Research has repeatedly shown the important connections between an arts education and student success in school, career, and life. Despite this, only 44 percent of students in San Mateo County receive some arts education at the secondary level, and only 36 percent of students from households with low incomes have this opportunity.

The San Mateo County Office of Education is committed to giving all students equitable access to arts education by helping educators develop relevant content, deliver high-caliber instruction, and create resilient programs.

Championing Arts Equity

On November 20, 2019, the San Mateo County Board of Education passed a resolution declaring the rights of all students to equity in arts learning. Through the resolution, the Board and County Office of Education recognizes the impact arts curriculum has on the cognitive and social development of every student.

In addition, the Board and County Office of Education adopted a Visual, Performing, and Media Arts Strategic Plan to promote equity and access to arts education for all students. The plan was developed over nine months with input from teachers, school administrators, leaders of arts organizations, and working artists.

Services for Educators

The San Mateo County Office of Education (SMCOE) supports staff development in Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) in accordance with state mandates to address student needs. Support services are provided at the school-, district-, and county-wide levels through workshops, seminars, conferences, projects, and institutes.

SMCOE also offers less formal support by providing information to teachers and administrators, initiating collaborations and assisting parents, and sharing resources. It works with arts and education partners to create equity and access to high-quality arts and arts-integrated education for students, preschool through high school, in the areas of dance, music, theater, visual, and media arts. 

Annual Arts Institute

The day-long, annual Arts Institute for teachers has grown to include more than 100 teachers from across the county and provides educators with an opportunity to connect with each other, participate in workshops with experts from a variety of fields, and tackle important topics.

Creative Residencies

In 2020, SMCOE launched Creative Residencies, a pilot program to provide teachers the opportunity to immerse in hands-on music, theatre, visual arts, and dance experiences and develop mindsets to help build creativity. The program will include interactive sessions where educations create STEAM-based activities for the classroom that support the California Arts standards.

Student Opportunities

Art Takes a Bus Ride Competition 

SMCOE partners with the San Mateo County Transit District to coordinate the Art Takes a Bus Ride art competition for San Mateo County students in grades 1-12. The artwork of two finalists is displayed on the side of a SamTrans bus for a year, and student art is displayed on cards inside the buses. Due to COVID-19, the 2020 Art Takes a Bus Ride art competition has been canceled.

Arts Expo

In 2018, the San Mateo County Office of Education created a brand new celebration of learning – The Next Big Think – that features not only a STEM Fair, but a countywide Arts Expo as well. This change reflects SMCOE’s commitment to STEAM education and creating space to celebrate students’ various passions and interests. Held every March, the Art Expo has grown in size and now includes 1,000 examples of student visual, performing, and media art and attracts more than 2,000 people.


Michelle Holdt

Coordinator, Arts & Restorative Learning


Phone: (650) 802-5335