FRANKLIN PIERCE SCHOOL DISTRICT — I find my seat among the crowd as the lights dim, the murmuring stops, and the curtain rises. Fresh young faces in full voice belt out a tune of which we are all familiar. Our smiles broaden, our feet tap, and we quietly hum along, transported by the music to parts of our minds we often don’t visit as frequently as we would like. Yes, we are at a school concert. One, of many, at all levels that I have the privilege of attending each year. Or it could be a dramatic play or musical comedy or an instrumental jazz performance. The accomplished students of Franklin Pierce Schools continue to thrive and excel in the performing arts. Our efforts to sustain these programs, even during the Great Recession, have remained successful. With the incredible ability of our students to demonstrate their ever-increasing skills related to the performing arts, I sometimes cringe seeing the high quality of a student performer relegated to the likes of a stage in a cafeteria or gymnasium. For almost three decades, I have attended such performances here in our district and have dreamed of a time when we, as a supportive community, would be able to honor our childrens’ incredible talent with a performing arts facility worthy of their efforts. While the time is never exactly right for such an investment, we may be approaching a great opportunity to take on such a project that would have a significant multiplier effect on the culture of our wonderful community.
As long as our assessed valuation remains steady and if all goes well, we will be able to deliver a bond measure in November 2016 that will allow us to replace and/or significantly remodel our oldest (60-100 years old) elementary schools, build a new 500 seat performing arts center, renovate high school STEM labs, make district-wide security upgrades, make health, safety, educational, athletic and infrastructure improvements, and require no additional increase to our local taxpayers as a result of the slight increase incurred from our 2012 Capital Levy and the final payoff of our 1998 Bond Measure. Such a measure will provide sustainability to our school facilities for the next 20-30 years. This past year, we reconvened the FPS 2030 Facilities Planning Committee that includes community members, parents, staff and students who brought their recommendations to the School Board. It will be up to the Board to take action through a resolution later this spring to determine what, specifically, will be on the ballot next fall. It is an exciting time for Franklin Pierce Schools and the future looks very bright!
As a result of your support and passage of our Capital Projects Levy in 2012, the first major construction project completed by our district in over a decade opened its doors last spring (2015). The beautiful new Keithley Commons is now in full operation serving our students. Late this fall, we opened the new FPS Early Learning Center on the site of the former Parkland United Methodist Church, serving 320 three-to-five year olds in our Head Start, ECEAP, Developmental Preschool, and Community Preschool. It is now a state-of-the-art, high quality early learning center made possible for the community without any additional funds from our taxpayers. Our next major project that you will see accomplished late this spring (2016) will be the complete renovation of the new Ford Commons at Ford Middle School.
One of the telling markers of success of a school district is the rate of high school graduates it has. It is the vision of Franklin Pierce Schools that “every student graduates from high school prepared to succeed in post-secondary education.” Rising from the ashes and being labeled as a “dropout factory” by the national media for our low on-time graduation rates of 57% in 2010, FPS has now surpassed the on-time graduation rates of both the State of WA and the national average with an overall rate of 82.7%. Our extended graduation rate (5 yrs.) is now at 91%. We are getting closer and closer to reaching our goal, despite our challenging demographics (high rates of poverty, mobility, and diversity) and the increasingly difficult graduation requirements. Our traditional comprehensive high schools (FPHS & WHS) averaged almost 90% of on-time graduates for the Class of 2015.
Because of this success, and particularly our success in closing the achievement gap for all our many cultural and ethnic subgroups when it comes to graduation rates, we are one of four districts in our state that has been recognized and is being studied by OSPI to determine the things we are doing and to help replicate our work in other school districts. You can be very proud of the work of our talented and dedicated staff in all of our schools and of our hard-working students.
The first half of the school year has been very positive and productive! Please join us in the many activities taking place at all of our dynamic schools. Whether it is a play, concert, ballgame, or PTA meeting, your support and involvement with our schools is strongly encouraged and appreciated. Bundle up, take your umbrella, get a flu shot, think spring, and I’ll see you around the district!