Op-Ed: Jamir Lawson and Chloe McNeill Are Made Co-Presidents of BSA in Bizarre Election Outcome

Opinion, Politics and Activism, School News

By: Ronan O’Comartun

In my last election coverage article, by saying “Student Government at BSA is still in its infancy, and there is a glimmer of hope that one day it will evolve into something impactful,” I did not mean some weird co-parenting cop-out allowing both Chloe McNeill and Jamir Lawson to take office. 

Former President Quinn Bryant made a loudspeaker announcement the afternoon of May 25th revealing that Jamir Lawson and Chloe McNeill will be Student Government Association co-Presidents.

The decision was reached after a 45 minute discussion between Lawson, McNeill, former President Quinn Bryant, and the two SGA advisors Meg Grouzard and Jocelyn Providence. 

One of the two opponents won by four votes (this counts as one percent).

No one besides Grouzard and Providence knows the final results concerning who came out on top. 

Four votes is a small margin to win by but it still means that someone won.

While the ratio of the victory may have been small, that does not diminish the fact that this outcome does not benefit the students, but rather McNeill and Lawson’s personal interests. 

By acting as co-President to each other, both McNeill and Lawson get what they want: a small amount of influence and a nice line on their college resumes. 

The SGA, advised by Election runners Meg Grouzard and Jocelyn Providence, refusing to release the official ballot results creates suspicion among the student body and undermines the process of free and fair elections. 

Why is there not a student representative looking over the final votes? Why is the SGA administration keeping the winner secret?

By allowing McNeill and Lawson to co parent BSA, the SGA diminishes its role, making whoever holds office look like the winner of a sad participation trophy. Everybody wins! What’s even sadder than winning a participation trophy is not winning a participation trophy – my thoughts and prayers go out to Day’Shaun Barrett. 

How can you expect to make the administration and foundation that already does not take student government seriously have an ounce of respect for the student body when they have Bert and Ernie representing them?  

“I also pushed for our SGA to be more serious…damn… a lot of members who were elected, …damn, this actually sounds crazy. A lot of members… damn. A lot of members that were elected kind of took it as a joke at first, and only a handful of students, in my opinion, took it seriously. So I wanna bring more seriousness and more officialness to our SGA,” Lawson says of the BSA foundation not taking SGA seriously.

Lawson continued, “because when people take it as a joke, and take it as like, you know, like, oh, blah, blah, blah, it kind of loses its value. And especially from an adults’ point of view. They’re reluctant, because they think, oh, these are kids, they can’t sit in on these meetings.”

I did not edit these quotes: Lawson felt so strongly that he needed to say “damn” three times. 

These two individuals sat down in a room and decided that instead of taking political responsibility over who lost and who won, they would rather the winner remain unknown so that they could both take office.

McNeill says, “Fear of the lack of political influence wasn’t ever a personal issue for me. If I lost, then I lost. I feel like this way we can both address the things that we were campaigning for while also having the support of each other for working and for reflections. I think we can tackle more issues with both of us there.”

I personally believe that it will prove more difficult for both candidates to navigate their political duties whilst having to agree or compromise on everything. 

There are two ways to fix this political disaster, both that were decided against by the candidates. 

  1. A runoff between McNeill and Lawson takes place.
  2. Whoever won by four votes takes office. 

These are not my original ideas, but the ideas presented at the sit down between Lawson and McNeill by Grouzard and Providence. 

A runoff would yield similar results because of how few votes Day’Shaun received, but that is still no reason to not have one as it sustains principles of democracy and allows the voices of all students to be heard. 

It’s somewhat bizarre that one of the solutions to this problem is actually the very outcome we initially anticipated – the logical and intended result of this event – yet here we are. 

What will happen next time when a candidate wins by seven votes instead of four, will their opponent be outraged that there wasn’t some sort of co-president seance?

Lawson and McNeill’s reluctance to have a runoff or simply allow the real winner to be revealed makes it clear they would rather have this political calamity take place than face the idea that they might lose. 

I have respect for the SGA and its advisors, and I want to emphasize that this article does not intend to criticize them personally. However, I strongly believe that democratic procedures should be upheld in a democratic election.

