Dear Friends,

I am delighted to share with you an email I just received from the Marin County Superintendent of Schools. She just received our recent anthology of student poetry from Marin Juvenile Hall, and was so moved that she wrote to both me and Freddy Gutierrez, the artist who taught those classes.

With her permission, I posted her e-mails below. I hope you enjoy her reflections on the power of art to change lives, perspectives, and learning.



Dear Ms. Mele:

I wanted to share with you this email that I sent to Freddy Gutierrez [see below] about the incredible impact he had on the students in our Loma Alta School at the Marin County Juvenile Hall.  This is another perfect example of how a community agency like the Performing Arts Workshop can enrich the education of our children.  The quality and talent of your cadre of artists like Freddy is something that the public schools simply could not sustain.  (Of course, this reflects your leadership and your impressive experience and education credentials from Harvard University).  Thank you for all you are doing in so many places to encourage the arts and in training our teachers to be more effective.  Also, thank you for serving on the Alameda County Office of Education Alliance for the Arts Learning Leadership Steering Committee.  My colleague, Sheila Jordan, is fortunate to have your support. 

Best wishes as your continue your important work.  We hope to have the Performing Arts Workshop involved in our programs for many years to come.

-Mary Jane Burke, Marin County Superintendent of Schools

Dear Mr. Gutierrez—

Bart Jones, classroom teacher at Loma Alta School, shared with me the third installment of incredible poetry that was written by the students under your leadership and inspiration.  As I read your biographical information on the Performing Arts Workshop website, I marveled that someone so talented, creative, visionary and in demand took time to faithfully serve at Loma Alta each week for the entire year.  The incredible success of your work with the students is evident in their submissions—in the variety of styles, contents and subjects.  Clearly, you reached them in a deeply personal way that enabled them and embolden them to share their deepest feelings.  In doing so, you also helped them see the possibilities for a better life and hope for the future.  You helped them to see “I’m not who you think I am.”

Thank you for taking time to work with these young people.  They are fortunate that you came their way and, as a former teacher, I know that they also enriched your life.   You have much to offer on so many levels.  Best wishes in all of your future projects.  I have a feeling that someday I will hear the name “Freddy Gutierrez” and say, “Oh, I remember him.  He taught in our Loma Alta School program”—a program in which you made a difference in the lives of young people.  There is no more important work.  Take care.

-Mary Jane Burke, Marin County Superintendent of Schools