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Bidwell recognized for leadership in the arts

By Tim Croft
The Star

Jay Bidwell remembered the exact moment of inspiration. 

The principal at Wewahitchka Jr./Sr. High School was watching and listening to a choral program that offered the first show in what was to become an annual showcase for the arts. 

As the chorus sang, BIdwell said, “you could hear a pin drop.” 

“These kids were totally entranced,” Bidwell said. “The kids were just rapt. 

“That told me kids need music in their lives.” 

And from there the high school’s Fine Arts Academy was born, evolving to include guitar, piano (keyboarding), dance and drama instruction over the past five years as well as the visual arts. 

Principal Jay Bidwell was honored for his leadership in arts education

Last week the Florida Alliance for Arts Education honored Bidwell as the Principal of the Year (Administrator), among 11 individuals honored with 2020 Leadership Awards. 

“I am real proud of the honor,” Bidwell said. “We’ve worked with limited resources. 

“This means something to me because it was a focus for my staff and I. It’s been great.” 

The Fine Arts program, and the honor that arrived last week, would not have been possible without a little bit of luck and a lot of ingenuity, Bidwell said. 

Teachers have uncovered or unleashed, whatever adjective works, their ability to instruct across curriculums, serving as a guitar teacher, a dance instructor and the like. 

The faculty at the school numbers less than 30, so the wearing of multiple hats is simply a component of the process, said Superintendent of Schools Jim Norton in recommending Bidwell for the award. 

“I think in the process of creating this, we uncovered a lot of latent talent among our teachers,” Bidwell said.  

“We were up against some magnet schools and the like, and for our little school to win is a testament to the staff and kids. Without that dedication this would not have been possible.”  

To punctuate the level of competition, consider that every other one of the Florida Alliance for Arts Education honorees this year hailed from large counties such as Orange, Pinellas, Osceola, Lee, Duval, Miami-Dade and Hillsborough. 

The honorees will be feted during a virtual convention in October. 

And, as for arts education, the Fine Arts Academy in Wewahitchka has not been Bidwell’s only project. 

Bidwell also revived the Gator marching band which had been struggling and on the verge of shutting down after a band instructor left and a replacement could not be initially found, Norton noted. 

The Florida Alliance for Arts Education is a non-profit organization that works closely with arts (dance, music, theatre, and visual art) educators and supervisors throughout Florida, the Florida Department of Education, and the Department of State-Division of Cultural Affairs.   

The mission of the FAAE is “to improve, enhance, and promote arts education in school and community instructional environments.”