How Arts Education Saved a Roxbury Public School

“I had a huge security infrastructure and I decided to eliminate it completely, and reinvest all that money into the arts.” – Andrew Bott

Coming in as the sixth principal in seven years at the struggling Orchard Gardens School in Roxbury, Andrew Bott realized he had to turn things around.

“The school definitely had a prison feel,” said Bott. The hallways were under heavy patrol and students weren’t even allowed to have backpacks due to administrative concern that they might be concealing weapons. When everyone else thought it was a good idea to bulk up on security, Bott had another strategy.

When Roxbury built Orchard Gardens K-8 School back in 2003, they equipped it with art studios, a dance room, and a state-of-the-art theater to give the students access to a fresh, creativity-focused education. Bott appreciated this hidden potential and decided to take advantage of the opportunity.  Under his leadership in 2010, hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on security guards were redirected for hiring art teachers.

As a result of allowing the kids to explore this new artistic avenue in their education, Orchard Gardens has become one of the fastest improving schools in the state. Without the intimidating factor of a prison-like atmosphere, students have flocked to these new creative resources with renewed enthusiasm. 

Eighth grader Keyvaughn Little is one of these thriving students in the now flourishing artistic atmosphere. Regarding the quality of his education here, he said: “I've been more open, and I've expressed myself more than I would have before the arts have came.” And truly, he has had the opportunity to grow. Keyvaughn’s grades have improved and he was recently accepted to the competitive Boston Arts Academy.

Bott’s bold idea to replace security guards with art teachers ended up being just what this troubled school needed. Despite the initial skepticism he faced from colleagues, his plan has prospered in the last few years and motivated the school to move forward in a more successful direction. For any who doubt the pertinence of education in the arts, Orchard Gardens conveys a powerful narrative to dispel any uncertainty.

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