Stories » CSBA Honors EMCSD's Musical Theater Program with Golden Bell

CSBA Honors EMCSD's Musical Theater Program with Golden Bell

The Musical Theater Supporting and Enhancing Academic Excellence program at El Monte City School District was officially named a 2020 Golden Bell Winner at the annual California School Boards Association’s (CSBA) Golden Bell Awards ceremony. This is El Monte City’s first ever Golden Bell Award in the 41 years of the ceremony’s existence.


“The Golden Bell Awards program promotes excellence in education and school board governance by recognizing outstanding programs and governance practices of school districts and county offices of education,” said CSBA CEO and Executive Director, Vernon Billy. El Monte City’s musical theater program broke ground in 2016, a year after the EMCSD became “An Arts for All” district. It started as part of our Summer School Academy, but was quickly extended to all 14 school sites as result of its popularity. 


“The most rewarding part of this program is witnessing the talent and growth our students discover in themselves and the confidence this builds within them that they take with them far after the performance is over,” said Assistant Superintendent of Education Services, Virginia Castro. The District decided to make Musical Theater available to all our K-8 students as a way to provide artistic-centered activities that have statistically-proven educational benefits. According to Title 1 Arts, students who participate in theater programs are 20% more likely to be advanced readers by grade 12. 


“Because we serve a lower-income community, we recognize the disadvantages that our students automatically inherit based on their cultural or socioeconomic background, and our goal is to help level the playing field. With adequate funding and support from our stakeholders, donors, and surrounding community, programs like Musical Theater are possible and help ensure our students get access to these imperative forms of immersive education,” explained Dr. Maribel Garcia, El Monte City School District Superintendent.


The Musical Theater program at El Monte City School District promises a role for any student to explore singing, dancing, costume design, sound technology, staging and directing. Since 2017, all 14 school sites have held performances that featured student renditions of The Lion King, Peter Pan, and Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka. “It’s like living a whole other life...when I’m Mr. Darling, it’s a whole different story. It’s like I’m putting on a different face,” said 4th grader, Juan Ortiz.


Moving forward, the District’s goal is to make the arts a priority in LCAP funding in order to expand and improve teacher’s and student’s ability to execute yearly musical performances. The District is also looking into fundraising in order to continue quality participation and to provide more materials for costumes, staging, and access to advanced technologies. Although Musical Theater is currently paused due to the Covid-19 pandemic, staff and students are looking forward to getting back to production as soon as it is safe to do so. 


“El Monte City School District is committed to offering every student a well-rounded education and providing our families with the best experiences. What makes this program special, however, is witnessing the way Musical Theater brings the community together. We couldn’t pull this off without the community and parent volunteers that help to build sets, sew costumes, work with choreography and much more,” said Assistant Superintendent Castro.