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Opinion: Why Forsyth County needs a performing arts charter school
Performing Arts 033119 web
Photo by Ahmad Odeh on

With mathematics and reading as the greater focal point of modern-day public education, how can Forsyth County schools best foster the creative minds of upcoming generations?

Forsyth County’s school community has carefully cultivated students’ skill sets with focuses on science, math (STEM), and English departments. In August of 2018, students entered the Alliance Academy of Innovation’s halls for the first-ever day of school. Alliance Academy offer career pathways in aviation/flight operations, criminal justice, cybersecurity, energy systems, graphic design, healthcare/first responders and mechatronics.

For students across the county, these newfound opportunities open doors to explore career readiness unparalleled by traditional public education. However, with such a deep-seated focus on these technical pathways, students attending the Alliance Academy or other public high schools experience underdevelopment within the performing arts and fine arts.

Harley McCullar 033119 web
Harley McCullar - photo by Brian Paglia

In my experience, chorus and musical theater classes have raised my self-confidence, increased my interviewing aptitude, allowed me to contribute diverse ideas, built on public speaking abilities and exposed me to valuable life lessons.

To perpetuate the benefits of performing arts, Forsyth County needs a performing arts charter school.

The purpose of a charter school is to operate independently of the local school district. In this way, a performing arts charter will teach the essential academic courses while enabling students to discover as much as possible in dance, theatre, music, film, photography, contortion/circus, visual arts and musical theatre. Intense curriculums providing comprehensive pathways in these areas shouldn’t remain rare opportunities for students because they maximize the time they spend immersed in the arts and under instruction.

Not every student fits the standardized testing mold, but many may flourish in an open environment of creativity. In fact, Forsyth’s youth have expressed their determination to grow as performers through continued participation in various music and theater companies. Among these groups are Ponce De Leon Music Center, United Music Studios, Freedom Academy of Music Education (FAME), Forsyth Academy of Performing Arts (FAPA), Forsyth Philharmonic Orchestra, Play on Players (POP) and Stipe Studio. Involvement in these organizations not only shows the willingness of students to hone their crafts but exemplifies the rising need for an arts-based education.

The presence of this performing and fine arts charter school in the community would drastically impact the development of creativity and cultivation of talents for generations to come. Above all else, unopened doors will become accessible to our students; beyond education, their added experience will give them an advantage in their field. For example, graduates will be better equipped to compete in the TV and film industry booming in Atlanta.

By achieving the dream of establishing an artistic charter school, Forsyth County will become the forefront of artistry and music in ways we cannot currently conceive.

Harley McCullar is a junior at North Forsyth High School and an intern at the Forsyth County News. He can be reached at