An organisation consisting of 77 private schools from Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Mexico, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas on the preschool-through-12 level. The acronym stands for "the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest", although it is never, ever referred to by anyone as anything other than just ISAS.

Out of what functions ISAS provides, two stand out as being the most visible and large-scale. The first of these are the periodic school evaluations; the ISAS evaluation commitee continually moves from school to school, hitting each member school once every few years, sending a group of observers pulled from various ISAS members to drop in on the targeted school for a couple of weeks to watch in on classes and scrutinize administrative practices; essentially, this amounts to an acedemic quality inspection.

From a student perspective, though, the only aspect of ISAS that actually matters is the annual arts festival, held each year around april at a different ISAS member school (although he schools chosen to host the festival, for some reason, seem to invariably be in either Texas or Oklahoma). Really, this is the only part of ISAS that most students at ISAS schools are aware exists, to the point if you walk up to one and ask them what they suppose ISAS stands for they'll probably guess the "A" expands to "Arts".

Participating member schools send delegations from some combination of their respective theatre, visual arts, choir, handbell choir, wind/string ensemble/jazz band, film club, and visual arts groups-- in short, they take all the hippie kids and dump them in a confined area for three days. The result is pure bliss; i attend (until i graduate next month, anwyay..) an ISAS member school in Houston, and i for one definitely consider the ISAS festival to be one of the absolute high points of the school year, one long glorious orgy of birkenstocks, hackeysacks, people who are wearing Transformers t-shirts and know who the Happy Hardcore are, "coffeehouse" performances of really quite decent bands and school-sponsored improv groups, and random impromptu bursts of people who decided to sit down together with homemade african drums or acoustic guitars and play horrible music. You tend to split your time there evenly between viewing random performances, going to random workshops, and just wandering around, and while everything is of course firmly on the quality level of what you would expect from high schoolers, it is the absolute best of what high school quality art has to offer. You'd be surprised how good a high school jazz band can be. Everyone at ISAS is either to perform or display something, and the sense of community (if you can tap into it) is just amazing.. i don't know if i really realized how closed-minded and psychically dead my own school was until i felt the atmosphere at ISAS.

I would imagine, of course, that this whole thing is just simply tiny and insignificant to anyone not directly involved in it. But still, in its way, it is a really rather unique thing. I attended ISAS in my first three years of high school, and i feel extremely lucky that i had the opportunity to go when i did.

http://isasw.org/

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