Booker High named to list of top arts high schools

Visual and Performing Arts program cited as one key to the national recognition

Image courtesy of the Booker High VPA Facebook page

Booker High School in Sarasota has been named one of the 80 best high schools for the arts in America by, “a website that analyzes data and reviews to produce comprehensive rankings, report cards and profiles for schools throughout the U.S.,” the Sarasota County School District has announced.

Both public and private schools are recognized, a news release points out.

The “methodology takes into account school diversity, class size and interest among the high schools’ alumni in arts majors and colleges,” the release adds.

“Booker High Principal Rachel Shelley has helped propel the school’s status through her commitment to [its] arts programs,” the release continues. “Named the state’s Principal of the Year in June by the Florida Department of Education, Shelley has worked tirelessly to improve the school’s community presence,” the release adds.

“When you see what these students and teachers are doing every day, in their studios and on stage, it is absolutely amazing,” said Shelley in the release. “It’s definitely time they earned this kind of recognition for their incredible work.”

A scene from a VPA production is featured on the Booker High website. Image courtesy Sarasota County Schools

Angela Hartvigsen, the Sarasota School District’s fine arts curriculum specialist, said in the release, “This is a well-deserved honor for Booker High, which truly sees the arts as a powerful vehicle for students to connect with life and an amazing way to build culture. … When you talk to Booker High students, their enthusiasm and love for the school is palpable.”

To Hartvigsen, the national distinction “can be attributed to several strengths of the Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) program, from the excellence of its instructors and the diversity of the programming to the atmosphere for learning that the school offers,” the release notes.

“Established on the Booker High campus in the 1970s, the VPA Department has a history of success, with student productions and artworks earning regional and national titles in all … disciplines,” the release points out. Among the VPA’s notable graduates are American Idol finalist and Broadway star Syesha Mercado, Academy Award-winning makeup artist Bill Corso and actor Charlie Barnett of NBC’s Chicago Fire.

Booker High School is located at 3201 N. Orange Ave. in Sarasota.