A tireless champion for the arts in education, Philadelphia Assistant Superintendent Dennis W. Creedon draws on nearly 30 years of working in or partnering with schools in Philadelphia to make the arts part of a well-rounded education for all of the city’s 131,000 students.
As a senior administrative leader in the district’s central office, Creedon, who began his education career as a theatre teacher in 1987, combines his understanding of research into the nature and value of arts learning with creative approaches to tapping Philadelphia’s rich array of cultural institutions to weather the latest budget reductions. Since 2008, Philadelphia schools are required to have art or music offerings and a commitment to every student having at least one arts lesson weekly. The policy, which Creedon was instrumental in developing, appeared to be in jeopardy last year as the district faced a $304 million budget deficit.
In a recent Education Week profile of Creedon, the conductor of the All-City High School Orchestra, Don S. Liuzzi, draws on the meteorological metaphor to explain the school leader’s importance. “The ship was sinking,” he said, describing the district’s most recent round of budget reductions that threatened the jobs of nearly 4,000 teachers. And while some arts specialist positions were lost, the arts education ship is still afloat, according to Liuzzi, because the district’s top arts education advocate is “a very persuasive and avid supporter of the arts.”
As Philadelphia’s deputy chief in the office of academic support and enrichment from 2002 to 2012, Creedon was instrumental in bringing two Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination (AEMDD) grants to the city. Arts Bridges: Building Literacy Through an Integrated Arts Collaborative Model, resulted in a professional development model that combined teacher-identified literacy goals with matched sets of arts and literacy skills. A more recent AEMDD-funded project, Arts Link, is focusing on effective ways to integrate the arts with math and science and involving more than 90 arts organizations, schools, and universities. Click here to read an OII home page blog from last August about both of these AEMDD projects.
Doug Herbert is a special assistant in the Office of Innovation and Improvement and editor of OII’s home page.