The bottom line is that no matter how little SGA actually matters at BSA, students voted under the assumption that one president would be elected and represent them and that is not the way things played out.

To contact this writer, email Muse Newspaper at musebsa@bsfa.org.

Featured photo: Jamir Lawson and Chloe McNeill, the two SGA presidents. Photos by Asad Ali for the BSA Muse.

A Mural for Unity Strikes Back at Hate Speech

School News

By: Micah Berger-Sollod

In the face of hateful and demeaning graffiti earlier this year, some students at the Baltimore School for the Arts have decided to take an artistic approach to combating intolerance.

The Jewish Student Group, in association with other student groups like the Student Government spearheaded a new project to create a mural that celebrates diversity and highlights the importance of unity. As the project nears completion, the student groups are eager to share their message with the wider community and inspire others to take action against hate and discrimination.

After a series of swastikas appeared in school bathrooms early on in the school year, Senior Eliyah Burg of the Jewish Student Group and Senior Quinn Bryant of the Student Government began brainstorming ways to take a proactive approach to combating hate. Bryant said, “At a Jewish Student Group Meeting, they had invited club reps, and from that meeting, we decided to have a big collaborative mural that all students could work on.”

The driving idea for the mural was simple, create a mural that could be worked on by all students regardless of painting ability and have it be prominently displayed as a symbol of unity. 

The process of choosing a location for the mural was lengthy and the team considered many locations including the lobby but eventually went with the fourth floor to the ease of creating it there and because people constantly walked past the area.

“They wanted it to be something everyone could work on and add their own touch but because we have obviously had issues with people writing hateful stuff we didn’t want it to be too free.” said Bryant. The solution was a paint by numbers concept.

Originally, a Purple Chair member began possible sketches of the mural; eventually, Bryant was assigned as the main designer. The original approach she took was basing her sketches off of various words that other club representatives wanted the mural to represent. “Some words that I could use to brainstorm, unite, collaboration, community, equality,” Bryant said.

Over winter break, Bryant began sketching possible designs for the mural. Early designs included six heads of diverse ethnicities and a background of flowers or a big text that reads “Unity” in the center, surrounded by symbols of each department.

After winter break the committee of club representatives came together and chose two of Bryant’s sketches hoping to combine them for the final mural.

Over the next weekend, Bryant made a much larger sketch combining the two ideas and began working with faculty members Ayanna Freelon and Archie Veale on coloring and the paint by numbers concept.

The original idea was that each club representative would come in on different days and work on the mural but then Freelon, the artistic assistant to BSA’s director, had the idea that it could be a Spring Fest activity that anyone could participate in to make it a unifying effort.

“That was really beautiful,” Bryant remarked. 

Spring Fest was incredibly successful with tens of different students coming together to work on the mural along with members of the Jewish Student Group and Bryant. After Spring Fest, a cohort of various visual art students came together to paint areas off limits to the normal student.

Today the mural remains in the fourth floor hallway as a lasting legacy of Burg, Bryant, and a coalition of other artists devoted to the honor of all students.

“We communicate most clearly through our art, and so because the art came from us, it said what we didn’t have any other way to say, and spread the message we wanted to spread in our unique BSA way,” said Burg.

To contact this writer, email Muse Newspaper at musebsa@bsfa.org.

Photographs captured by Quinn Bryant and Sophia Richardson for the BSA Muse

Spring Elections implemented for Student Government

School News

By Audrey Weiss

On Wednesday, April 19th, students at Baltimore School for the Arts received an email, detailing that “This year BSA’s Student Government Association (SGA) will be holding Spring Elections.”

The Student Government Association sent out the email to announce a big change in the way that the SGA will work for its next cycle and get the ball rolling for potential candidates.

Elections, which in the first two years of the BSA organization had occurred first in November 2021 and second in October 2022, were now to occur at the end of the school year.

The idea was first brought to SGA President Quinn Bryant and Vice President Brayden Hamilton at a planning meeting for Expressions.

The pair then brought the idea to the co-advisors of the SGA, Megan Grouzard and Jocelyn Providence, before the idea was extended to the entire Student Government Association.

This change was decided on in the current SGA session by the current representatives, citing a variety of reasons and justifications that point to why a spring election will greatly benefit the productivity of the club.

