News

Board considers proposal for tech academy

By MARGO HORNER

The Mirror

A new technology academy, funded by a local nonprofit organization, is up for consideration among members of the Federal Way School Board.

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

Trish Millines Dziko, executive director of TAF, presented a proposal to board members at a meeting last week. Dziko is a former Microsoft manager.

Board members as well as Superintendent Tom Murphy appeared enthusiastic to hear the presentation.

Although still in preliminary stages of discussion, it appears the academy would host students in sixth through 12th grades. It would serve a small number of students, like the Federal Way Public Academy.

The academy would teach all subjects, with an emphasis on math, science, technology and engineering.

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.

Dziko noted that although the foundation aims to reach children of color, all students are welcome in the program.

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.

A TAF Academy in Federal Way would be taught in a Federal Way School District building, with the same teachers and principal. TAF would provide the curriculum, the funding, advanced teacher training and one TAF coordinator for the building.

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.

Federal Way School Board president Ed Barney said he hasn’t decided if he supports the TAF Academy proposal.

“I think it’s an interesting concept, but I need more information,” Barney said. “The concept seems exactly where the future is, which is in technology.”

Although Dziko assured the board that the program would not cost the district anything, Barney worried about hidden costs of implementing a new program.

“Every time you start up a new program, there are going to be costs involved,” he said. “We’re already operating on a shoestring budget.”

There has not yet been any discussion about where a TAF Academy might be located, Barney said.

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

Learn more

The school board will further discuss the TAF academy at a work study meeting at 6 p.m. June 5 in the Educational Service Center, 31405 18th Ave. South.

To comment about the TAF Academy, e-mail school board members at schoolboard@fwps.org.

To learn about the Technology Access Foundation, visit www.techaccess.org.

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