rise up

An NBC grant means the lights and speakers at this southwest Denver arts school will actually work

Students at Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy tick off the problems with their theater facilities. (Courtesy NBC)

Chairs with no seats, tiles falling from the ceiling, stage lights with only a tenuous connection to the light board, and speakers that give off a consistent buzz.

These are the problems students at Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy in southwest Denver documented in a video that won them a $10,000 grant from NBC.

The television network gave $500,000 to 50 schools in honor of its new drama “Rise,” which is about a high school theater department and its effects on a small town. NBC distributed the money in partnership with the non-profit Educational Theatre Foundation.

Kunsmiller, where 84 percent of students qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, a proxy for poverty, was selected from among 1,000 schools.

In their application video, students at the school give viewers a tour of their theater, which has seen better days.

“Welcome to the theater. It’s very sad,” one student says.

Principal Peter Castillo said the quotes he’s gotten to realize his complete vision for the arts-oriented school – a dance studio, a concert-quality music venue, and a new theater – have been “a little disheartening.”

Castillo noted that in contrast to Denver School of the Arts, students at Kunsmiller have traditionally focused more on the visual arts because that’s what they had exposure to in elementary school. Better facilities will open up more opportunities for students to explore other art forms.

The grant is a small percentage of the total need, but it will allow the school to upgrade the lighting and sound systems and repaint the theater, with money left over for additional training for staff and for students to visit other school theater facilities to develop a plan for Kunsmiller. And it will also help boost fundraising efforts, he said.

Castillo gave credit to drama teacher Nicole Hudson for helping the students put together their submission.

“The kids had some fun showing off our 60-year-old stage and our 60-year-old chairs and our 60-year-old feel,” he said.

Here’s the winning video:

#GovTest

Where Bruce Rauner and J.B. Pritzker stand on key education issues, from charters to Chicago’s school board

PHOTO: (Rauner) Alex Wong/Staff/Getty Images; (Pritzker) Joshua Lott/Getty Images
Our conversations with Gov. Bruce Rauner (left) and challenger J.B. Pritzker will be aired on Oct. 3 on WBEZ 91.5 FM.

The race for Illinois governor is shaping up to be one of the most expensive in U.S. history, and anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock has probably seen or heard one of the barrage of ads for the candidates. There have been puppies, toilets, and plenty of barbs over wealth and taxes — and the back-and-forth has drowned out the discussion over where the candidates stand on education, arguably one of the most crucial policy areas facing the state.

To dig deeper, Chalkbeat Chicago is teaming up with the education team at WBEZ 91.5 Chicago for a WBEZ/Chalkbeat 2018 Election Special: Testing the Candidates. Republican incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic candidate J.B. Pritzker each have agreed to join us for a conversation about where they stand on everything from boosting the state’s profile in early childhood education to stemming the exodus of undergraduates from Illinois.

The interviews will be separate, but will be broadcast back-to-back on WBEZ 91.5 FM on Oct. 3 starting at 8 a.m.  

In advance of the discussion, Chalkbeat and WBEZ asked each candidate for his position on five questions, and we’ve reprinted their answers in their entirety. We’re also soliciting interview suggestions from our readers and listeners. Use this form to submit a question to us, and follow along with the discussion on Oct. 3 using #GovTest.

#GovTest

What would you ask Gov. Bruce Rauner and J.B. Pritzker about education?

Chalkbeat Chicago is teaming up with the education team at WBEZ 91.5 Chicago for a WBEZ/Chalkbeat 2018 Election Special: Testing the Candidates. Republican incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic candidate J.B. Pritzker each have agreed to join us for a conversation about where they stand on everything from boosting the state’s profile in early childhood education to stemming the exodus of undergraduates from Illinois.

Use the form below to submit questions for the conversations, which will air back-to-back on Oct. 3 at 8 a.m.