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Morgan Hill Unified School District to Receive $1 million Grant Toward Art Education



Morgan Hill, California – On November 26, Morgan Hill Unified School District (MHUSD) received an Intent to Award Notification from the California Department of Education confirming that the District has won its $1,000,000 grant application. The grant was submitted in October for consideration under the Federal Department of Education titled Student Support and Academic Enrichment Competitive Grant Projects (SSAE). This grant is authorized under Title IV, Part A of the Federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Decades ago, teacher education programs required development of instructional skills in the areas of visual and performing arts. At that time, multiple subject credentialed teachers had methods training in the arts. With “No Child Left Behind’s” punitive approach and strict focus on assessed measures coupled with the thinning of the public education funding, programs such as music, dance, drama, and fine arts were eliminated in our nation’s schools over time. The Morgan Hill community managed to save courses such as high school band, ceramic electives, and drama programs although the elementary programs were greatly depleted.

In the last 6 years, however, local education control funding formula provided Morgan Hill Unified the means to grow back the valuable arts programs. The approval of this large Federal Grant supports our arts efforts and is a welcome acknowledgment by the U.S. Department of Education that the school experience is richer when the arts are infused into the curriculum. The MHUSD leadership embraced the opportunity to apply for funds in a million dollar effort intended to develop visual and performing arts in schools in a strategic way.

The District’s Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) Strategic Plan will be adopted in Spring 2019. The VAPA plan is an outcome of the Equity Arts Resolution passed on June 6, 2017. MHUSD recently received recognition as one of the first in California to adopt such a resolution.

“Our robust grant promises to build our capacity in the arts within our own staff, while developing our educators to have a greater influence in the visual and performing arts,” said Superintendent Steve Betando. “The impact of this grant will be to pump up a sustainable arts programs at the elementary level which will further stimulate student engagement, skill development, career options, and pure value and appreciation for the arts in our world.”

Amanda Knudtzon, Head of the Music Department at Jackson Academy of Math and Music, will be managing the implementation of the program as the VAPA Coordinator. “I am a strong believer in the power of arts education and feel it should have a prominent role in all schools. The funding that we receive from this grant will allow us to reintroduce teachers and students to a variety of ways to incorporate the arts in our own classrooms. I am excited for all of the creativity, curiosity, and growth in our schools that this grant will help us cultivate through visual and performing art education.”

Knudtzon, along with Heather Nursement, Director of Supplemental programs, authored the grant application to specify that the funds would be used toward professional development as opposed to short term programs through outside vendors. “Over the last couple of years it has been wonderful to work together with our teachers, administrators, community and parents on plans to enhance and expand the arts in our district. This grant will allow us to accomplish much of the vision we have created for our students.  The arts support student achievement and increase student connectedness to school.  We are thrilled we have the ability to acquire more resources and develop creative opportunities for our students through this funding,” said Nursement.

State Superintendent Tom Torlakson’s Office anticipates sending a congratulatory and confirming letter to grant recipients on December 3, 2018. Morgan Hill Unified School District Board will accept the grant funds on December 13, 2018 and begin program implementation in January 2019.



Morgan Hill is a city of just over 37,000 residents, located at the southern end of the Santa Clara Valley, 10 miles south of San Jose and 70 miles south of San Francisco. The Morgan Hill Unified School District encompasses 296 square miles and serves the ethnically diverse population of Morgan Hill, San Martin and a small portion of south San Jose. The Morgan Hill Unified School District serves approximately 8,800 students.


The Morgan Hill Unified School District’s central purpose is to educate students. In partnership with parents and the community, we create learning environments where all students learn and are empowered to achieve their unique potential. We model and nurture civility, respect, compassion, personal responsibility, curiosity and integrity in an environment of diversity, equity, and service.


Lanae Bays
Communications Coordinator
Morgan Hill Unified School District
(408) 201-6024