ABS Thursday Notes- January 17, 2019

Thursday Notes                           

Published for the Arts Based School Community                             January 17, 2019




No School- Monday, Jan 21- MLK Day


How We Do It and Why

Mary Siebert


“It takes an athlete to dance, but an artist to be a dancer.” – Shannon LeFleur


When I need a lift, I watch one. I get that levitation by watching 8th Graders rehearse their dances for “The Lion King,” repeating lifts and steps again and again. Dance rehearsals are visible to other students as they stride past, through the windowed garage doors of the dance/drama studio. The positive example set by 8th grade boy-girl couples, fully focused and rehearsing gracefully in respectful cooperation cannot be over-stated.

The choreographer, visiting artist Thao Nguyen, is a graduate in voice from UNCSA. I like to refer to him as our “Secret Weapon,” because our collective work is dramatically elevated by Thao. He dances, sings, acts, and choreographs around the area. When I offered Thao the Lion King job for the first year, I pointed out that, unlike a typical dance studio, our students are not all aspiring dancers who pay for classes. They are public school kids of diverse backgrounds. He would need to choreograph according to the strengths of our individuals. He would not be choreographing a show, but choreographing children. Thao listened, then cheerfully and firmly replied that his positive energy would pull them all in. Truer words were never spoken.

Elizabeth Gledhill, our art teacher at 5th – 8th grades, worked professionally in theater before she started teaching. She built props and masks and fantastical sculptural sets for theme parks and theater projects. Her work in Lion King is utterly magical. She transforms our students into exotic animals with her handmade headpieces and masks and props, which she has managed to maintain and touch up over the past few years so that they appear to be brand new. The artistic and professional quality of her work is another magical element of this show.

Costumer Lee Ann Farrell is also our social studies teacher for 7th and 8th grades. She has designed and built many of ABS’ beautiful costumes, rallying parents to iron and organize while she sews and creates and re-creates for an army of actors of every size. She whips off tasks (so daunting that most mortals would lose sleep over them) as if they are nothing at all, creating, repairing and altering with such skill that it seems she must have waved a magic wand.

Music teacher Angie Allen keeps surprising me with her broad skill set. From truly productive piano lab classes to our first stringed instrument classes, she is building new frontiers for our school and our students. She stepped into the task of teaching fifty tweens how to sing Zulu in harmony with confidence, coping with the complex rehearsal schedule (which can stutter when half of the alto section is missing because they are Lionesses, for example,) and conducts the project as though she has done this all her life. In fact, it’s a first for her.

Drama teacher/director Jordan Brown has performed in many plays, musicals, TV shows and films, but is directing for the first time. He logged countless hours of organization, planning and rehearsal. He assists with tech, load in, striking the set, driving the truck, communicating with parents, managing kids who all have opinions and gifts and limitations that he willingly, cheerfully, and effectively incorporates. This task is enormous, and to my knowledge, there is nobody else doing anything like it: The entire eighth grade is doing a musical. Not just the “drama kids.” Everyone. For some kids, the biggest challenge is simply staying in the game. For others, it’s a chance to stretch budding artistic identities. For everyone, it’s community. Jordan juggles all of those differentiations as though he were born to do it.

All of the 8th Grade teachers help backstage, handle the schedule swapping with finesse, and support our commitment to make this experience available to all students. Jennifer Lewis, our advanced math teacher, has become our makeup expert, a considerable task for this show. Parents volunteer in every capacity: makeup, hair braiding, set moving and repair, ironing…the list is long. We are all making this happen together.

Meanwhile, back at dance class, Thao is coaching: “Enjoy that moment! Doesn’t that look pretty? Yeah it does, trust me. You’re like blades of grass, yes? Do it one more time, because it’s so beautiful it wrenches my heart.” He cues the music and they do it again, every one of them intent. Our newest students, our “shy” students, all of them are stepping into this experience and taking on something new. Middle school children learning to strive harder, support one another, prepare with rigor, take chances, reach goals, leap and trust. I love watching that lift.


Disney’s The Lion King Jr. Will be performed TONIGHT by the entire ABS 8th grade

Where: First Presbyterian Church Worship Center, 200 N. Cherry Street, downtown W-S

When: 7:00 p.m. (principals arrive 5:30, remaining cast arrives 6:00)

Cost: Free, but we welcome your cash/check donation to cover theater costs.

