MAC Recognizes Schools for Outstanding Arts-Integrated Education

JACKSON, MISS. (Sept. 4, 2018) – The Mississippi Arts Commission recognized two schools last week as models of exemplary practice in arts integration. Nora Davis Magnet School in Laurel, Miss., and St. Anthony Catholic School in Madison, Miss., both schools with longstanding participation in MAC’s Whole Schools Initiative, each accepted an award in ceremonies held Aug. 30 and 31 on their respective campuses.

The Whole Schools Initiative is Mississippi’s first comprehensive statewide arts education program, which uses the arts as a vehicle for promoting high-quality instruction and learning for students in all disciplines. In 1991, the WSI began as a response to “back to basics” school reform and calls for the integration of the arts into daily classroom instruction and sequential, comprehensive instruction in dance, theatre, visual arts, and music.

“Both of these schools deserve the highest praise for their efforts in arts integration,” said Malcolm White, executive director of the Mississippi Arts Commission. “Based on decades of research, we know the arts are highly effective as an educational tool, but when you walk into schools like Nora Davis Magnet School and St. Anthony Catholic School, the power of the arts is at every turn. The children are excited to learn in and through the arts and the value of arts integrated education is evident.”

Whole Schools Initiative evaluation results have shown increased standardized test scores, increased community involvement and support, increased parental involvement and improved overall teacher morale. There are three levels to the program: Arts in the Classroom, which is a one-year, introductory experience; Whole Schools Initiative, which is a multi-year commitment and Model School, which is a renewable, two year award for schools that have completed the Whole Schools Initiative level. Both Nora Davis Magnet School and St. Anthony Catholic School are considered Model Schools in the program.

“St. Anthony Catholic School is extremely honored to be recognized as a model of exemplary practice in arts integration,” said Megan Leake, St. Anthony Catholic School Whole Schools Initiative project director. “We take pride in teaching the whole child through the integration of the four arts disciplines. St. Anthony knows the value of allowing all types of learners to demonstrate mastery of a skill in a variety of ways. It is intrinsically who we are and what we stand for.”

The awards presented signify each school’s deep commitment to exemplary arts-integrated teaching, creating a campus-wide culture of arts learning and supporting innovative, educational excellence through the arts.

“The faculty at Nora Davis work diligently to provide our students with a well-rounded education filled with knowledge, experiences, and success for the future,” said Casey Watts, Nora Davis Magnet School Whole Schools Initiative project director. “It is a huge boost for morale when that hard work is recognized. Statistically our students shouldn’t perform as well as they do, but through the arts, we have found our students achieve greater academic success than a great number of their peers around the state. Although the students are pushed academically, they also get to have fun while learning. This accounts for high attendance rates and high interest in learning.”

To learn more about the Whole Schools Initiative, visit