Save the Creative Writing Program at CFPA:
In the fall of 2016, the Center for the Fine and Performing Arts (CFPA) will move from Woodbridge Senior High School to the new high school on Hoadly Road; it has recently been decided that the Creative Writing concentration will be discontinued, thus eliminating one of the very few arts-intensive, four-year creative writing programs for high schoolers in the entire country. This petition is to save the CFPA Creative Writing Program.
I have seen the tremendous impact this program has had on the students who have participated in it, and I have been a lucky recipient of the many benefits it provided me as a teacher. If you have seen the same in any way, or if you believe the arts should continue to have a secure place in public education, I urge you to sign. Thank you.
- The petition is here: http://petitions.moveon.org/s/nOesBn
- If you are local to the community and wish to show your support in person, the school board meeting is October 16th. The public meeting will be called to order at 7pm. Meetings are held at the Edward L Kelly Leadership Center, 14715 Bristow Rd, Manassas, VA 20112 - Facebook Event Page
- The Northern Virginia Writing Project’s post supporting the cause is here.
- Bristow Beat covered the story here.
- InsideNOVA covered the story here.
- If you’d like to spread the word, feel free to use any of these images: GIF, banner or square/profile.
Below is the full text of the letter I sent to the school board:
Members of the Prince William County School Board:
My name is Eric Hoefler, and I am one of the people behind the creation of the Creative Writing Program at the Center for the Fine and Performing Arts (CFPA) and served as assistant coordinator for the CFPA at Woodbridge High until I left the area in June of 2007. I also taught many of the courses in the creative writing program from the time it opened until I left. Through that work, I have seen the tremendous impact the creative writing program has had on the students who have participated in it, and I have been a lucky recipient of the many benefits it provided me as a teacher.
I recently learned that the CFPA will be moving to a new high school but that it will no longer include creative writing as one of its offerings. While I am encouraged to hear that the CFPA will continue, I am dismayed to learn that creative writing will be dropped.
From the beginning, the creative writing program was designed as a place for students to freely explore their imagination while safely developing their writing skills over fours years of intensive practice. For many students, this unique outlet was a lifeline and a refuge, and I mean those words sincerely. For some students, the program was the reason they continued to come to school and the motivation behind improving their grades. For some others, it was a place for them to work through emotional difficulties outside of school that would otherwise have kept them from continuing.
Throughout my time teaching in the program, I saw students produce amazing works—collections of poetry and short stories, scripts, and essays—many of which went on to find publication in the school’s award-winning literary magazine, or to find recognition through awards and publication outside of the school, or to be professionally produced by local theaters.
Beyond the emotional and creative benefits of the program, the intensive study and practice of writing improved the students’ academic success, as well. Many of those students were among the top GPA holders in the school and went on to attend excellent colleges and universities. I have had many graduates from the program return to tell me how prepared and successful they were in their college courses, whether or not they were pursuing writing-related majors, because their critical reading and writing skills were sharper than most of their classmates.
Finally, as a teacher, I benefited from and was challenged to improve by the program. Because I worked with these students for four years, I could see them develop as writers and as people, which gave me the opportunity to become a partner with and advisor to many of the students—an opportunity not always available to students across four years of ever-changing classes and teachers. I also had to learn to diversify my instruction for a wide range of learners who I would be working with over multiple years. The push to constantly improve my teaching and adapt it to each student as I came to know and understand each one better carried over into the other courses I taught, and I believe my students in those other courses benefited from the work I was doing with creative writing.
It would be a great loss, to both teachers and students, if this program were not continued in the new CFPA. It would also be a loss to the county, which would no longer have the honor to claim one of the few intensive creative-writing programs in the country. In comparison with other strands in the CFPA, creative writing is the least cost-prohibitive, as it requires no special facilities or provisions beyond the cost of the instructors’ salaries. It is my sincere wish that you reconsider the decision to eliminate this program and balance your reasons for doing so against the many profound benefits it provides.
National Board Certified Teacher
Instructional Technology Resource Teacher, Henrico County Public Schools
Teacher Consultant/Technology Liaison, Northern Virginia Writing Project