CoTA is a professional development program that tackles the possibilities of making the arts a lively, essential, and ongoing aspect of elementary school education. CoTA is based on the belief that integrating the visual and performing arts into other content areas promotes engagement, accessibility, and relevance for students. Since its inception in 1998, CoTA has collaborated with 500 teachers and more than 13,500 students at 26 schools throughout San Diego County.


Board of Directors

  • Lucille Neeley | president
  • Hans Schoepflin | treasurer
  • Sally Yard | secretary

Staff and Artists

  • Rich Cimino | program assistant
  • Dennis Doyle | executive director
  • Leonardo Francisco | artist
  • April McBride | artist
  • Ernest McCray | artist
  • Danielle Michaelis Castillo | artist
  • Danielle Reo | program director
  • Natalia Valerdi-Reese | artist
  • Reneé Weissenburger | lead artist


  • Featured Works
  • What We Do
  • How We Do It
View all Student Works

CoTA encourages learning-in-action and exploring new ways to integrate arts learning with other curricula such as literacy, history, science, and math. By enhancing the curriculum with new approaches using the arts, students are engaged in learning through two or more of the seven intelligences famously outlined by psychologist Howard Gardner (such as bodily-kinesthetic, spatial, logical-mathematical, and linguistic). Through CoTA projects, students are encouraged to work in groups, thus learning collaborative skills, sharpening problem-solving skills, listening/responding to each other during presentations and performances, developing their humanistic side (development of the whole child), and engaging in learning through the arts.

Each collaborative project is hand-tailored to meet the needs of a particular class. CoTA projects offer a variety of approaches and benefits. By incorporating the arts into the existing curriculum, teachers challenge students with the task of establishing a deeper connection to the units at hand.

Unlike traditional artists-in-residence programs, where the project is dependent upon the presence of the artist, CoTA seeks to provide teachers with creative strategies, which they may use to create arts-rich classroom learning contexts long after the initial project has ended. Instead of simply working with a teacher once, CoTA collaborates for three ten-week sessions over the course of three years. During year one, teachers learn how arts integration can enhance and extend student learning in other curricular areas and how to engage multiple intelligences while collaborating with a CoTA artist. In year two, teachers continue to connect arts to the existing standards while assuming a larger role in directing the project. By the third year, teachers take the lead while an artist provides support.

Repeatedly, we have witnessed the power of the arts to ignite a genuine interest in learning other core content material. It has been well observed by teachers and principals alike that visual and performing arts, particularly when woven into core academic area content, can improve students’ communication skills, nurture varied modes of intelligence, sharpen critical thinking, develop students’ practice of judgment, encourage imaginative problem solving, and intensify skills of observation. As well, many CoTA projects foster teamwork, nourish the practice of negotiation, and teach the value of process.


  • Sponsors
  • Partners
  • Schools


  • City of Chula Vista Office of Cultural Arts
  • National Endowment for the Arts
  • US Department of Education


  • Panta Rhea Foundation
  • San Diego Foundation
  • The Lucille and Ronald Neeley Foundation
  • The McCarthy Family Foundation
  • Satterberg Foundation


  • Certé Group
  • Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek
  • US Bank
  • Wells Fargo Foundation
  • Joseph Frescatoreprincipal | Kit Carson Elementary, SDUSD
  • Manuel Machado | principal | Lincoln Acres School, NSD
  • Beverly Hayes | principal | Olivewood School, NSD
  • Deborah Hernandez | principal | Palmer Way School, NSD
  • Christopher Oram | superintendent | NSD
  • Leticia Hernandez | principal | John A. Otis School, NSD

San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD)

  • Kit Carson Elementary School

National School District (NSD)

  • John Otis School
  • Lincoln Acres School
  • Olivewood School
  • Palmer Way School



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CoTA Initiates Full-Scale Program at Palmer Way School

CoTA launches Collaborations program school-wide at Palmer Way School. This is the first school in the National School District to commit to the full-scale program. During the 2010-11 school year, CoTA will work with 18 teachers and nearly 450 students, grades K-6.



CoTA Announces New Executive Director

Noted educator and educational reformer Dennis Doyle joins CoTA as executive director.  Previously, Doyle has served as the superintendent of the National School District, the assistant superintendent of Chula Vista Elementary School District, principal at two schools, and a teacher. Doyle is a nationally recognized authority on charter schools, systemic reform, and developing strategies that support linguistically diverse student populations.


