Opinion

Three promises for Federal Way schools | Superintendent Rob Neu

By ROB NEU

Superintendent, Federal Way schools

On Nov. 2, I concluded my “Listen and Learn Tour” of all schools in the district with a staff meeting at Federal Way High School. The staff was basking in the World Series glow of FWHS graduate Travis Ishikawa, who plays with the San Francisco Giants. Their pride was a reflection of what I have seen throughout Federal Way Public Schools. FWPS is a proud school district.

Without exception, at every school and department I visited, I was told how proud our staff is of the people they work with and the students and families they serve. They told me that they worked in the best school or the best department. The emotion in their eyes supported their words and further convinced me of the depth of their commitment to our students.

I was told often that this district has experienced tremendous demographic shifts over the past 15 to 20 years. An increasing number of our students are coming to us with difficulties that interfere with their ability to learn. The staff shared their concern over the significant challenges we face serving a rapidly growing English Language Learners population, which speaks approximately 137 first languages. Additional challenges arise in serving our increasingly mobile student population and our students living in poverty.

Never once, though, did I hear an excuse from our staff as to why we can’t serve our students, regardless of these circumstances. Instead, FWPS continues to defy the odds by performing well above state and national averages on standardized tests.

Something else staff told me was that we needed to examine and clarify the most important initiatives. And then we need to relentlessly pursue these initiatives. They said we have focused too much on Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and not enough on the whole child. They’re worried about potential future cuts to the arts and extra-curricular programs.

In turn, I made three promises to our staff when I visited with them:

1. We will focus on the successful implementation of our standards-based education system. This will remain the foundation of our work.

2. We will continue to value and evaluate student growth. Each student’s progress will be measured annually by academic growth.

3. We will remain committed to educating the whole child.

I again want to thank our staff for giving me their time over the past couple of months. It was of tremendous value to me as I transition to the role of superintendent of the Federal Way Public Schools. While the challenges are many, so too are the opportunities. Every child we serve has “world series” potential. I want to extend my thanks to our staff, along with parents and community members, for serving them so well.

Rob Neu is superintendent of Federal Way Public Schools: rneu@fwps.org.

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