Public PK-12 School District in Dalton, Georgia

Dalton Public Schools News

Two DPS Teachers Receive $3,000 Fine Arts Grant
Drama production at HCMS

Two Dalton Public Schools teachers recently received a $3,000 Fine Arts Consumables and Equipment (FACE) Grant from the Georgia Department of Education. Courtenay Cholovich, theatre teacher at Hammond Creek Middle School, and Clay Fissel, music teacher at Roan School, each received a grant that will be used to increase arts education quality during the school day.

These grants will be used to fund the purchase of materials that will help support arts education in the two schools.

Hammond Creek Theatre Program 
For Courtenay Cholovich, these grants will help fund the additional costs associated with in-class projects as well as after school performances. She plans on purchasing various supplies including paints, sewing materials, fabric and more for set design and costuming. 

“There are different projects I do throughout the semester in class,” Cholovich said. “Then, depending on what we end up doing for our fall and spring shows, we end up using a lot of products. I like to say that my blood type is now glitter, because I’m pretty sure I’ve inhaled more glitter over the past four years than is probably healthy.” 

With a growing theatre program at Hammond Creek, Cholovich said the need for additional funding is more important now than ever. 

“Like most public-school drama programs, we are entirely self-funded,” Cholovich said. “All of our money is generated from revenues from our performances. Over the last four years, my program at the middle school level has grown. The most recent production involved just sixth and seventh graders and I had over 60 students involved both on-stage and back stage.” 

Courtenay Cholovich and her class

Cholovich said that her priority is to make sure that all interested students are able to participate in the school’s theatre program. 

“I really aspire to make this a program that is not cost-restrictive for students,” Cholovich said. “I think that an issue with a lot of students getting involved in extracurricular activities is that there are cost-restrictions to a lot of activities, like purchasing equipment for various sports and so on. I really work to make sure that none of my students have to pay for anything that we are doing either in-school or after school. That is so crucial to making this program feasible and accessible for as many students as possible.” 

In order to find funding to cover the costs of the theatre program, Cholovich often finds herself, “hustling” to apply for grants, working with parent volunteers and raising funds from the community. 

“I’m incredibly grateful to the Georgia Department of Education, the Dalton Education Foundation and to all of those who have provided grants and provided support in so many ways over the years, fiscally and emotionally,” Cholovich said. “All of the support and encouragement that my students and I have received over the years is so crucial and I’m so grateful, from the bottom of my heart, to the community at large.”

Roan School Music Class
At Roan School, Clay Fissel hopes to use his grant to purchase additional musical instruments for hands-on learning in his classroom. Currently, Fissel has a few xylophones in his class, but this grant will allow him to purchase several more so that more students are able to access the resource.

“I’m actually using the grant money to buy a series of xylophones that students can utilize in a variety of different contexts,” Fissel said. “They’re great for learning to play melodies, or maybe they want to play an accompaniment, or things like that.” 

Listen to Mr. Fissel explain his classroom use of xylophones below: 

Fissel said a big part of his music class is helping students make connections to their other school subjects. 

Fissel in his music class at Roan School

“I love to use the instruments to make books come alive,” Fissel said. “I’ll take a book and put instruments in my kids’ hands, and they become the characters in the book. If the character’s running away, you know they’ll be playing faster. If the character is a big bear, you’re probably going to hear lower instruments and slower movements. We use it to make literature come alive, we use it with poetry. We also do science experiments, for example, we look at how size and material affect pitch and duration.” 

Fissel also said he found ways to connect music to the cultural heritage of the students in his class. 

“A lot of our families are originally from Mexico and Guatemala,” Fissel said. “The xylophones are closely related to the marimbas, and there’s a whole tradition in Guatemala and Mexico of marimba bands. It’s a big part of their cultural heritage that we get to explore, and that’s just one cool thing we’re able to do with these instruments.” 

For Fissel, the impact of the grant is akin to putting crayons in the hands of his students. He sees music as a way for students to express themselves, and instruments as the tools they can use in the process.

“More so than ever, students are looking for a way to communicate,” Fissel said. “Music is an awesome tool to help them experience the world around us. I want my students to understand that music isn’t just something that a teacher makes you do, but it’s something you can explore, it’s a way to express yourself, to better understand the world around you. These instruments that I’m getting with this grant will be putting tools in my kids’ hands.