With representatives being selected a few months after the start of the school year, working time was being lost, and with much of the  school-wide annual planning occurring at the beginning of the year, the student voice provided by the SGA was cut out of the picture.

Additionally, SGA teacher advisors shared that the BSA Foundation had requested more Expressions input from the student representatives.

This could be provided during the preliminary planning of Expressions that occurs at the beginning of the school year.

Moreover, spring elections as a concept for student governments is not at all unheard of.

“We are the outliers” was a realization from club co-supervisor Meg Grouzard that arose when communicating with other school SGA overseers. Most high school SGA organizations run their elections in the spring.

The one main concern brought up within the SGA dialogue considering the alteration of election schedule was that of freshman representation with student government.

One possibility of a freshmen secretary position was struck down by an SGA vote, and the representation was left in the hands of another category: club representatives.

“We will try to encourage clubs to send freshmen representatives so that we can have a full spectrum from the student body,” advisor Meg Grouzard explained.

With this concern addressed, the introduction of spring elections was ready to be rolled out.

The timeline, presented in the SGA interest meeting, mimics the timing used in the previous elections.

A three-week campaigning period will begin on May 3rd, the deadline for campaign filing on the 15th, and elections will take place on May 24th and May 25th.

After school on Friday, April 28th, a sparse group of students gathered in Ms. Grouzard’s classroom for the SGA interest meeting, the first opportunity to get information on candidacy for any of the SGA positions.

The briefing featured advice from current president Quinn Bryant, calendar details, and explanations of how the elections will be conducted.

The meeting established that once the new appointees are voted on by the student body, the work of the student government will begin as this school year closes out.

The possibility of meeting during the last week of the 2022/23 school year was floated in the interest meeting as an opportunity for the newly elected officials to determine a start date for next year and work out the initial planning for the SGA.

As the current Quinn Bryant—led administration is phased out, the alternate schedule that they put in place will shape the operation of the third generation of student government at Baltimore School for the Arts.

Now it is up to the potential candidates to start their campaigns by May 15th and battle it out for a position so that they can work to represent their peers.

To contact this writter email Muse Newspaper at musebsa@bsfa.org

Photographs taken by Asad Ali for the BSA Muse

Spire Volleyball Club, Will it Serve?

School News

By: Scarlett O’Comartun and Jude Harvey

Baltimore School for the Arts is known for, you guessed it, the arts. But recently, a few students have been advocating for sports to be incorporated into the community. The opinions on sports integration differs between students. Yes, students have movement class with Maria Broom and Fitness with Erica Tolentino—but what if sports became a larger part of the BSA lifestyle?

Henry Schmid-James and Fadzi Tran-Johnson are two film sophomores looking to bring sports to the BSA community. They are currently trying to bring a volleyball club to school. 

“We already approached Principal Roz and Ms. Tolentino about bringing Spire to the school,” says Schmid-James. 

“Spire”, Schmid-James and Tran-Johnson’s Volleyball group, was started over the summer. The pair hope to bring the group into school and recrute other other BSA students to play.

The members of Spire will only play against each other once the club is formed. It’s very hard to enroll the school into actual tournaments, seeing that throughout its whole lifespan, BSA has never had any sports clubs to enlist. 

Schmid-James and Tran-Johnson think a sports club at BSA is a great idea, and think it would even improve the school environment. 

“The reason why volleyball could work so well is because it is an art school. Students will jump at any chance to play a sport. I mean volleyball, or any sports group, is no different than any other club,” says Schmid-James. 

And they seem to be proven (relatively) right. The almost-club already has about 25 people who have signed up, which is a lot for a club at BSA. The only thing holding Spire back from officially starting is a practice space. The group has had trouble finding an accessible place to hold their meetings and games. Although BSA has a fitness gym, it’s far too small to hold 25 students spiking and throwing around a volleyball.

“I think the only problem we are really dealing with right now is space. We have everything we need except for a good place to practice,” said Tran-Johnson.

Schmid-James and Tran-Johnson went on to speak positively about Spire’s effect on the school, and how it’s important for art students to also have the chance to experience other hobbies. They even wish it was part of the school day. 

