Free State High fine arts department receives statewide honor

photo by: Dylan Lysen

Teachers of Free State High School's fine arts department stand during a faculty meeting to be recognized for winning the Kansas State High School Activities Association's Performing Arts School of Excellence award on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019.

A statewide organization has recognized Free State High School for performing “exceptionally well” in theater, music and other arts activities over the past school year.

Representatives of the Kansas State High School Activities Association on Thursday surprised Free State’s fine arts department with the 2019-2020 KSHSAA Performing Arts School of Excellence award. The honor is given each year to a school that excels in debate, speech, music and theater, according to a KSHSAA news release.

The department was recognized during a faculty meeting at the Burge Union on the University of Kansas campus.

“That’s an awesome honor,” Principal Myron Graber told the Free State faculty. “It just says a lot about Free State and you all here today.”

Francine Martin, an assistant director for KSHSAA, said the Free State program was selected from among 354 high school programs in the state. KSHSAA made its decision with input from the Kansas Music Educators Association, the Kansas Speech Communication Association and the Kansas Thespians.

The department’s teachers got a standing ovation from their fellow faculty members after the announcement.

Ericka Waller, who teaches theater at Free State, told the Journal-World that the staff had no idea the award was coming. She said the award highlights the work the department has done and the success of its students.

“We’re really excited,” she said. “It’s just an honor. I’m so thrilled for our teachers and our kids.”

Contact Dylan Lysen

Have a story idea, news or information to share? Contact reporter Dylan Lysen: