Dear Future Northwest Parents:
Thanks so much for considering NWSA. As you know, Northwest is the secondary Arts Magnet that serves the entire district. Well known for our arts, we have also become a place of inspiring academic success. Our graduation rates, SAT scores and proficiency tests place us amongst the very top of CMS high schools. All students who attend NWSA must first pass an audition. Please see the Prospective Students (link opens in new window) page for more information.
Northwest Fact Sheet
- The only secondary magnet program in CMS offering a concentration in the Arts
- A rigorous academic program with proven results beyond the norms.
- Grades 6-12
- 984 students (541 HS, 443 Middle)
- Offerings: Music (Instrumental and Vocal), Piano, Dance, Theater, Costume Design and the Visual Arts
One of the most successful schools in the county!
- A National Magnet School of Excellence
- The highest graduation rate in CMS for a 4 year high school.
- NWSA offers many Advanced Placement courses. Our AP courses are offered in: English 11 & 12, Calculus, Statistics, Biology, Environmental Studies, U.S. and European History, Psychology, Computer Science, Human Geography, Studio Art, and Art History.
How are we different?
- Our students choose to be here, are more highly engaged, and want to stay.
- This works to improve both academic outcomes and graduate rates.
- Arts Education:
- Training in the arts, regardless of socio-economic status has been proven to:
- lead to higher GPAs and standardized test scores
- lower drop-out rates and increased graduate rates
- Students with four years of arts or music in high school average 100 points better on their SAT.
- These gains last throughout a student’s life and into their career.
Why it matters!
- Our students are trained with 21st century skills like creativity, problem solving, collaboration, critical thinking and communication.
- Our students are trained for the creative jobs they wish to hold post-college, while building vital skills transferrable to other occupations.
- Arts are an export industry that grew to $64 billion in 2010 and employs 3.35 million people nationally.
The History of NWSA According to Dr. LaBorde
The seed for Northwest School of the Arts was planted in 1991 when Dr. John Murphy came to CMS as superintendent. He made the creation of magnet programs a major part of his efforts to rejuvenate the school system. Knowing that an arts magnet was often a strong component of the best school systems with magnet programs, I wrote to Dr. Murphy and told him of my background in the arts. (I was then principal of Myers Park High School, but had been a college theatre professor and a high school theatre teacher, as well as holding a theatre Ph.D.)
The original plan was to take the vacant Ivey’s Department Store on Tryon Street (directly across the street from the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center) and transform it into an arts high school. I was involved in the planning to create that space. Such a transformation required a bond issue vote—specifically for an arts high school. With no real push for those bonds by the system or the arts community—all thought the issue would pass easily—it was voted down by less than 80 votes.
Changing gears Dr. Murphy was still determined to have an arts high school, but decided he would start with elementary and middle school programs before tackling where to put a high school. He chose two schools that already had bond money approved for renovations—Chantilly for the elementary school and Northwest for the middle school years.
Deborah Cooper (the system’s visual art specialist), Dr. Harry Mamlin (the performing arts specialist), and I set out to work with architects to create the arts spaces needed for such a school. We also took the lead in staffing the arts teachers for the school, with our key hires being Sharon Kazee who not only served as head of the choral program but also as Lead Teacher; Jeanne Barefoot in visual arts; Linda Booth in dance; and Jerry Lowe in band.
Northwest started as an arts magnet in the 1993-94 school year (also housing an open school program and a year-round program—both of which eventually were discontinued as the arts program’s popularity grew) with Rosalind Rowe-Anderson continuing as the principal of the school. (Beverly Eury, who became such a fixture at NWSA as lead teacher, academic facilitator, assistant principal, and interim principal was part of the sixth-grade team in that first year.) That year I was reassigned from Myers Park High School (where I had started the first public school International Baccalaureate program in the state) and asked to oversee both the elementary and middle schools, while also looking for a site for ninth grade the following year.
(Northwest started with the unwieldy name—Northwest Visual and Performing Arts Magnet School. I petitioned the school board to change the name officially to Northwest School of the Arts for no other reason than simplicity in marketing.)
After exhaustive research across the school system looking at both unoccupied and under-utilized school facilities, my boss Dan Saltrick from central office and I came up with the revolutionary idea of just continuing ninth grade at the Northwest facility. It was expected that once the high school grew large enough, it would separate from the middle school. (As we now know, that never came to pass.)
In the 1994-95 school year we added the first high school grade. I was its principal and Sharon Kazee was my assistant principal. We had 75 students.
In the 95-96 school year, grade 10 was added and then in 96-97 we added grades 11 and 12 to complete the high school. The twelfth grade that was added that year was the result of students from around the school system petitioning the school board to add that grade a year early so that they could graduate from an arts high school. Our first graduating class was in 1997—with only 25 students making up that historic group.
Eventually Ms. Rowe-Anderson left to take over University Park Elementary when it was transformed into our feeder arts school and I became principal of all grades 6-12.
The rest is history.