Some students at BSA disagree with the fact that a sports club would be fun and exciting for a school which has pretty much never heard of one. 

“I think sports take away from the general culture that our school started as,” says Brayden Hamilton, a senior clarinetist and Vice President of the school’s student government. She is not against the idea, though.

“However, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to incorporate sports to create a more ‘high school’ experience.” Hamilton elaborated by saying that she knows a lot of BSA students who want a “normal” high school experience, with pep rallies every Friday, Homecoming, and after school football games. But she also expressed that BSA is not like that, and people should not expect it to be. 

  “Our Homecoming is Expressions, our after school activities are music performances, and I feel like if you don’t want that, you shouldn’t be auditioning to get in,” Hamilton said. 

With a new sports club in the making, how will it affect BSA? Many students’ opinions differ, for some it will bring more fun and excitement to school life, while others think it will distract from BSA culture and tradition. 

So who knows? Could the new volleyball club inSPIRE the students at BSA?

To contact these writers email Muse Newspaper at musebsa@bsfa.org.

Photograph taken by Faith Spicer for the BSA Muse.

New Security Contract in Baltimore Schools Incites Backlash

Archive, School News

By: Micah Berger-Sollod

New Policies at Baltimore School for the Arts

On a cold October morning, two things greeted students at the Baltimore School for the Arts. Previously unused metal detectors were suddenly being operated on every student going through the Madison street doors. Just past the doors, friendly administrators were searching through bags. This is a result of a Baltimore City Public School System’s policy that had been in place for seven months but had only just been introduced to the halls of BSA. Bag searches and metal detectors are contentious issues in schools around the United States and, with a new Baltimore school board contract, the voices objecting to these practices have only become louder.

According to Principal Rosiland Cauthen, the introduction of the policies into BSA were sparked by an inspection by the school district’s office. The inspector was disappointed with BSA’s lack of implementation of the metal detector and bag search policies. Metal detectors were only in use for a single morning after the inspection and they caused a massive line around the block. Students took off their bags and emptied their pockets before going through. Despite that, the metal detectors often rang off with false alarms. The bag searches were performed by BSA administrators, Thomas Askey, Dawn Strickland, and Rosiland Cauthen. With over four hundred students at BSA, the entire process that morning was painfully slow.

The next morning, the lines were virtually gone. No one was being forced to go through the metal detectors, however, the bag searches in the lobby still remained. 

Four months later, bag searches are still present at BSA. Over the course of 22 days, a reporter from the BSA Muse was checked only nine times. This means the reporter was only checked 40 percent of the times they entered the building. The reporter also stated that they never had multiple pockets in their bag checked, though it has occurred for other students.

Principal Cauthen made it clear the use of metal detectors and bag searches were Baltimore Public Schools Policy and not BSA policy. “In the climate that we’re living in, where we’ve seen an increase in violence, an increase in hate, an increase in random shootings in schools and other places, as much as we can do to prevent anything from happening, I think we should,” stated Cauthen.

Students of BSA have cast skepticism on these policies, however. Naija Delong, a senior actor, said that the new policies “didn’t really” make her feel safer and that she thought of them as “pointless”. “It’s just an extra step to get to school,” said Delong.

Kayla Hammonds, a film freshman, said “It kind of reminds me of how prison systems are set up. I get the policy because of all the threats recently, but the execution of the policy is not great.”

Bag Searches

Bag searches have been a long-criticized practice in Baltimore public schools. Bag searches, also known as safety checks, first became a mandatory policy after an altercation at Digital Harbor High School in April of 2022. There has been no public information released on this altercation. 

Ethan Eblaghie, president of the Associated Student Congress of Baltimore City, claims that safety checks are often paired with racial profiling. In an Instagram post, the Baltimore Student Union, a student-led group Eblaghie is associated with, stated, “[the safety checks] did not get weapons out of schools and resulted in a wholsesale logical disaster.” In the same post, Eblaghie said that the safety checks were “an offensive disgrace to students with disabilities” and that the policy is anti-disability and anti-poverty. 

That being said, research on the effectiveness of bag searches has come up with diverse results. Over the course of two years, the Los Angeles Unified School District found 37 knives, 18 containers of pepper spray, 16 razor blades, three shanks, two box cutters, and a stun gun. Additionally, there were 137 pairs of scissors that could also be used as weapons, 73 instances of illegal drugs, and 56 over-the-counter medications.

