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No. 1 arts school in the nation: NFM Academy for the Arts culls recognition

By Staff | Feb 4, 2012

Chosen from nearly 1,500 schools nationwide, North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts has been named the No. 1 arts school in the country by the Arts Schools Network.

The Arts Schools Network is the nation’s largest professional membership organization of specialized arts schools. The Outstanding Arts School Award was presented to Principal Dr. Douglas Santini at the organization’s national conference held at Lake Buena Vista.

“It’s a very prestigious award,” Santini said. “We were the only one in the nation to be given this award. It really shows the teamwork at the school, how the staff and faculty really worked hard to integrate the arts into the curriculum along with developing our students’ artistic talents.”

Students come from all over the West Zone of the Lee County School District to attend the Academy.

“That includes those from Cape Coral, Pine Island and North Fort Myers,” he said.

According to Joe Donzelli, district spokesperson , this award was presented to North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts due to its outstanding record of overall excellence in the categories of faculty and student achievement, community recognition and involvement, arts and academics integration, curriculum innovations, continuing growth and development, and state and national recognition.

North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts is a Title I, K-8 public school that provides all of its elementary and middle school students access to the arts program through individual classes as well as having the arts infused into the academic curriculum. The school’s arts education programs contribute to the overall culture by infusing every aspect of the student’s day with some sort of artistic experience.

It was a long process to make it to the honor, said Santini.

“There was an extensive application, over 100 pages. One thing they really stressed was that the arts curriculum met all the state standards for the arts and the arts integration was a big part of that, taking that into the curriculum.”

Dr. Denise Davis-Cotton, chairman of the awards committee, also did extensive interviews at the school.

“That was a big plus for us. She came from Sarasota and is the founder of the Detroit School for the Arts,” he said. “When she presented the award she talked about our facility, our students and our faculty and how they all work together to make it happen.”

Arts Schools Network is a community of schools and institutions dedicated to education in and through the arts.

Its mission is to provide the leadership necessary to inspire and maintain excellence in arts education by supporting and serving leaders of specialized arts schools, arts integration schools and new schools of the arts across the country.