that effort.

Education Editor Eliza Van can be reached at eliza@thebee.com.

Newtown Public Schools Visual and Performing Arts Director Michelle Hiscavich’s presentation at the Board of Education’s November 15 meeting began by looking at “creative futures.”
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