On the other hand, an internal audit of Los Angeles schools found that 25 percent of schools did not have enough personnel to perform the searches and that people of color were searched at a disproportionate rate to caucasian students.

Darryl Johnson, BSA’s school police officer, said, “At BSA, weapons can often be part of what someone uses for class.” Johnson reflected that many students at BSA use equipment, such as box cutters, that can be easily used as a weapon.

Metal Detectors and New Contract in Baltimore City Schools

Metal detectors are another story entirely. In October, the school board had an agenda item that would have transferred 1.2 million dollars in funds from the general fund to capital expenditures. The agenda said the money was for a “weapon detection systems project” but gave no additional details. Melissa Schober, a parent at BSA, took notice. Schober thought that “weapons detection systems” was a unique phrasing and went looking online for vendors that used the same phrasing. She found one particular company, Evolv Express, a company under Alliance Technologies Group, that uses that same phrasing. 

Preceding a public school board meeting, Schober suspected that a procurement of that size suggested that a contract with Evolv had likely been in the works for a long time. Schober stated her suspicions at the public board meeting. But according to Schober, “the commissioners seemed surprised and were asking lots of questions.” 

“It seemed that the board had not been briefed on the contract,” said Schober. Schober suspected that the true agent and organizer of the contract was the City Schools’ purchasing agent, Shabray Matthews.

In response to the board meeting, Schober put in a request for the information via the Maryland Public Information Act. “I wanted to see the behind-the-scenes thinking on the [Evolv] systems and what, if anything, was the school system thinking of the efficacy of the [Evolv] systems,” she said.

The school board’s plan, preceding a full use of the Evolv weapon detection system, was to have a 200,000 dollar contract that intended to pilot the weapons detection systems at Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School. Maurice A. Gaskins, assistant director of facilities design and construction at Baltimore City Public Schools, said in an email, “We picked Mervo because they have up to 1k students scheduled to be in and out of the building.”

Additionally, Brooks Gearhart, account executive and business development rep at Alliance Technologies, claimed that “Evolv metal detectors work at 10x the speed of normal metal detectors.”

Both statements were within the emails between Evolv Technologies and the school board released by Schober’s indictment of the Maryland Public Information Act. These statements have not been confirmed outside these emails. 

Brian Nolan, the acting superintendent of Utica schools, a school district that also used Evolv’s weapon detection system, said that the system does not detect knives. Utica is now phasing out 4 million dollars in metal detectors from their school systems and replacing them with new ones.

Schober is particularly worried about faulty metal detectors because her child must wear a metal ankle foot orthotic because of gait. 

In May, Peter George, CEO of Evolv Technologies told the Washington Post that the metal detectors have difficulty distinguishing between chromebooks and guns. In November of 2021, an Urbana, Illinois school board utilizing Evolv systems found that 60-70 percent of alarms were chromebooks.

Internet Protocol Video Market, a security and surveillance industry research group and trade publication, investigated the effectiveness of Evolv metal detector systems. After a meeting between IPVM and an Evolv salesperson in which Evolv promised to disclose all possible issues, IPVM continued to find weaknesses in the system. After IPVM’s expose on the issue, Evolv claimed that “they were putting the general public at risk.” IPVM found that 15 percent of weapons sent through Evolv’s metal detectors were undetected. 

Evolv also claims to be giving away free systems to schools as part of charitable acts. This is also false. Schools that receive free metal detectors are forced to be marketing partners for Evolv Technologies. 

In mid-December, during Schober’s correspondence with the school board, Schober summed up her problems by saying, “The school system is considering an expensive, proprietary system with almost no public efficacy data.” In a report by the BBC, it was reported that Evolv was missing many large knives at stadiums like Manchester Arena. In Utica’s school systems, in reports by IPVM, and in reports by the BBC, knives remain one of the most missed weapons by Evolv systems despite the assurance that the systems do in fact detect weapons. It is clear that Evolv is mislabeling its service. Evolv’s systems are not effective weapons detection systems. They are metal detectors.

