School Choice Designation for the Conservatory of Arts


Lauren Stallworth, Editor

This week Cypress Creek received a unique honor in being given a school choice designation for our conservatory of arts program.
When it is time to go to high school, students are zoned for a specific school based on where they live. However, if there is a specific program or reason students would like to attend a different school in the county, they can apply for school choice to attend there instead. While there can be a variety of reasons why a student may choose this option, it is more often than not because of a specific program; but not every program will count. In order for the school choice application to be valid, it must be laid out as a specific program designated by the Pasco County District School Board. This week, we received that designation for our Conservatory of Fine Arts and are the only school in the district to hold this honor.
This means that students can now choose to come to our school for one of the five branches of our fine arts department: Journalism, Dance, Theater, Art, and Music. Each of these have multiple programs within them, but all combine to showcase the student’s talent and creative abilities.

Our dance department offers a variety of different classes for students to take, with varying skill sets and experience, taught by Ms. Enyart (who the students call Ms. E). Cypress Creek offers Dance Techniques 1 & 2, Dance Techniques Honors 3 & 4, and Choreography & Performance 1 & 2. Our dance program is similar to Journalism and band in that there are leadership roles students can assume; for dance, choreographers are chosen to help run the class and choreograph performances. The dance department typically puts on a dance showcase a few times a year, where students dance at a performing arts center in full costume and can show the skills they have learned.

Journalism, the department that I am involved with, has three separate branches: Newspaper, TV Production, and Yearbook. All taught by Ms. Passardi, journalism is all about expression and working together towards a goal. Journalism is student-run, and Editors and assistant editors are appointed to plan, teach the class, and help other students. While each branch has its own Editor-in-chief and assistant editors, we all work together to give our students at Cypress Creek a voice and carry a message into our community. You can see more from journalism by browsing the Howler, which is our school newspaper, or visiting our social media and YouTube page.

For art, we have three teachers: Ms. Pleus, Mr. Dykins, and Mr. Kreider. Their courses include Digital Art 1 & 2, Creative Photography, 2D Art 1 & 2, 3D Art, Ceramics, and Drawing. This wide variety of courses offer multiple mediums for artists to interact with and allow students to get experience in different artistic forms. The ceramics course (our newest course, being added this year for the first time). Whether you want to work with materials, cameras, or software, we have a spot for you in our Art Department.

Our theater program is taught by Mr. Krasowski and offers Theatre 1 & 2, Theatre 3 & 4 (Honors), and Musical Theatre. Our theatre program is typically full of outgoing students who put on multiple performances a year. In recent years, they have done not only a play, but an Improv Troupe. Our school is also a part of the Thespian Honor Society and has done competitive theatre in the past. They never fail to make students laugh, or help convey an important message.

Conservatory of Music
Taught by Mrs. Strok-Feeley and Ms. Hammill, our music program offers Band 3 & 4, Band 5 & 6 (Honors), Music Theory, Orchestra 1-4, Chorus 3 & 4, and Chorus Honors 5 & 6. Students get to showcase their talents at our football games and pep rallies, as well as putting on a concert 3-4. This is similar to the chorus, who in addition to putting on a concert, seek opportunities to sing the national anthem or other songs at events. Our student life would certainly feel very different without musical talent at our football games and pep rallies. Our music department is a tight-knit community of students who love to showcase their passion for music. A new tradition that began last school year, that our student body looks forward to each week, is the Friday morning performances to kick off game day. The bands participate in both the marching band Music Performance Assessment and the concert band Music Performance Assessment. They are looking to make their competitive debut in the Florida Marching Band Championships circuit in the coming years. The Music Theory department is based on a collegiate curriculum to better prepare students for post-secondary music study. Things to look forward to: The Band will be starting our Jazz Program next year and we also have an indoor Winter Guard.

This new fine arts designation will benefit each of these programs and give them a greater perimeter to flourish; not to mention give any student in the county the opportunity to join our school and become a part of our Cypress Creek Conservatory of Arts program.

I sat down with our principal, Mrs. Hetzler-Nettles, to hear her perspective on what made it possible for our school to receive this designation, and why it is such an incredible opportunity that we have been given.
In her own words, she defined this designation as being approved as a Special Program. She said, “We applied to be designated as a Special Program in the county. What that means is that we get to be a part of the Pasco Pathways event, which is a showcase for all the programs in the county, the academies. Some schools, not very many, have specialized programs because a lot of times they don’t get approved. We were very lucky, and did a great job in putting forth the information, and promoting what we have so that we were approved.” Additionally, the designation affects school choice. “The other part of this designation is school choice, and that’s also really important. Students will actually be able to apply to come to our school for this specialized fine arts program,” she said. For right now, students who will attend Cypress Creek through this school choice option will have to provide their own transportation; but Mrs. Hetzler-Nettles said this is a potential goal for the future if our school elevates to magnet level status.
When asking about the criteria required to receive this distinction, she said that it comes down to what we have to offer, and what makes our program different. She elaborated that we are unique because students can start in our fine arts programs from the middle school level, and move all the way up. “Because we started as a middle-high school, we have created this beautiful, seamless track, you can start in one of our departments in sixth grade, and move all the way through 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th,” she said.
Additionally, the new performing arts center and its partnership with PHSC played a role in the decision. “Our students will also have the luxury of some dual enrollment opportunities, through the fine arts as well as core subjects,” said Mrs. Hetzler-Nettles. Cypress Creek Middle School was also built with a black box theater, as striving for this designation has been a goal from the start. Building these programs to be what they are today and preparing our school for this designation has been in the works since before our school even fully opened, and Mrs. Hetzler-Nettles has worked with the department teachers in order to give the fine arts a spotlight and build it to be something really unique. “We tried really hard when we opened the school, knowing that was coming, to really build a beautiful arts pathway for students to be a part of,” she said.

Mrs. Hetzler-Nettles believes that the arts are extremely valuable and has always given us her full support, believing all students deserve to find a place that they fit in. “The arts are incredibly important. I try to always listen to what my kids are wanting or needing, and there is definitely a need from teenagers to have all sorts of different outlets; and there Is most certainly a need for middle and high school students to find a niche, something that sparks their joy and their interest, that keeps them on the right path,” she said.

As we move forward with this new designation, we can’t wait to see what opportunities it brings us in not only journalism but our fine arts department as a whole. While we have certainly grown a lot in the last four years, this is the next big step – and we can’t wait to see where we go from here.