Digital Arts Program Gets Reprieve from Principal


Jane Snider and Rebecca Smith

After a week of uncertainty and student protesting, Principal Brian Ginter told the Mirada Thursday afternoon that the school will continue to offer digital art classes and retain teacher Jonathan Feld, whose job had been threatened.

The school had previously announced plans to cut Photography, Digital Art and Advanced Commercial Art–all taught by Feld–because of the cost of upgrading the computer lab. Parents and current and former students protested the cuts, including getting 943 signatures on an online petition to keep Feld at Rio.

“I’m so grateful and touched and just overall emotional by the amount of support this program and I have received from students, parents, the PTSA, other staff members and our administration,” said Feld, in an interview with the Mirada after meeting with Ginter. “When I heard the news that this set of courses was going to get cut, I thought of past students that use this curriculum and have started careers and I immediately felt a huge desire to fight for them.”

Ginter said that there were students who directly talked to him about what Feld’s courses meant to them, and parents at the PTSA meeting that told stories about students who have created business and become entrepreneurs based on his class.

“There were parents that were saying here are success stories coming out of the program and talking about the things that kids are learning that have set them up for careers,” Ginter said.

However, Ginter said the initial decision to cut the program was based on money not outcomes.

“I wasn’t looking to get rid of it,” he said. “But there isn’t money and there’s not a whole lot I can do. But understanding better from parents’ perspective and some of the students who talked to me … (makes it) more compelling to be able to say ‘I still can’t afford this, but let’s try to work something out.’”

The classes will continue as long as there is funding, both from the district and funds Feld would raise in his class. Similarly to how yearbooks are sold to help fund the journalism courses, Feld must create a way to help fund his courses, Ginter said.

Feld said he would work to fund the program.

“I want to find sponsorships and donations to get more production level equipment so Rio can create a print shop where athletic teams, clubs and student organizations can make garments and those funds will help fund my programs,” said Feld.

Feld has been teaching for five years in the Arts Department. His classes were put on a PKS, or Particular Kind of Service, list which would’ve discontinued his classes because of the lack of funding for computers.

gives us or we may have classes that people don’t sign up for them.”

The issue is that if the entire computer lab were to break today, Ginter estimates that to replace all of the computers would cost $45,000-$50,000.

In an interview with the Mirada before Feld learned that his job was saved he said the computer lab is good shape.

“If the entire lab breaks, the district will not provide funds to replace the computers,” Feld said. “But in fact, all 40 computers in the lab were recently updated and technical services assured that they will operate perfectly for another five plus years.”

Ginter said the assurance of tech services contributed to the decision to keep the classes.

To help compensate for the more expensive equipment in past years, the PTSA bought professional grade tools, such as wide format printers and vinyl cutting machines for production.

“The funding for his classes is truly a non-issue and not good enough grounds to cut his classes altogether,” senior Whitney Wheeler said. “Funding could come from Student Government, PTSA, and students/parents are more than willing to donate or fundraise.”

Feld has created a classroom to take digital art to the production stage. He also uses these machines to print things like shirts and posters for groups like the song team, Rowdy Raiders, lip sync battles, the football team and teachers.

Wheeler had been a leader of the move to keep Feld and had met with Ginter to express her concerns.

“It seems beyond unreasonable to get rid of, or even cut funding for, many of Rio’s most popular electives, especially since the school has already invested money into helping develop these classes into the thriving programs they are today,” Wheeler said.

A petition created by junior Mitchell Dixon and had over 900 signatures. There are comments about why the program needs to be saved.

“Mr. Feld’s class changed my life; I’ve gotten so many amazing opportunities from the skills I learned in his classroom,” alumni James Vine said. “Not only have I made a livable salary one year out of high school from what he’s taught me, but he has personally opened doors for me by going out of his way to find jobs for me.”

Feld said that in his class students will learn more than digital arts. If students are willing to put in the effort to bring an idea to life, he will help them do anything.

“In my classroom, students learn art, marketing, branding, web design, business and a self-belief that they can do anything they dream of as long as they are willing to work hard and take the jump,” Feld said.