“I am sorry that you felt the need to draft a rebuttal to a parent of a disabled kid who is concerned about the District buying an expensive security system that might not work and might, in the process, delay entry, especially for students with disabilities,” Schober said in response. 

On December 13th, the Associated Student Congress of Baltimore City and John L. Davis, Chief of Schools for Baltimore City Public Schools spoke in a school board meeting. In the meeting, Evolv said that “students enter through the metal detectors at regular walking pace.” However other school districts have had other results. In Utica, New York as well as in Dorchester county students are often forced to take out metal items from their bags before entering. Evolv also stated that their systems eliminated the need for searches. Despite claims otherwise, there is no basis to the claim that Evolv can lower violence on school campuses. 

Evolv piloted metal detectors at Mergenthaler High School, Carver Vocational-Technical High School, Francis M. Wood High School, and Patterson High School in August of 2022. After the first pilot at Mervo, Principal Tricia Lawrence said that “The sense of security provided is why I’m a strong advocate for this type of system.” and that the systems were “effective” and “non-intrusive”. Also at the meeting, representatives from Evolv laid out a timetable for the use of their system in Baltimore City public schools.

Student Commissioner Quinn Katz-Zogby, a student-elected member of the school board, delivered testimony at a Baltimore School Board policy meeting in which he cited multiple failures of the Evolv system. Evolv did not respond to his testimony. Katz-Zogby was also excluded from the communications between Evolv and the school board.

Note: Quinn Katz-Zogby is on staff at the BSA Muse, but was not otherwise involved in this story. 

Ethan Eblaghie, President of the ASCBC, said at a Baltimore School Board policy meeting that the contract was “at best ill informed and at worst misguided.” Eblaghie continues to object to the communications between Evolv and the School board without notification of ASCBC.

“A failure to consult ASCBC in August implies the promise to consult on the Evolv contract was nothing but lip service. The support amongst the directly impacted, students, teachers, and staff, for mandatory safety checks is dubious”, Eblaghie said of the contract during the school board meeting. Eblaghie also claimed that disabled students were unfairly profiled by metal detectors and safety checks, though statistics were not provided. 

At the end of hours of testimonies from student groups and Evolv representatives, all but one of the school board members voted for the Evolv contract. “I feel less angry and more disappointed,” said Katz-Zogby.

To contact this writer, email Muse Newspaper at musebsa@bsfa.org.

The Factors of Middle School Arts Education on BSA Admissions

Archive, School News

By: Quinn Bryant

Every January, the Baltimore School for the Arts holds auditions for 8th and 9th graders interested in pursuing a career in the arts. Over 1,000 students audition and only a little over 100 are accepted every year. Different art departments look for different qualities in their auditions, but could the art education you got while in middle school make or break your chances of getting in? The answer is not as straightforward as it may seem. 

Budget and Structure

One factor in any successful program is the time and money devoted to it. Those factors will contribute to the resources and accessibility it has. Baltimore City Public Schools have outlined their attempts to produce a successful arts program across the school district. In the published  BCPSS 2020-2021 budget review, they outline their Fine Arts Initiative, which is outlined annually in Attachment 13 of their Master Plan. 

The Fine Arts Initiative“allots funding to support curricular and instructional programs in visual arts, dance, music, and theater. This includes district music festivals; student field trips; systemic professional development for visual arts, dance, music, and theater teachers; and financial support for these initiatives.”

Along with this initiative, BCPSS has an additional Arts Education Strategic Plan. Its goal “ensures representational structures including but not limited to the hiring processes, curricula, environment, access to resources, and continuous access to sequential arts instruction in all art disciplines. The overarching goal of this plan is to increase student agency, facilitate authentic self-expression, and prepare students for post-secondary success to better the community through the arts.”

To ensure their plan’s success, it includes a five-year implementation of its goals and an accountability process. Specifically for middle school students, the standard is that all students will have art instruction each year and may specialize in one or more of the art disciplines of dance, media arts, music, theater, and visual art. 

The plan has all the key components to produce a well-structured art program, but many professionals feel it is still neglected. TWIGS Director Candance Everette claims, “resources are very limited in Baltimore City Public Schools, especially as we continue to navigate the impact of the pandemic.” Baltimore city acknowledged that their students need more access to the arts in the FY23 Adopted Budget Presentation to the Baltimore City Council.  

