Bringing Arts into the Lives of All Students: Burton School District Strategic Planning Success Story

The Challenge: How to bring equitable access to arts education to a rural school district

The Strategy: Use a strategic arts plan to provide a framework for arts education throughout the district and community

The Story: Teacher Mentor Hector Marquez is highly motivated, and he has been promoting the arts within the Burton School District for some time.  But he realized that in order to provide equity and access to the arts for all students, he was going to need a team, and a plan!

With the support of the California Alliance for Arts Education’s Arts Planning Initiative, Hector gathered a team of district and community members in October of 2016 to make arts education history in a small school district in the Central Valley of California.

Nestled in a rich agricultural area in the central region, the Burton School District is a gem of a district in Porterville, California. The town is a gateway to the nearby Sequoia National Forest and Kings Canyon National Park.

During the arts strategic planning process, Alliance Coach Peggy Burt and Hector Marquez guided the group to develop focus areas and key priorities to move forward with arts education in the district. 

A key priority in the plan is to create a cultural shift within the district, communicating the value of the arts for all students as core content areas and making the arts more visible. The plan outlines a path forward to develop arts curriculum and to integrate the arts into other subjects.

Another priority is to develop a network of teachers and mentors to bring more arts into classrooms, supported by ongoing professional development. The plans calls for the activation of creative spaces for students to work together, and to develop their own artistic practice. 

The last focus area is perhaps the most important – the plan to create a sustainable funding platform to support the arts in the district for years to come.

“We’re just feeling empowered that our voices are being heard and that the dream of having arts programs for students who might not be able to afford them is a complete reality within our district,” Marquez noted. “Research tells us that the arts are so critical and so beneficial to kids,” Marquez said.  “Not only for academic purposes, but also for social and emotional purposes.  I believe that through this plan, we can really revolutionize the way we do education in Porterville.”
Burton School District is the first district in Tulare County to develop a strategic arts plan. The plan will soon be shared with the Superintendent and the School Board.  By leading out in this way, the district can demonstrate the strategies that work for rural districts.  

With thanks to Hector Marquez, Teacher Mentor and Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator, Burton School District.

See how an arts plan can transform your district and community!

By: Peggy Burt, Senior Advisor, California Alliance for Arts Education, Arts Planning Initiative

For information about strategic planning through the Alliance Arts Planning Initiative available to districts statewide, contact Peggy Burt at