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Academy encourages careers in technology

Jewell Bailey, a senior at Todd Beamer High School, gets help from classmate Mandee Anderson, a junior, and para-educator Gail Baker during a digital darkroom class. - Margo Horner, The Mirror
Jewell Bailey, a senior at Todd Beamer High School, gets help from classmate Mandee Anderson, a junior, and para-educator Gail Baker during a digital darkroom class.
— image credit: Margo Horner, The Mirror

The Federal Way School District will open a new specialized technology academy for sixth- through 12th-grade students beginning next fall.

The Technology Access Foundation (TAF) Academy will be funded by the Gates Foundation, the Paul Allen Foundation and Microsoft.

Trish Millines Dziko, a former Microsoft manager and executive director of TAF, is heading the project.

The small specialized academy will open in separate buildings on the Totem Middle School campus. The two schools will operate on the same grounds and share some facilities.

TAF and the district will work together to run the academy as part of a joint operating

agreement. The school district will provide the building, the teachers and the principal. TAF will provide the curriculum, the funding, advanced teacher training and one TAF coordinator.

The academy will teach all subjects, with an emphasis on math, science, technology and engineering. Besides initial building expenses, it will not cost the district any extra funds to run the academy.

The district will spend about $1.2 million to purchase portables to start the school, then the program will be cost neutral, said Sally McLean, Federal Way School District chief financial officer.

“I think it’s an exciting opportunity to provide another option for students that is still what I consider to be a cost-effective model,” McLean said.

The TAF Academy will feature smaller class sizes, longer school days, teacher coaches and laptop computers for all students, McLean said. The additional costs will be about $1 million annually, paid for by the Gates Foundation.

“They’ll be making up the difference between our basic funding allocation and the cost of the instructional model,” McLean said.

TAF’s mission is to provide a rigorous curriculum for low-income and minority children, teaching them technology skills and preparing them for college. Minorities are currently underrepresented in technology careers.

Although the foundation aims to reach children of color, all students are welcome in the program, Dziko told the school board in a presentation last spring.

All of the 121 TAF graduates so far have gone on to college, Dziko told the school board.

The program also offers paid internships for teens at local businesses. Internships can lead to full-time jobs.

TAF also offers a program for students in kindergarten through eighth-grade that is currently being used in the Highline School District.

Last fall, students and teachers at Rainier Beach High School in Seattle protested a plan to bring a TAF Academy to their campus. Hundreds of students signed a petition against the proposal and others voiced their opposition at Seattle School Board meetings.

So far, the program has not had similar opposition in Federal Way

“It’s going to be an interesting program when it’s up and running. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes of it,” said school board president Ed Barney. “As long as we’re not putting out the money, it’s an opportunity for some of those kids that don’t have access to that type of program.”

Beginning next year, the TAF academy will serve 50 students in each sixth-, seventh- and ninth-grades. Within four years, the school will serve students in all grades six through 12.

Students who live in the Totem Middle School and Thomas Jefferson High School boundaries will have the first priority in attending the TAF Academy because it will be run like a regular neighborhood school. If there are more applicants than spaces, students from the neighborhood will be chosen by lottery. If there are extra spaces after the neighborhood students have been given the opportunity, the district’s regular choice process would apply.

Contact Margo Horner: mhorner@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

Learn more

For more information about the TAF Academy or to be put on a list for attending, e-mail Sally McLean at smclean@fwps.org.

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