In that same presentation, BCPSS plans to increase its budget for enrichment to a more than 7 million dollar increase in the 2023 academic year. However, this amount of money isn’t just going to the arts—it is going to athletics as well. Arts and Athletics are two subjects that require a lot of funding and attention to succeed.  

Common Schools 

But funding is only part of it. Schools need a set art curriculum, but it varies depending on the school. According to Lisa Peels, Admissions Coordinator for BSA, the schools that audition vary year to year. However, she always sees some of the same schools, such as Roland Park, which Senior Violinist Lauren Ewards expresses gave her “the catalyst toward her progressions in other orchestras.” Lillie May Carroll Jackson School has a connection with Art for Heart (a visual arts non-profit) and an extensive theater program.

BSA also sees some private schools audition consistently, such as Friends School of Baltimore, Bryn Mawr, and Garrison Forest School. Private schools typically have their students choose an artistic concentration in their arts curriculum. Kai Hams, a senior film student who went to Friends School of Baltimore, says, “There was a solid choice in what arts you could pick, but it was a lot more music-focused.”

However, Kelly Durkin, an elementary/middle school drama teacher at the Belair-Edison School, believes that middle school art should be more of an exploratory period for students, which is the path public schools take. At Belair-Edison, students are encouraged to find their artistic passions.

Department Statistics 

But even if you explore music, dance, and visual arts, what gets more focus in the overall arts program? Visual arts are naturally built into Middle school schedules as your art class, whereas dance could be later replaced with music or is optional. 

According to Arts Everyday, Baltimore City’s strategic partner in advancing access to the arts, “90% of Baltimore City Schools now offer courses in Visual Arts”. This could be why visual arts has the largest applications to BSA each year. In 2022 there were 231 applicants for the Visual Arts program, and Acting was second with 172 applicants.    

Durkin expressed that acting doesn’t need a lot of funding to enrich the program. They don’t have as many material needs the way music does. Music is one of the more neglected arts in public schools, which could explain why music had the smallest application pool of 62 applicants in 2022. 

“68% of schools offer courses in Music. However, less than 15% of students have access to Instrumental Music, Theater and Dance instruction” (Arts Everyday). The city released a statement in the FY23 Adopted Budget Presentation saying, “We will increase instrumental music opportunities for all students in K-12.”


Many students learn from outside-of-school opportunities. Everette expressed that “In a perfect world, all students should have the option to remain within their communities, at their schools to learn and experience arts and culture.” However, many students look to the outside-of-school art enrichment programs, such as Peabody Preparatory, the Leaders of Tomorrow Youth Center, or the TWIGS program at BSA, to expand their arts education. 

“The TWIGS (To Work In Gaining Skills) program provides initial artistic encounters as well as advanced instruction for Baltimore City elementary and middle school students in dance, music, acting, stage design & production, visual arts, and film & visual storytelling,” says Everette. TWIGS is also partially funded by the BCPSS budget for BSA.

“This year (for school year 2023-2024), 18 out of the 21 admitted visual artists are from the TWIGS program,” says Peels. But according to Everette, just because you did TWIGS does not necessarily increase your chances of getting into BSA. “I believe TWIGS is an absolute pillar, not a guarantee, to the increased probability that a student may be granted admission into our high school.”

“However, data does reflect that the in-depth training and skills taught over a period of time prepares TWIGS students in ways that undoubtedly equips them to execute professionalism and meet and/or exceed artistic standards set forth by instructors and department heads,” says Everette.  

From budget, curriculum, private vs. public, and outside-of-school training, many factors contribute to a middle schooler’s admissions to BSA. If you go to a middle school with a more “intense” art program, one that puts the money and resources towards it, you may be more intrigued to a school like BSA. 

However, there are many public middle schools that don’t receive that exposure. Even with the higher quality middle school art curriculum that we see, students are looking for more outlets than they are given in school. Statistically, there is no sequence of circumstances that can guarantee a student into BSA. 

To contact this writer, email Muse Newspaper at musebsa@bsfa.org.

Headline photo caption:

Film TWIGS student in the library. Photo by Grace Sutherland for the BSA Muse