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PUSD Affirms Commitment to Arts Education


April 11, 2018


Jennifer Olson, Arts Education Coordinator, Announces Departure; Interim Coordinator Named

Pasadena, CA -- Arts Education Coordinator Jennifer Olson, who has been a leading force in expanding access to arts education for all students and forging relationships between Pasadena Unified schools and local arts and cultural organizations, is leaving the district in May. Ms. Olson has been named executive director of Think 360 Arts for Learning, an arts education organization located in Denver, Colorado. She is relocating to Colorado in early May. Signalling its commitment to arts education, the Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) has named an interim arts education coordinator until the position is filled.

“Jennifer’s leadership and vision have created unparalleled opportunities for our schools and students to connect with the arts. We wish Jennifer the best in this exciting new chapter in her career,” said PUSD Superintendent Brian McDonald.  

Furthering the commitment of PUSD to provide a world-class arts education for all students, Superintendent McDonald has appointed Karen Anderson as interim coordinator of arts education until the position is filled. Ms. Anderson, who has served as a Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) for the district’s Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) programs, will retain some GATE responsibilities.

“We are committed to ensuring increased arts education opportunities and integrated arts instruction for students across the district,” said Superintendent McDonald.

As Arts Education Coordinator since 2013, Ms. Olson oversaw development and execution of the district’s strategic arts plan, written by the District Arts Team/Community Arts Team members with support from the Los Angeles County Arts Commission Arts Education Collective. Highlights include expanding elementary music in PUSD; creating an Early Childhood theater and dance program that puts teaching artists in every TK, K, and 1st grade classroom districtwide; expanding the sequence of 6th-12th grade arts electives; and increasing the profile of PUSD arts through community events such as PUSD Music Festivals and No Boundaries, the district-wide art exhibition. A significant grant from the Rothenberg family secured by Pasadena Educational Foundation supported these initiatives, as well as grants from the LA County Arts Commission Arts Education Collective, Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, The Oboe Foundation, Hollywood Burbank Airport Authority, and Exploring the Arts.

Partnership with the community’s arts organizations has been a cornerstone of the work of the Arts Education Office. Prior to stepping into the Arts Coordinator role, Ms. Olson was with Pasadena Educational Foundation, where she led the development of My Masterpieces: Discovering Art in My Community, the Golden Bell Award-winning collaborative arts education program that connects TK-6th grade students with 10 museums and arts partners. A recently completed pilot program called Open Stage, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, brought Pasadena-area theater partners together to explore possibilities for social-emotional learning and history integration through theater in middle schools.

“I have often said this work is like weaving, and we are all threads coming together to create a tapestry of opportunities for all students,” noted Ms. Olson. “My work in the PUSD community built upon the prior work of others, including the prior Arts Coordinator, the City of Pasadena Cultural Affairs division, supporters within the PUSD administration, principals, teachers, parents, and community members, and, of course, our arts partners who bring so much richness to our overall arts program. I am honored to have played a role in this ongoing community support of arts education and to have worked with such fine colleagues.”

Karen Anderson (pictured) has served as the district’s Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) Teacher on Special Assignment since 2017. She graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in Performance Studies and Latin American Studies, and received her Master’s degree in Education from the University of Southern California. Ms. Anderson started her career in the Los Angeles Unified School District and has also worked in private and charter schools. Most recently, she was the STEM Coach at Jackson Magnet in PUSD. Ms. Anderson is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program at the University of Southern California, where she instructs new teachers in pedagogy and GATE differentiation.  

Before entering the world of education, Ms. Anderson worked as an actor and theatre producer in Los Angeles. Most notably, she performed for two years in a bilingual production of Las Mujeres de Juárez/The Women of Juarez at the bilingual Teatro Frida Kahlo. While a teacher in LAUSD, Ms. Anderson supported her school as the Arts Cadre Chairperson, planning, implementing, and evaluating all programming for a bilingual GATE Magnet.

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