The New Orleans-based George Rodrigue Foundation will open a grant application period in November for Louisiana schools that seek to join the A+ Schools Program and infuse the arts into every aspect of their curriculum. Foundation director Jacques Rodrigue spoke Friday in Bossier City as part of a TEDx event. Currently, seven schools in Louisiana are in the network. Rodrigue said his foundation couldn’t wait for the state to embrace this educational model. So his father, the artist known for the famous Blue Dog paintings, George Rodrigue, took the lead. Jacques Rodrigue said the foundation is encouraged by results so far.
“I truly believe that Louisiana A+ schools can change the fabric of what our education system in Louisiana looks like," Rodrigue said, following his TEDx talk at Margaritaville Resort Casino in Bossier City. "A lot of people think it’s too impossible in a state like Louisiana that is known around the country for not being the greatest state for an education.”
In the first year of the grant, teachers from A+ schools spend a week in Baton Rouge getting trained in the arts integration initiative. The follow-up professional development goes on throughout the school year and for two more summers. Rodrigue said the seven schools in Louisiana's network have seen major breakthroughs in teaching.
“Even schools that think they’re using the arts a lot, what they realize is that they’re not using it in the most effective way," Rodrigue said. "We had one school that was an arts specialist school, and they thought they were doing arts integration the whole time. After spending five days with us, they realized they were only scratching the surface.”
Rodrigue said the new A+ schools will be named in the spring. To date, he said $400,000 has been spent on training and supplies for the seven schools in the network, and half of that funding has come from the George Rodrigue Foundation.