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To boost arts education, LAUSD seeks ties with entertainment industry

Rock Band Workshop, an after school program at LeConte Middle School in Hollywood, is funded by the California Arts Council.
California Arts Council
File photo: Rock Band Workshop, an afterschool program at LeConte Middle School in Hollywood, is funded by the California Arts Council. Los Angeles Unified will announce the hiring of a liaison with the entertainment industry and an equipment donation to the school on Thursday.

Los Angeles Unified is hiring a new liaison to the entertainment industry in its latest effort to rebuild its arts program and rebrand the district as a source for quality arts education.

The district has scheduled a press conference for Thursday to announce the appointment of Alyson Reed, the actress who played Ms. Darbus in the “High School Musical” film franchise. She will work part-time in a contract position over the next school year to solicit resources from film studios and others in the industry.

Sunset Bronson Studios, owned by Hudson Pacific Properties, is the first to step up under the initiative with a donation of a lighting board, sound system and other resources to Le Conte Middle School in Hollywood. As part of the gift, the school will transform its auditorium under the district's Studio Adopt-A-School program.

"We're calling this an arts ed revolution," Reed said Wednesday. “This is the first time in the history of L.A. Unified that we are having a centralized hub for all of the entertainment industry.”

Reed said as the new program gets rolling she has plans to create an internship program to connect LAUSD students to studios, unions and guilds. Plus, she'd like the district to create a database for industry contacts so students can be tapped for volunteer work. 

Red tape and bureaucracy have hampered some outside groups from helping the district, officials have acknowledged. Reed's role will be to “build, facilitate, and streamline relationships” with the industry, according to a district release.

LAUSD has been struggling to revamp its arts education program after years of recession-era budget cuts. In a KPCC survey last year, Southern California school districts reported an average of only one full-time art teacher for every 740 students.

The hiring of an industry liaison is the latest step taken by LAUSD's arts education head Rory Pullens, who joined the district last summer to revive its programs in music, visual arts, dance and theater. In December, Pullens helped secure an allocation of $2.5 million in new state funds for arts education. He has repeatedly said the district needs far more funding to restore the arts in district schools. 

On Wednesday, Pullens and his staff hosted a red carpet film festival for district students at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills.