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Georgia school superintendent Richard Woods landed a national award last week

Woods was named the winner of the National Art Education Association’s 2017 Distinguished Service Outside the Profession Award, which recognizes outstanding achievement and contributions by persons or organizations outside the field of art education.

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The award is determined through a peer review of nominations.

“This award is being given to recognize excellence in professional accomplishment and service by a dedicated professional outside the field of art education,” NAEA President Patricia Franklin said. “Richard Woods exemplifies this in education today: leaders, teachers, students, scholars, and advocates who give their best to their profession.”

Superintendent Woods, who took office in January 2015, has made an increased focus on fine arts education a top priority of his administration. He created a new position for a state-level fine arts specialist; previously, there was no fine arts expertise at the state level. When that position was announced, he said that “as long as I am serving as Georgia’s School Superintendent, we will have a focus on the fine arts.”

“His passion for art education is so contagious,” said Sondra Palmer, a visual art instructor at Harris County High School and co-chair of the Georgia Capitol Art Exhibit. “He is genuinely motivated by parents and is powered by the enthusiasm of all students.”

Under Superintendent Woods, the Georgia Department of Education has created a fine arts diploma seal as a signal to employers and higher education institutions that a student is prepared to participate in Georgia’s Creative Industries sector, transitioned its STEM schools program to include the arts (recognizing schools with a high-quality Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math, or STEAM, programs), and expanded the fine arts offerings of its Georgia Virtual School so students in all areas of the state have access to fine arts instruction. When the GaDOE convened committees to develop its state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Superintendent Woods made sure there was a voice for fine arts, inviting the Georgia Council for the Arts and individual fine arts teachers to serve on the Education of the Whole Child working committee. Among other topics, that committee has explored ways that federal funds can strengthen arts offerings in Georgia.

“Superintendent Woods has provided more arts opportunities for students in his first year in office than Georgia students have had in the last twenty,” said Jessica Booth, GaDOE Fine Arts Specialist. “His leadership speaks eloquently to his character and the dedication he has both to our profession as arts teachers and as an advocate for the importance of arts learning.”

Superintendent Woods said he was “honored and humbled” to receive the NAEA award.

“I still believe that the true heroes are the excellent art educators working in Georgia’s schools every day,” he said. “I believe in the power of the arts to engage students in their education and make them more well-rounded, better-prepared, and more ready to learn. I will reaffirm today that as long as I am State School Superintendent, the fine arts will be a priority at the state level.”

The National Art Education Association (NAEA) is the professional association for art educators. Members include elementary, secondary, middle-level and high-school art teachers; university and college professors; education directors who oversee education in our nation’s fine art museums, administrators and supervisors who oversee art education in school districts, state departments of education, arts councils; and teaching artists throughout the United States and many foreign countries.

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