Parking: available on the south side of 2nd Street across from the theater, between Marshall and Cherry. (The lot typically charges $1.00 but the church is waiving the fee for us tonight.)




Safety First

Our ABS community looks for ways to provide our children and staff with stability, security, and a collective sense of well-being.

The relatively small footprint of our campus as well as our entire staff’s knowledge of children and their parents not only nurtures our tight-knit  community, but it also sustains a connectedness that enhances our children’s safety. Our community members know and support one another. Children’s safety is always our highest priority.   As a result, throughout the course of the year we have several different precautionary drills that include fire, tornado, and lock down drills.

1) Fire drills are when we test our response time for evacuation of the building.  We conduct these drills monthly. Students are taken outside for this drill.

2) For a tornado drill, students are inside away from exterior windows. They are seated with their heads down and hands over the back of their necks. We conduct this drill in March in coordination with the State’s Severe Weather Preparedness week in March.

3) For lockdown drills, teachers and students stay in the classroom, turn off the lights and must be silent.   We practice this drill twice a year.


Our procedures are based on the state’s crisis intervention kit, provided to all schools. As part of our school safety and crisis plan, we conduct annual lockdown training for staff which includes the children’s orderly following of directions, lockdown “shelter in place”, and common sense decision-making.   Full details of our lockdown plans are not shared publicly as recommended by security experts.


Annual Giving!

We are tremendously grateful to all of you for helping to make this year’s Annual Giving campaign a great success! We thank each of you for contributing to the Arts Based School in innumerable ways: with your time and energy, your skills and passions, your financial support, with connections you make on our behalf in the community and with your extended families, and with your children — who make our school the joyful place it is. Thank you!


Total School Participation: 55%
Total Gifts: $67,472


The Annual Giving campaign is a vital part of our school’s overall fiscal health and long-term sustainability. As a charter school, we do not receive the same state and federal funding as traditional public schools. We rely on the generosity of parents and families, board members, and our community to help us meet our operating expenses and to support the learning and creating that happens here every day.


Parent Council News:

Box Top Collection

The next Box Top collection date is February 15. Please send all Box Tops that you would like to donate at that time. If you are interested in assisting with Box Tops, please email Gwen Ashburn (gwendolyne.ashburn@gmail.com).


January Parent Council Meeting

Please join us for Parent Council meeting on Friday, January 25 at 8:15 in the MLK Cafe.  All ABS parents, families, and caregivers are part of Parent Council and are welcome to attend!  Don’t forget that attendance at Parent Council meetings counts toward volunteer hours. This month’s PC meeting will include a discussion with Amanda Sullivan and Scott Ertl about the counseling program at ABS. If you have any items that need to be discussed at this PC meeting, please let Becky Dickson (rebeccapdickson@gmail.com) or Joy Blaser (joy.blaser@gmail.com) know by 1/18. Thanks!



Middle School January Jam-

 Friday, January 25th 2:45-4:00pm

Kick back and relax, we’ll take care of the kids.  For $5 we will provide a fun afternoon with a live  DJ,  music,  and dancing for ABS middle school kids from 2:45 to 4:00pm.  Snacks and drinks will be available for purchase. ($1 for drinks, chips, and candy.  $.50 for popcorn).  ABS 5th -8th graders only in the 7th St Building.    All parents must park and come inside to pick up students at or before 4:00.  Permission Slip and Money must be turned in by Thursday, January 24.   Students will not be permitted to stay without a permission slip.  January Jam Permission Slip


Volunteers needed to help, please sign up at link:



Summer Camps at ABS

The Arts Based School will be offering ABS Summer Camps for Summer 2019.     Stayed tuned for more information about dates, programming and registration!                                               


Around Town:


Free MLK Celebration Concert this Sunday

Soprano Louise Toppin, an expert in African-American Art Song, performs a free concert including her magnificent singing with explanations of the story behind each song. Engaging, moving, and fascinating. Sunday, January 20, at 3:00 p.m. about one hour long. The concert is part of the Music@Home Concert Series, and will be at Home Moravian Church, the Saal building at 529 Church Street. (Not ideal for very young children.)


Art Show and Sale

This weekend there will be an art show and sale to benefit Washington Park’s Gateway Nature Preserve at Artworks Gallery on Trade Street. Featuring works by area artists that are inspired by the natural world, the show will run Friday from 5pm-8pm, Saturday from 11am-4pm, and Sunday from 1pm-5pm.