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Secondary education supervisor aims to grow arts programs

Philip Grusenmeyer stands in front of a kaleidoscope art project display in Poughkeepsie Middle School.Philip Grusenmeyer came to New York to break into the music industry.

He moved to Queens and began taking temp jobs to make ends meet. A friend’s father, a Long Island principal, suggested he put his master’s degree in music education to use as a substitute teacher.

“I was hired part-time, then full-time,” he said. “Next thing I knew, I was enjoying it.”

That was nearly 40 years ago. What followed was 17 years as a music teacher and another 20 as an administrator on Long Island, focusing largely on music and arts education. 

In February he was officially named Supervisor of Secondary Education for the Poughkeepsie City School District, after coming to the district in the fall.

Poughkeepsie is placing an emphasis on enhancing its arts education for all students and, in Grusenmeyer, found an administrator with the expertise to assist in that growth.

“We’re very glad to have him,” said Dr. Charles Gallo, assistant superintendent for secondary education, noting he allowed the district to reshape the supervisor role to better prioritize arts. “We have somebody with an arts background who has done it previously.”

Grusenmeyer retired in June but said he still “had plenty of gas in the tank” and wanted to find a place to contribute as he moved north to the Hudson Valley. 

In his new role, Grusenmeyer oversees the visual and performing arts for pre-K through 12th grade, while “still trying to be helpful and supportive of all the content areas.”

As a first step, the district is evaluating its existing arts programs and curriculum and enhancing “the vitality and strength of the fine and performing arts,” Grusenmeyer said.

“That means working with the teachers, hearing them, making sure that they feel like they are stakeholders and hearing their voice on how they think things can improve,” he said.

The longer-term plan is to continue growing the district’s arts footprint, including possibly adding an Individual Arts Assessment Pathway for media arts and performing arts. An IAAP, which for the last two years has been offered by Poughkeepsie in visual arts, is a graduation pathway that documents a student’s accomplishments in the field. He pointed to the state Smart Scholars Early College High School grant of $825,000, which Poughkeepsie was preliminarily awarded to create a college credit program in the performing arts (see issue No. 58 Vol. 5 of the Superintendent’s Brief), as part of that growth.

A northern Ohio native, Grusenmeyer plays the piano and keyboards, clarinet and saxophone. He began with group piano lessons in the second grade, followed by private lessons, and band lessons in the fourth grade. He “got bitten by the bug of just enjoying music, enjoying performing.” But, he was “pragmatic” about his future and also wanted a job in which he could help people.

He received his bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Indiana University and his master’s from the University of North Texas. He also earned a master’s degree in Educational Administration and Supervision at The College of New Rochelle.

In addition to simply relaying information and skills, Grusenmeyer explained arts teachers have a unique vantage point through which they can form a lasting relationship with a student.

As the Poughkeepsie district works to combat chronic absenteeism, Grusenmeyer said a strong arts program can work as “a magnet” to incentivize students to come through the door.

“Sometimes the experiences the kids have in the arts – I call them peak life experiences,” Grusenmeyer said. “They remember those certain things for the rest of their lives.”