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CoTA Hosts Exhibition at Chula Vista Library

Chula Vista Library’s South Branch exhibits Collaborations projects created by K-6 students at schools in Chula Vista, National City, and San Diego. Assemblage, theatrical scripts, photographs, installations, and altered books are among the works represented.



CoTA Partners with National School District

CoTA initiates a pilot version of Collaborations in National City, teaming artists with 11 teachers at John Otis, Kimball, Las Palmas, Rancho de la Nación, Central, Ira Harbison, Lincoln Acres, and Olivewood schools. (Teachers from El Toyon and Palmer Way join CoTA in fall 2009.)



CoTA Becomes Independent Nonprofit

After a successful ten-year tenure under the aegis of Installation Gallery, CoTA becomes an independent 501(c)3 organization to focus on program expansion.



CVESD/CoTA Partnership Receives Third NEA Grant for Program Expansion

With its third award from the National Endowment for the Arts, CoTA expands to three schools, Joseph Casillas Elementary, Fred Rohr Elementary and Daly Academy, enabling it to serve 20 percent of the Chula Vista Elementary School District.


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CoTA Expands to Two Schools in Chula Vista

Clear View Charter and Salt Creek Elementary join CoTA in an effort to bring arts integration to new heights in Chula Vista.



CoTA Adds Twelfth School

CoTA offers artist-led workshops and in-class coaching to teachers at Perry Elementary in Paradise Hills.


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CoTA and USD Establish Multiple Literacies Program at Cherokee Point Elementary

CoTA collaborates with Kathleen Collins, assistant professor at the University of San Diego (USD), to establish a multiple literacies context at the new San Diego school Cherokee Point Elementary in City Heights.


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CVESD/CoTA Receive Second NEA Award

CoTA and the Chula Vista Elementary School District receive second National Endowment for the Arts grant for continued program expansion in Chula Vista.


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CoTA Reaches “Ten Schools” Milestone

CoTA expands programs to Olympic View Elementary in Chula Vista  (Collaborations) and Jack Kimbrough Elementary in Sherman Heights (San Diego City Schools’ Model Arts Program).


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CVESD/CoTA Partnership Receives NEA Award

The Chula Vista Elementary School District receives a $55,000 grant from the National Endowment for Arts to expand its partnership with CoTA.


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CoTA Adds Eighth School

CoTA begins work at Greg Rogers Elementary, a unique campus that provides instruction to the majority of the Chula Vista Elementary School District’s special needs students, as well as neighborhood children.


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CoTA Hires Kathleen Collins as Director of Research

Kathleen Collins, associate professor of education at the University of San Diego, becomes CoTA’s director of research. (She conducts a three-year study tracking CoTA’s impact on student learning and teaching practice at schools in Chula Vista.)


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CoTA Expands to Florence Elementary

In conjunction with the Model Arts Program of the San Diego Unified School District, CoTA begins work at Florence Elementary in Hillcrest.


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CoTA Participates in San Diego’s Model Arts Program

CoTA joins efforts with the Visual and Performing Arts Department of the San Diego Unified School District to provide training in arts integration to fourth- and fifth-grade teachers at Ellen Browning Scripps Elementary.


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CoTA Partners with Chula Vista Elmentary School District

Chula Vista Elementary School District, the largest elementary school district in California, becomes the second district to partner with CoTA. Hilltop Drive Elementary and Myrtle Finney Elementary are the first two schools to practice CoTA’s methodology.


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CoTA Adds Third School

CoTA extends professional development training to Bayview Terrace Elementary in Pacific Beach.


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CoTA Expands to Sessions Elementary

Allan Richmond, principal of Kate Sessions Elementary and former vice principal of Walker Elementary, invites CoTA to work with teachers at Sessions Elementary in Pacific Beach.



Installation Gallery Inaugurates the CoTA Program

Installation Gallery, originator of the binational inSite exhibitions, establishes a collaborative artist/teacher program at Mary Chase Walker Elementary in San Diego’s Mira Mesa neighborhood. The program aims to provide teachers with accessible strategies for integrating arts into the existing curriculum.